STARTUP

What Southeast Asian Start-ups Need to Get Funded in 10 Weeks

Singapore-based Startup-O’s platform matches promising start-ups and eager investors

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 08 Sep 2017

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Let’s face it: Start-ups often waste the bulk of their time raising funds and chasing after investors from one demo day to another.

“The emphasis on physical meetings, insider network introductions, and random networking events distracts founders from spending time building customers and better products,” says Anuj Jain, co-founder and CEO of Startup-O, a Singapore-based online curation platform for start-ups looking to get funded.

On the part of investors, especially angel investors, not all would have the experience on how technology start-ups work.

To bridge this communication gap, Startup-O created an online platform which start-ups can participate in from any location and expedite their chances of getting discovered and funded by investors in under 10 weeks.

Jain says their process of multi-stage, multi-expert assessments allows them to build a well-curated portfolio of promising tech start-ups. He adds that this mitigates the risk for investors because Startup-O provides due diligence, strong documentation, and transparent investor relationship processes, including periodic tracking and reporting.

Start-ups undergo a comprehensive 10-week program involving online assessments by a series of experts who look at the presentation of the business model, deep dive financial modeling, technology diligence, and overall “investability” analysis.

“Each start-up gets measured on 108 parameters that form the basis of a decision-making algorithm to decide the victory portfolio for the fund. The platform uniquely combines the art of assessment through expert insights and the science of rating algorithms,” Jain says.

Once the start-ups are selected, he adds, the Startup-O expert community, consisting of serial entrepreneurs and domain experts, gets involved in building the venture. Each portfolio company goes through due diligence, legal documentation, and periodic post-investment tracking.

The Javelin Startup-O Victory Fund is a seed capital fund born out of the collaboration between Startup-O and Singapore-based wealth management firm Javelin Wealth Management. It has the mandate to invest in three to five winning start-ups every quarter.

Four start-ups that have recently been given funding include: Impress.ai, which helps large enterprises hire at scale by offering an AI-powered job interview platform using chatbots; Whizpace, which provides wireless communication solutions based on dynamic spectrum sharing technology, particularly TV White Space; Serv.sg, a business software for retail services; and HackerTrail, a data-driven curated marketplace for tech talent.  

Data science aside, what do investors look for in a start-up to fund?

Jain says, “For investors, typically a solid team with complementary skills with an idea whose time has come, with a potentially large market size to allow for scalability.”

He adds that it is difficult to predict the success or failure of a start-up, as there are many variables “coupled with intangible X-factors like strength of human spirit, which are difficult to identify in early stage start-up investing.” However, one of the most important factors, he notes, has been good timing.

Other success factors include full-time founders with years of experience in the industry and the start-up ecosystem; business models that lean toward free cash flows versus models with vanity metrics; and proven traction in their local markets with the potential to scale across geographies.

“Conversely, start-ups with me-too models coupled with weak execution capabilities run the risk of falling from grace…Wannapreneurs with a flawed outlook and motivations also fail at some stage even if seen as successful initially,” Jain says.