By Felix Tan, Managing Director of The FinLab
The FinLab started our acceleration programme for FinTech start-ups in 2016, when the number of accelerators in Singapore could be counted on one hand. Then, Dr. Alex Lin had already anticipated the evolution of such programmes and forecasted the coming of a Generation 5 accelerator.
In 2017, we started making plans for what this can look like. The underlying premise is to provide Singapore businesses that want and need a more strategic approach to evaluate business growth opportunities and help them capitalise on these through the adoption of technology.
Today, we announced this Generation 5 acceleration programme – the first such programme for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Once successful, the intention is then to bring this to SMEs across the ASEAN region.
The Business of Doing Business
Since starting two business in the 1990s, I have learnt one fundamental business principle – that in order to make money, my business has to consistently deliver value to my target market. Through the years, this fundamental principle has remained unchanged, but how this value is delivered has undergone tremendous change, fuelled primarily by the advancement and adoption of new technology.
The SMEs in Singapore today make up 99% of all local enterprises and employ two-thirds of the workforce. Yet they don’t seem to have kept pace with the digital revolution. To be fair, many have heeded the call to improve productivity through technology adoption, but the impact has been limited.
The common challenges we hear preventing greater adoption are:
- The lack of interoperability between the systems deployed, and the high costs of trying to make these systems interoperable
- The limited support from the vendors from whom they have procured these systems
These point to a need to help SMEs better assess the suitability of the many technology solutions out there, before committing considerable resources to deploying them. SMEs that approach technology with a “supermarket purchase” approach stand a higher chance of ending up with greater scepticism after several failed attempts.
I strongly believe that these challenges can be overcome. With that, many more open-minded and forward-thinking SME owners will become the next generation of “SME Champions” as their businesses capitalise on a digital economy that is set to grow by USD1 trillion in GDP by 2025 here in ASEAN alone.
Collaborative Effort to make Digital Transformation Work
Through our experience and learnings from our past two acceleration cycles, and the way we see the ecosystem evolving, it is only natural that we expand our focus to now help our SMEs overcome the challenges outlined above and become strong consumers and users of digital solutions. We will help match this demand to a curated supply of market-ready, interoperable digital solutions.
For this programme, The FinLab will work closely with selected SMEs to renew their businesses using proven methodologies and tools for innovation and process improvement. These are made relevant and given input by the SME owners themselves. We are currently looking for SME owners with growth ambitions who believe in leveraging digital solutions to achieve this growth.
We look forward to embarking on this journey with the next-generation SME champions to re-think, re-tool and re-engineer their businesses to capture and leverage the regional economies’ business growth potential, both online and offline.
About The FinLab
Since our inception in 2015, The FinLab has supported the growth of some of Singapore’s most exciting FinTech companies. Over the last two acceleration cycles, we’ve worked alongside entrepreneurs from six countries, including Singapore, looking to tap into the ASEAN markets.
And we’ve had resounding success. With the support from our backers in United Overseas Bank (UOB) and SGInnovate (SGI), we’ve received more than 700 start-up applications across 44 countries to join our corporate accelerator programme. From the 13 selected companies, eight have successfully raised funds since graduation, and six have either won or are nominated for awards at the last two Singapore FinTech Festivals.