Singapore and Hong Kong are winning over start-up accelerators

Finance


There’s a new breed of entrepreneurship programs turning to Asia for their next big ideas.

These accelerators, which groom early-stage tech companies, see Asia as a hotbed for technological innovation. That’s demonstrated in part by the region’s explosive growth in financing activity last year.

Total annual funding activity in Asia increased by 117 percent in 2017 compared to the prior year, according to a report released by intelligence platform CB Insights. There was $70.8 billion invested across 2,847 deals in 2017 — up from $32.7 billion the year before, according to the report.

Of particular note, start-up accelerators see potential in Singapore and Hong Kong, primarily because of strong reserves of tech experts.

Entrepreneur First, a London-headquartered start-up accelerator that fosters companies from inception, launched in Hong Kong last month. That’s on top of its offices already in London, Berlin and Singapore.

Backed by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman among others, the company has helped more than 500 people build over 120 companies with a cumulative valuation of over $1 billion. It counts Magic Pony Technology, a developer of machine-learning approaches for visual processing on web and mobile platforms, as one of its most successful endeavors to date. It was acquired by Twitter in 2016 for a reported $150 million.

Speaking with CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Entrepreneur First Singapore Managing Director Alex Crompton highlighted the challenges of building a high technology company “wherever you are in the world.” He cited the proximity to research centers, universities and a high-quality talent base as crucial factors to success.

“The things that we see in both Singapore and Hong Kong [are] an extraordinary number of ambitious and talented people,” Crompton said. “The advantage of the [Entrepreneur First] model is that we’re able to take those people as individuals and take them from being a person into someone who has something the best investors in the world are willing to fund.”



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