The Singapore government is paying UK startup creator Entrepreneur First (EF) to launch its company-building programme in Singapore, Business Insider has learned.
EF, founded by Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck in 2011, provides deeply technical people with £17,000 in pre-seed funding so they can build a technology startup over a six month period. In return, it takes an 8% equity stake.
During the six months, members of the cohort team up with like-minded people on the EF programme and cofound a company with mentoring and support from the EF network. They also get a desk to work from.
EF, which plans to launch its programme in Singapore this October, raised £8.5 million last July from a range of investors. However, none of that money is being used for the expansion. Instead, the bill is being picked up by Infocomm Investments, a venture capital unit funded by the Singapore government to the tune of $200 million (£141 million). Infocomm Investments did not disclose how much it is giving EF for the expansion.
The Singapore government hopes the launch of EF in Singapore will fuel startup development in the island-state and encourage more young Singaporeans to pursue a career in technology as opposed to finance or professional services — the industries Singapore has become famous for.
Representatives from Infocomm Investments and the Singapore government attended an event in London this week to mark what is EF’s first overseas foray.
Speaking at EF’s new London space, a former biscuit factory in Bermondsey, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, said Singapore needs to get more people interested in building innovative young companies.
“Entrepreneur First is a very interesting model that will be a useful addition to our ecosystem in Singapore,” said Shanmugaratnam. “There’s potential not just to create startups but also to change perceptions as to what the more desired career paths are in Singapore. That’s a very important part of what we’re trying to do.”
Steve Leonard, chairman of Infocomm Investments, told Business Insider: “I met Matt and Alice a couple of years ago, so having watched their journey, it became more clear that what they’re doing is something we could benefit from.”
It’s understood that Clifford and Bentinck initially refused to expand to Singapore because they wanted to focus on growing the UK operation but they came round to the idea eventually .
Leonard said: “They met a bunch of students in Singapore and came back and said ‘you know what there’s actually a lot of raw material there in terms of [talented] young kids and money.'”
Clifford and Bentinck denied that they were expanding EF to Singapore purely because that’s where Infocomm Investments, now one of its largest backers, is based.
Clifford, who is also CEO of EF, said, “Entrepreneur First is the biggest creator of startups in Europe, and we have ambitions to be even bigger. We started with the vision that the best and most ambitious people will be founders. When talking about talent, innovation and the desire to create startups, Singapore is second to none.”
“With the strong support of Infocomm Investments, our first international office in Singapore marks a new chapter for us and we are extremely excited.”
To date, EF has built 45 startups which have raised over $60 million (£42 million) in venture capital funding. Collectively, these startups are now worth more than $250 million (£176 million), EF claims. The portfolio includes deep tech firms (Magic Pony Technology, Adbrain, and Tractable), marketplaces (Hubble, ClickMechanic), consumer products (Prizeo, Code Kingdoms), and hardware (Balze, Pi-Top, Speakset).
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