Singularity University launch is a big boost for deep technology startups in Asia-Pacific

Jeremy Liddle, now heading up Singularity University’s Global Startup Program
  • Singularity University launches Global Startup Program headed by Jeremy Liddle.
  • Australia is great at research but bad at commercialisation. Singularity hoping to change this through partnering with 20 to 40 businesses a year.
  • Startup sector in Australia needs more funding, government support is good but could be much better.

Singularity University’s Global Startup Program is set to launch in the Asia Pacific with Jeremy Liddle, co-founder of venture capital firm CapitalPitch, spearheading the move.

The significant move opens up Australia and South-East Asia to one of the world’s biggest venture capital accelerators, Singularity University, founded by Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis in 2008.

Jeremy Liddle said Singularity University’s launch in Australia is a big deal as it is an opportunity for companies to access capital to fund ‘deep technology’ – tech that requires substantial scientific advances, long lead times and significant investment but can have a big impact.

“Australia leads the world in research and innovation, but as has been pretty widely reported we’re pretty low in commercialisation,” Liddle told Business Insider Australia. “It takes a different mindset to invest not for a quick buck but for long term returns.”

CEO and Associate Founder Rob Nail said in a statement that supporting the APAC region will have a significant global impact due to its sheer population size.

“The Asia Pacific region is the most populous and fastest-growing middle class in the world, meaning technology adoption in this region could drive exponential growth and deliver a positive impact on human development for billions of people,” he said.

Singularity said Liddle was selected to launch the APAC-based Global Startup Program due to his experience and relationships across venture capital, startup advisory, and international organisations, including the United Nations and G20.

Liddle told Business Insider Australia he saw opportunities in nanotech, biotech, and tech which “required multiple patents” to get going.

Australia great at research, not great at commercialising

Liddle said Australia’s medical success story, Cochlear – which now controls two-thirds of the international hearing implants market – was a great example of what deep tech properly funded can achieve.

“There’s not a huge amount of capital for deep technology, often traditional venture capitals are not as interested in impact as they are in returns,” he said.

Cochlear’s success is due to the research of Graham Clark, which took years and significant investment from the Australian government.

Singularity’s global startup program is aimed at helping tech startups with at least two years of operation and demonstrated product-market to access capital and markets.

Liddle told Business Insider Australia he was hoping for 20 to 40 companies to go through the global startup’s program each year.

“We would judge success by the number of companies that get funded and scale up,” he said. “We’re looking at the size of the companies and the impact that they can have.”

Companies going through the program will learn in-person at the Singapore faculty for Singularity University, with additional training at the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley and online support and resources delivered via Singularity University’s digital platform for 12 months.

In a statement, Singularity said the global startup program “has served delegations from UNICEF and the World Food Programme, and has played a major role in scaling companies such as ImpactVision, Matternet, Iris.ai, and Deep Blocks”.

Government support welcome, but more needed, says Liddle

On Tuesday, the day of Singularity’s release, Scott Morrison announced a $100 million growth fund to support SMEs if the Liberal-National coalition are re-elected.

Liddle said the announcement was welcome but didn’t go far enough. “It’s a great step forward but it’s far too small,” he said. “For me, the best thing the Australian government could do is encourage more talent in the venture capital industry.”

He said the government needed to look at payroll taxes which disincentivised hiring.

“Scale-ups create the jobs but payroll tax is a disincentive to create those jobs,” Liddle said. “A cut for companies that are growing quickly, high growth companies would be massively beneficial.”

This mirrors comments from SafetyCulture’s CEO Luke Annear to Business Insider Australia earlier this month.

Anear said the government needed to do more to help the tech sector to keep talent in Australia.

“We need to see a broadening of the 457 requirements and do more to expedite building approvals and processes, and at a federal level providing grants and incentivising research and development,” Annear said. “I think politicians are out of touch and going after short term popularism rather than long term investment in Australia’s future.”

Liddle agrees. He said Singularity University and venture capital is an important part of startup success, but government assistance is necessary for long-term success.

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