In recent years, Huawei has positioned itself as a strong supporter of the start-up ecosystem in Singapore as it provides monetary investments, launches innovation labs, as well as establishes several programmes targeted to help start-ups grow and succeed.
The way Huawei sees it, start-ups are the future of the economy. They are akin to seeds of potential just waiting to be unleashed with the right support.
Huawei Cloud, the company’s cloud computing arm which is also headquartered in its Singapore regional office, is investing heavily and working actively with industry partners to build inclusive, robust and innovative start-up ecosystems, transforming them into powerful engines of digital innovation.
As part of its ongoing efforts, Huawei Cloud on Nov 8 launched the inaugural Spark Incubator Programme as part of its partnership with Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) Pixel Innovation Hub.
The launch of the Spark Incubator programme follows the success of the Spark Accelerator Programme, which was first launched two years ago. Since its launch, the Spark Accelerator Programme has received over 3,000 applications and raised US$50 million ($70.14 million) from investors.
Leo Jiang, chief digital officer of Huawei Cloud Apac, notes that the Spark Incubator Programme, which started in Singapore, has since expanded across the world to other parts of Asia and Latin America. Its launch in Africa, the Middle East and Europe is also imminent. “We are truly a global ecosystem,” says Jiang, who helms the Spark programmes.
Jiang adds that the Spark Incubator Programme is not an extension of the Spark Accelerator Programme. Instead, it is another global programme where Huawei Cloud is going to “roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty supporting start-ups side-by-side on their growth journey”.
Historically, nine out of every 10 start-ups won’t make it to Series A funding. “And that is why we are launching this with our partner IMDA to help start-ups reach that minimum velocity to take off to reach Series A,” says Jiang.
Specifically, the Spark Incubator Programme targets early-stage Singapore-based start-ups in the pre-seed and seed space, helping them move to the Series A stage. The focus is on start-ups from sectors including fintech, Web3, the metaverse and Software as a Service (SaaS), with their eyes on not just Singapore but across Asean.
The programme will incubate up to 12 start-ups per cohort for a period of five months and will be organised twice a year.
The chosen start-ups can enjoy and access valuable resources and expertise provided by Huawei and IMDA to further accelerate and grow their business. Start-ups are expected to also receive third-party financing of over $250,000 or increase their valuation by at least 20% or exceed $250,000 of their annual revenue after the programme.
Throughout the incubator programme, participants can look forward to receiving Huawei Cloud credits of up to US$60,000 ($82,392), up to $75,000 fee-free processing on Stripe, office space at Pixel as well as additional mentorship from Huawei and its like-minded industry partners such as IMDA, Stripe, AngelCentral, MasterCard, Monk’s Hill, GSR Ventures, Lion X Ventures, OCBC, Mycelium Ventures and DocuSign.
With this partnership, IMDA and Huawei will jointly help start-ups build customer-centric products by tapping Pixel’s panel of consultants in design thinking and UI/UX with digital storytelling for advice, along with access to lead corporate demand through IMDA’s Open Innovation Platform (OIP).
Additionally, start-ups can leverage Huawei services to enhance their product capabilities and receive dedicated technical support from Huawei solution architects. They will also benefit from sessions including one-on-one mentorship to nail product-market-fit, develop sound business plans, sharpen go-to-market strategies, experience curated masterclasses with industry experts, and attend entrepreneur coaching classes.
The programme will provide opportunities to help start-ups build lasting business connections through Huawei’s corporate and venture capital partners such as GSR Ventures, Lion X Digital Innovation Fund (co-managed by Lion X Ventures and OCBC Bank) and Mycelium, and potentially expand their business to Southeast Asia and China markets as they strive towards post-programme investments of up to $3 million.
After four months of selection from over 80 applications, nine start-up companies were selected to join the first cohort of the Spark Incubator Programme from November to March 2023 (see table).
Foo Fang Yong, CEO of Huawei International, says that working alongside these most promising start-ups provides co-creation and innovative opportunities where together Huawei can bring greater value to its customers, and upscale Singapore’s economic competitiveness in the long term.
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“We pledge to continue driving innovation with our start-up’s alumni from Singapore to Asia Pacific and even further, providing a global platform for the most ground-breaking and transformational companies to thrive,” says Foo.
Adding on, Lew Chuen Hong, CEO of IMDA, says: “Start-ups participating in the Spark Incubator Programme can look forward to dedicated mentorship and access to facilities. The programme brings together Huawei’s expertise and IMDA Pixel’s facilities in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, as well as the network of 12,000 solutions providers under IMDA’s Open Innovation Platform (OIP). These help Singapore start-ups build world-class products and scale across the region.”
Applications to join the May 2023 cohort of the Huawei Spark Incubator programme are now open. For more information, visit f6s.com/spark-incubator.