How EDB is Empowering Corporate Innovation in Asia

In the fast-paced world of corporate innovation, Singapore has emerged as a thriving hub for businesses seeking new growth opportunities. We sat down with Alvin Cai, VP at Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) New Ventures and Head, Venture Building, to discuss how EDB’s Corporate Venture Launchpad 2.0 programme is empowering businesses to kick-start new ventures.



Expanding the Corporate Venture Launchpad Programme:

With an increasing number of APAC business leaders prioritizing new-business building, Singapore has witnessed a surge in corporate ventures and is now home to 43 percent of Southeast Asia’s unicorns. To understand the origins of the programme and EDB New Ventures’ role, we asked Alvin about the inception of the Corporate Venture Launchpad (CVL) programme and how it has evolved over time:

EDB New Ventures is the venture building arm of EDB, established to support the creation and scaling of high potential new ventures from Singapore to become globally leading businesses. We actively work with established companies to catalyze more corporate venture building, with the Corporate Venture Launchpad (CVL) programme as a key vehicle to do so.

EDB brings unique propositions to the corporate venture building movement — our networks, trusted advisory, participation across a wide range of opportunity areas, risk-sharing capital, amongst other things. But we quickly realized that we can scale a larger movement of corporate venturing by partnering with experienced venture studios that brought complementary best-in-class expertise, proven track records and diverse venture-building offerings. That gave birth to CVL.

EDB is committing $30 million to-date to the programme to seed the incubation of new ventures via non-dilutive grants for companies’ validations at speed for new ventures with high market potential and the initial builds of the venture.

CVL 2.0 – Programme Expansion and Features

Building on the initial success of corporate ventures launched through CVL, the programme expanded to CVL 2.0. In addition to large established corporates, regional businesses and high-growth companies are now eligible to participate.

Alvin explained the key features of CVL 2.0.

Each concept validation sprint can be co-funded at up to S$500,000. EDB will also provide advisory and connections, as well as deploy its venture builders to be part of the sprint teams, where relevant.

An additional S$500,000 co-funding will be available for a ‘build and launch’ phase for high potential ventures to accelerate setup, Minimum Viable Product development and hiring of a founding team.

A self-help toolkit is now available to better scope venture concepts, evaluate organisational readiness for venture building and select the right venture studios.

Key Elements of a Successful Venture

Drawing from his extensive experience, Alvin emphasized the three core elements of a successful venture.

  1. A great product that is focused on unmet customer pain points and is differentiated in delivering value surpassing existing solutions.
  2. An effective go-to-market strategy that has agility built into to continuously find and improve on product-market fit.
  3. Lastly, a strong founding team is all the difference, especially in early stage venture building.

Furthermore, Alvin argues that,

A great corporate venture can leapfrog competition if it additionally has access to needle-moving advantages from the corporate that the venture needs — customer access, technology, expertise. Advantages and resources that a typical startup does not enjoy.

Just be careful — there’s a sweet spot of enough attention from corporate mothership and senior management, but not too much that corporate processes stifle the ventures!

Why Singapore and why now?

On the question of why corporations should build ventures in Singapore, Alvin said,

Singapore has a vibrant ecosystem and is well-positioned to help companies succeed in corporate venturing efforts. There is strong funding with over 400 venture capital firms and angel networks based here, a wide network of potential partner with 46% — the highest number of Asia RHQs here, access to entrepreneurial talent, market access to the rest of Asia through the Global Innovation Alliance program, robust infrastructure across multiple sectors, and a strong business and innovation hub with approximately 3,0600 startups that corporates can partner with.

My team has seen and supported a wide range of interest in domains such as web 3.0/metaverse, data analytics/AI, sustainability, enterprise SaaS and fintech that Singapore is a strong hub for.

Alvin Cai’s favorite sustainability ventures

Alvin tells us, that just in sustainability, there are vast opportunities for green growth and business-building:

Asia accounts for more than half of global CO2 emissions since 2019 and in the APAC region, there are more than 15 countries and 670 companies that have set (or are committed to setting) emission-reduction targets. This creates new investment opportunities in green technology, with the addressable market size for green businesses in Asia expected to reach between $4 trillion and $5 trillion by 2030, according to an analysis by the McKinsey team.

And corporates have responded to this opportunity, using Singapore to build sustainability-themed corporate ventures. Some of Alvin's favourites include:

1. Olam

Launched its climate-tech venture Terrascope, a smart carbon measurement and management software-as-a-service platform that empowers companies to accurately and efficiently manage and reduce their carbon emissions.

2. Sembcorp Industries Ltd

A Singapore-headquartered energy and urban solutions provider, which launched a carbon management solutions business, GoNetZero, which offers one-stop access to carbon credits, renewable energy certificates and portfolio management.

3. ENGIE factory

A dedicated APAC venture building arm of ENGIE, partnered with EDB to launch a portfolio of zero-carbon ventures over the next few years, with a shared goal of helping businesses in Southeast Asia decarbonise more quickly and profitably. One such venture is BillionBricks, which develops technologies for the housing industry that speed up construction and reduce carbon emissions.”

Trends in business

Lastly, we asked Alvin Cai for trends in business that corporations should look out for right now. He said,

In tech, there are major shifts in the fundamentals of the startup landscape today. With the current macroeconomic environment — the pandemic, global supply challenges, rise of interest rates and the looming threat of a recession, we are seeing a slowdown in global venture funding. Global venture funding saw a 13% quarter on quarter drop to $58.6B in Q1’23. We have also seen tech layoffs globally, which understandably has everyone jittery.

It is natural for this to be the trend as companies may be tempted to look inward to focus on optimizing their core businesses and reducing costs. However, history has shown that those who take advantage of difficult economic times have seen outsized successes. This is where an economic downturn helps to distinguish companies that have serious intent on building new ventures.

For companies that are seriously committed and have the readiness to venture build, it is actually a really good time where its resources and patient capital are now a competitive advantage. It is also arguably the best time to attract top tier founder talent to grow new businesses.

Thank you to Alvin Cai

Edited by Sindre Rydhard

💡 This article is written as part of EDB’s Corporate Venture Launchpad 2.0 programme — an expanded S$20m programme by EDB New Ventures, designed to enable companies to incubate and launch a new venture from Singapore, supported by venture studios experienced in corporate venture building.




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