Get to Know Steven Tong, Head of SAP.iO Foundry Singapore
When you first think of Singapore, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Night markets filled with street food? Lush tree-lined roads with towering, neon-lit skyscrapers over head? Perhaps a scene from the 2018 film “Crazy Rich Asians”? All three may play across your imagination when you envision the Southeast Asian metropolis, but another image that you can add to that list is a bustling tech and startup scene.
Singapore is a relatively young country (Singapore only just celebrated the 56th anniversary of its independence), but despite its geographical youth, it has become a powerhouse in terms of globalization and tech advancement. Boasting four official languages (English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil), Singapore’s population comes from all over the world, truly making it a melting pot of people, cultures, and ideas. It should come as no surprise that many of these ideas have developed into solutions and startups.
In no other area is Singapore’s technological innovation ecosystem more apparent than in the SAP.iO Foundry Singapore, which shares its location with SAP Asia, the Asia-Pacific and Japan headquarters for SAP. Steven Tong, the Head of SAP.iO Foundry Singapore, joined us to tell us more about his role, SAP.iO Foundry Singapore activities, and what’s next for the location as we finish out 2021.
*Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.
SAP.iO: How long have you worked at SAP?
Steven Tong (ST): I have been with SAP for 2 years. I joined SAP the same week when we kicked off our first Singapore Foundry program in 2019!
SAP.iO: What made you want to join SAP.iO?
ST: I wanted to join a technology company that is a leader in its field and running a startup engagement program. At the same time, I was wary of joining a company engaging startups for “corporate innovation theater” reasons. SAP.iO set itself apart since it helps SAP build its innovation partner ecosystem while helping startups scale via our customer base.
SAP.iO: Tell us a bit about this Foundry location. How many years has the program been running? How many cohorts?
ST: The Singapore Foundry ran its first program in August 2019. Since then, we’ve run four cohorts and have accelerated 23 startups. 10 of the startups are now on SAP Store and another seven will be listed by end of the year.
SAP.iO: What’s your favorite thing about working for SAP.iO in this Foundry location?
ST: I’m Singaporean, so Singapore is my home. It’s great to be able to work with SAP colleagues across Asia and the Pacific as well as around the world while being based at home where my family and friends are located.
SAP.iO: What are some tech areas you think we should be keeping an eye on when it comes to disruption and innovation?
ST: I personally think blockchain and Web3 has the most potential to disrupt businesses. Web3 is the concept of a decentralized network of distributed applications governed democratically and developed by a diverse coalition to empower individual ownership. Web3 can be seen as the next iteration of an open and equitable internet where individuals can transact without the need of a middleman. This is hugely disruptive, as plenty of businesses basically operate as a middleman serving customers that it is providing value to.
Despite the many rapid development in the blockchain and Web3 space over the past few years, I think we are still fairly early in the shift to a new web paradigm. Web3 development now is probably akin to the late 1990s when the internet first started gaining popularity. However, the pace of development and adoption is on such an exponential scale that I wouldn’t be surprised to see much more disruption and innovation coming to the market over the next five years.
SAP.iO: What’s coming up next for your Foundry location? What can we look forward to in the coming 3 months?
ST: SAP.iO Foundry Singapore is running two programs simultaneously. The first program focuses on the Future of Work, which we are running in partnership with the SuccessFactors Asia-Pacific team. In that program, we’ll be onboarding startups that address topics like employee wellness (health and safety), employee development, and engagement.
Our second program focuses on sustainability, which is very important to SAP. We will be running this in partnership with SAP Asia-Pacific colleagues involved in the SAP Climate 21 program. For the sustainability program, we’re working with startups that have solutions for energy efficiency, carbon tracking, circular economy, and sustainable supply chain.
In addition to those two programs, SAP.iO Foundry Singapore is also still running our 5G program and hope to onboard the first few startups with IoT sensor technologies aligned with SAP’s IoT and Edge Services platforms.
And, last but not least, we are constantly on the lookout to onboard suitable startups to build new solutions/functionalities on SAP Business Technology Platforms (SAP BTP). All of that being said, there is a lot of exciting stuff coming up from now and through the end of 2021!
To learn more about how SAP.iO is helping innovators start up and scale with SAP, please visit https://sap.io/.