SingTel sets up VC body to drive growth

update Singapore telco plans to establish corporate venture company, Innov8, with initial fund size of US$149.8 million to be pumped into technologies to create new growth opportunities.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

update SINGAPORE--Local carrier Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) has unveiled plans to set up a new corporate venture company, Innov8, in efforts to create "future growth engines" for the company, according to its CEO Chua Sock Koong.

The wholly-owned subsidiary will have an initial fund size of S$200 million (US$149.8 million) which will be invested in innovative technologies and will collaborate with developers, government agencies and research and development bodies around the region, Chua said during her keynote speech at SingTel's business innovation forum here Tuesday.

The investment arm will look specifically into technologies that lead to "quantum changes" in network capabilities, digital content services and next-generation devices, she noted. "[These] investments made by Innov8 will ensure that the SingTel Group continues to stay relevant to customers' needs and capture grown opportunities," she said.

Besides benefiting from the capital injection, startups and developers will also be able to leverage SingTel's scale and reach of over 350 million customers across Asia and Africa, the CEO pointed out.

"Innov8 will allow developers and innovators to uncover the uniqueness of [these] different markets and help them create better solutions for mass deployment," she said.

In turn, SingTel will gain early access to new technologies, allowing the carrier to enhance its customer proposition and make forays into new markets and segments, she noted.

The company last week revealed its "intelligent utility" strategy in efforts to encourage enterprise customers to make use of its cloud services which straddle across the three spectrums of cloud computing. Together with Innov8, Chua said these business thrusts are in line with SingTel's journey to transform itself from a traditional telecommunications provider to a "leading multimedia and information and communications technologies (ICT) solutions provider".

Singapore's deputy prime minister and minister for defense, Teo Chee Hean, lauded SingTel's initiative. Speaking at the forum, he said: "The SingTel Innov8 fund will provide startups with seed funding and incubation services, leading eventually to commercializing products through [the telco's] channels."

Teo hopes that through SingTel's initiative, more entrepreneurs and innovators will tap this additional resource to "catalyze new products and services" to benefit the wider IT community.

The minister pointed to the telco as a company that is looking to benefit from IT and new avenues for collaboration between organizations, and urged more local companies to follow suit. ICT had earlier been identified by the Singapore government's Economic Strategies Committee as a key driver of economic growth, noted the minister.

To this end, the recently activated next-generation national broadband network (NBN) will help accelerate the delivery of IT services and resources to companies that have either been utilizing technology to grow their business, or those that have not traditionally been known for leveraging IT.

For the latter, Teo singled out the Association of Employment Agencies Singapore (AEAS) as an example. Elaborating, he said the group initially implemented a software-as-a-service (SaaS) portal to improve the productivity and service quality of employment agencies here. However, the SaaS offering not only helped streamline its operations, the AEAS is now also using the portal as a springboard for its member agencies to promote their businesses overseas.

The Singapore government in June launched several e-services in a bid to help bridge the country's social gaps and deliver services effectively. These e-services include the Singapore Internet Exchange (SGIX), a platform that will allow different telco service providers to share information between their consumer and business subscribers, and the TradeXchange platform, in which four consortia involving 22 companies will integrate key operational and business processes in marine cargo insurance, freight management and trade financing.

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