S'pore gets SaaS incubator

Backed by government and various industry giants, Singapore's first software-as-a-service incubation center opens its doors to startup hopefuls.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

SINGAPORE--The country's first SaaS (software-as-a-service) incubation center has opened its doors to developers, in hopes of giving SaaS startups a shot in the arm.

Called the AxSaaS Incubation Centre (AiC), it was set up by local SaaS startup, Aksaas, which was an incubatee itself of A*STAR's (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) Exploit Technologies arm.

The initiative has the backing of the Singapore government and commercial partners, HP, Microsoft and SingTel.

Alan Lye, managing director of Aksaas, said at the launch, the center was set up to provide local SaaS startups a testing and staging ground for their applications, by providing the hardware infrastructure that would otherwise be out of reach for many startups on a tight budget.

"We want to enable small startups to come in and get on their feet faster...it's one thing to start a company, but scaling up is the hard part.

"Many startups are on shoestring budgets, and don't have the means to support enterprise clients' demands," he said, explaining that startups that have limited bandwidth and computing capacity are unable to "promise" uptime to clients, "or even sign SLAs (service level agreements)".

This trend has impeded the growth of many startups, Lye noted.

He also said Asia's utility computing sector "tends to be on the receiving end" of technology innovation "flowing" from the United States, and is some three to five years behind the latter in terms of maturity.

The opening of the AiC is hoped to change that and "bring Asia up to speed with global developments and new technologies", said Lye.

Jessica Tan, managing director, Microsoft Singapore, added: "[Asia] has adopted technology in the way that suits it. We hope new software models and innovation will come out [of the AiC] and lead the global market, too."

Bill Chang, executive vice president, business, at SingTel added: "Singapore stands a very good chance globally. There is a lively ecosystem here."

About 100 projects are expected to run through AiC's program, with an expected 25 percent conversion rate to commercial entities, according to him.

Startups will be screened based on the potential of their business plans and technical expertise of team members. Each project will take about three to 12 months to incubate, and will receive some funding to help kickstart development.

Startups coming out of the facility will also be aggregated into verticals to help the center present a more complete set of applications to each industry, to help startups gain traction within their verticals.

Lye said he is expecting successful projects to be attractive to local SMEs (small and medium enterprises), because the SaaS delivery model provides lower barriers of entry to SMEs which may not have the capital for big IT expenditures and in-house MIS personnel to maintain backend systems.

SaaS applications provide a way for SMEs to get good enterprise-class applications "on tap"; there are an estimated 150,000 SMEs in the country.

Microsoft is providing software and developer tools to the facility. HP is providing hardware as well as linking up some 700 ISVs belonging to its developer partner program to the center.

SingTel is providing its WAN infrastructure over which the SaaS applications will be delivered to customers.

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