Singapore’s research agency partners with a startup factory to launch new businesses

Startup-O - ETPL partnership

Startup-O CEO Anuj Jain (center) explains the process of building this new venture. Photo credit: Startup-O.

“Designed by committee” is usually a pejorative term. It suggests the lack of a singular focus behind a business or creative endeavor.

Singapore-based venture builder Startup-O has tried to find a middle ground with the launch of a new chatbot startup. At Exploit Technologies’ (ETPL’s) Media Exploits event yesterday, the audience became stakeholders and impromptu board members of the new venture.

This involved them voting through a website on decisions about the startup, like whether it should target small businesses or the enterprise space, whether it should build its own tech right off the bat or use off-the-shelf tools at first, and more.

The Venture Co-Creation initiative aims to make more businesses out of A-STAR’s body of research and technology.

The specifics of the business had been planned out and decided over the past six months, Startup-O CEO Anuj Jain tells Tech in Asia. But the “real-time venture building” event was a way to showcase, even in fast-forward, the thought process that goes into a new business. The audience had a stake in the proceedings, as each attendee received a share in the newborn company.

The end result is a real startup that will go to market as a result of a partnership between Startup-O and ETPL, the commercialization arm of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A-STAR).

The chatbot, called Negobot, is meant to help business owners negotiate scenarios with their clients across a number of platforms, including email and messaging services like Facebook Messenger and Telegram. The bot is supposed to learn from each interaction, and understand and respond in simple conversational language.

The example displayed at the event involved a cake business having to negotiate different orders. Through text messaging, the bot provided details regarding product availability, pricing, and delivery. It required human input only when asked to waive a delivery fee – a decision the business owner would presumably want to approve themselves.


The partnership between ETPL and Startup-O is part of the former’s ongoing Venture Co-Creation initiative, which aims to make more businesses out of A-STAR’s body of research and technology.

“As products are being developed based on market needs, business plans are also being shaped and the team is being formed,” explains ETPL CEO Philip Lim.

“A-STAR and ETPL focus on the technology aspect, but technology itself is not sufficient,” Jain says. The partnership with Startup-O is meant to give them access to entrepreneurs, capital, and a market. Negobot is the first one to be announced out of this deal, but more could follow.

ETPL typically aims to build 10 startups in three years out of each partnership made through the scheme.

Startup-O, which kicked off its venture-building program late last year, brings to the table a data-driven approach to evaluating a company and a network of investors and mentors.

Besides Startup-O, ETPL yesterday announced a partnership with Origgin, a Singapore-based investment and holding company, to create startups for the Southeast Asian, Chinese, and Japanese markets. The firm will contribute US$3.6 million to the project over the next three years.

ETPL recently partnered with the Singapore Exchange, in a scheme to identify promising businesses and connect them to A-STAR’s research and development muscle.

source : techinasia

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