PLATFORM

Accelerating Startups with a Boost

by Marc Almagro
Photography by Chino Sardea
08 Nov 2019

Mr. Craig Dixon and Ms. Amra Naidoo develop a young program for startups to provide an array of resources known to accelerate growth.

Mr. Craig Dixon and Ms. Amra Naidoo set up Accelerating Asia in 2018 to fill in the gap for an independent start-up accelerator in the market. Their idea was to build Asia’s top accelerator program for start-up founders, and to realize further ROI as they monetize the team, network and access to the start-up ecosystem to ensure future accelerator program success.

“We work with partners, including governments, MNCs and NGOs, to help them engage with start-ups in a meaningful way,” Ms. Naidoo says. “We do this through program design and management, often opening up access to our networks in Asia and providing expertise on the start-up ecosystem.”

While Accelerating Asia runs these activities for income stream diversity and sustainability, its partners benefit from the knowledge and connections to start-ups in different markets, as well as from their Entrepreneur-in-Residence sessions.

An element that distinguishes Accelerating Asia is their early-stage venture capital fund based out of Singapore, which it invests in the start-ups it accelerates and in external strategic investment opportunities.

“All our activities are guided by our belief that entrepreneurs are one of humanity’s greatest catalysts for positive change. That’s something that we are both really passionate about and it comes across in how we work with start-up founders to solve problems,” Ms. Naidoo says.

  • ACCELERATOR PROGRAM
  • EARLY ACHIEVEMENTS
  • BATTING AVERAGE

Accelerator Program

For its flagship program, Accelerating Asia is working with a cohort of 10 start-ups on a four-month program based in its Singapore office. They represent diverse industries, from HR to shipping and logistics, SaaS solutions, fintech, big data, and more. Each accelerator program is tailored to the start-ups in the cohort. Startups join a structured program that includes access to Accelerating Asia’s network of mentors, investors, partners and founder community, and masterclasses on diverse topics from capital raising to public relations.

“We invest S$100,000 in each start-up in the accelerator via a SAFE note and we charge S$25,000 via SAFE note to cover the program value. We use flexible terms to ensure start-ups get an appropriate valuation to their stage and traction,” Mr. Dixon expounds. “Each start-up is eligible for a follow-on investment from us for future fundraising rounds. Our fund also aims to identify and accelerate the seed-stage start-up’s development in Asia and will look to invest in over 40 regional startups.

Start-ups go through a rigorous selection process, including top 50 interviews and a bootcamp. Acceptance depends on the application pool, the team makeup, traction with users, previous investment, and a good fit for the program and cohort.

“The highlight of our program for startups is the final month of activities which include a Startup Mastery Program in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and a Demo Day in Singapore. Our team puts a lot of thought and effort into the international trip, organizing meetings, events and site visits for start-ups with the top founders, investors and ecosystem players in the Valley,” Mr. Dixon adds. Founders also stay on an extra week in San Francisco for additional self-arranged meetings where they pitch to high-tier venture capital firms, and meet with angel investors and potential customers.

At the Singapore Demo Day, the program’s finale, the teams pitch to a private audience of top-tier investors and other leaders in the startup community. In the lead-up to Demo Day, startups are made to pitch on the street corner. “It’s a bit of fun but also good practice for the main event,” according to Mr. Dixon.

  • ACCELERATOR PROGRAM
  • EARLY ACHIEVEMENTS
  • BATTING AVERAGE

Early Achievements

The accelerator program is receiving positive feedback from investors including SeedPlus and Golden Gate Ventures. The quality of mentorship provided by the Entrepreneur-in-Residence and mentor network has also been roundly praised.

Positive response and high demand encourage Accelerating Asia to grow the cohort to 15 startups for the next round. “We’re increasing our recruitment activities as well, doing more regional roadshows and signing new partnerships with local incubators and accelerators in target markets such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Applications for our next cohort open in early October with the program starting in January 2020.” 

The quality of participating start-ups is encouraging, Ms. Naidoo affirms. Their first cohort had 10 start-ups from seven countries, a diversity that made for a really exciting and engaging program. It includes BeamAndGo, a payment and digital marketplace that empowers migrant workers with control over how their remittances are spent by their families back home, and data analytics company Datanest, which helps companies drive their performance and profitability through AI and machine learning algorithms.

Mr. Dixon adds that the high-quality participants speaks to the success of the program: “They all have revenue and customers with aggregate monthly revenue exceeding S$200,000; they have raised more than S$1 million in investment before joining and have raised an additional S$1 million in the first two months of the program.” 

Adds Ms. Naidoo: “The performance of this cohort has been quite impressive. The teams have exceeded our expectations, cumulatively raising over S$1 million since their program started in late May 2019. Additionally, they are growing their revenue per month between 10 and 40 per cent and are experiencing a high rate of growth which should translate into appreciating valuations in the near future.”

She emphasizes that the strategy is to target more mature early-stage startups that already have revenue, customers, and a team, which de-risks their investments and fills a gap in the market for this profile of startups to receive mentorship and other resources in addition to capital investment.

  • ACCELERATOR PROGRAM
  • EARLY ACHIEVEMENTS
  • BATTING AVERAGE

Batting Average

Unlike other accelerators in the region, Accelerating Asia takes in high-potential and mature startups – those that have already gone through multiple stages of qualification in terms of product development, proof-of-concept, initial funding, and even customer acquisition.

Although their first cohort will only complete the program this month, Accelerating Asia is already anticipating growth. “From customer acquisitions to plans of joining subsequent accelerators such as Sequoia Capital’s SURGE program, and securing additional funding, we have seen tremendous growth in this cohort,” Ms. Naidoo attests. “We believe that these dedicated founders will have a positive impact on the ecosystem.”

Mr. Dixon asserts that they look for the best startups and founders that are solving big problems across all verticals. “Historically, our management team has decades of experience mentoring a wide variety of startup business models. Our mentorship and investor networks cover most types of business models and products. Generally speaking, we do tend to attract startups with B2B business models, but we’ve had success with B2C ones as well.”

He adds that the competitive advantages revolve around mentoring founders and helping seed-stage startups scale to growth. “These attributes mean that we can accept many types of start-ups at this stage into our program and offer them value.”

Accelerating Asia envisions regional and even global expansion that would elevate them to a renowned brand in the startup ecosystem. Besides growth, Ms. Naidoo would like to see many of their founders succeed and effect positive change in the world as a result.

“At the end of the day, we’re here to empower entrepreneurs to reach their visions.”

 

Accelerating Asia is accepting applications for its second cohort. Visit www.acceleratingasia.com for details.