#Asia Entrepreneur First’s inaugural Singapore cohort has VR, IoT, nanosatellites, and more

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Entrepreneur First co-founders Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck address the crowd at the company's first Singapore demo day

Entrepreneur First co-founders Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck address the crowd at the company’s first Singapore demo day. Photo credit: Entrepreneur First.

Company builder Entrepreneur First completed its inaugural Singapore program in an Investor Day that saw 12 teams pitch to investors and industry players.

The UK-based company launched its first international branch in Singapore a little more than a year ago in partnership with Infocomm Investments, now SGInnovate.

Entrepreneur First’s twist on company-building is focusing on individuals instead of teams. People join on their own and are matched into teams through the course of the program. The idea is to get people with skills – technologists, academics, and more – who don’t necessarily know how to go about building a business and to help them do just that. The teams then form companies that will go out in the world to peddle their product.

“50 percent of the teams you see at the demo day are formed in the first two weeks [of the program],” EF co-founder Alice Bentinck tells Tech in Asia.

The Singapore cohort combines a lot of academic chops. “More than half the people here have PhDs,” says EF Singapore director Anne Marie Droste. The teams have focused on areas like virtual and augmented reality, nanosatellites, the internet of things, and more. The focus on hardware and AR/VR sets the cohort apart from previous London-based programs that have been stronger in areas like AI and software.

“Individuals we go after here in Singapore and Southeast Asia are super talented and very ambitious,” Alice says.

Greasing the wheels

The 12 teams that graduated this program will get seed investment from SGInnovate and Silicon Valley-based Sparklabs Global. SGInnovate will invest US$35,600 and Sparklabs will pour in US$30,300 into each startup. EF itself invests US$17,800 in each one.

50 percent of the teams you see at the demo day are formed in the first two weeks.

SGInnovate CEO Steve Leonard tells Tech in Asia that SGInnovate will support the graduating startups with customer acquisition, hiring, work space, and more.

EF Singapore is in the process of raising a US$11.4 million fund. Anne Marie tells Tech in Asia the company expects to close the fundraise by the end of April, which will allow it to build around 120 startups in Singapore over the next three years.

The company is now gearing up for its next cohort this summer, which it expects to be bigger than the first one. This time, it’s recruiting candidates from farther afield, including Hong Kong and mainland China.

Entrepreneur First had a major win last year, when its graduate, London-based AI startup Magic Pony, was acquired by Twitter for US$150 million. The startup builder claims its companies have raised over US$100 million in funding and achieved US$270 million of exits since 2013.

Meet the startups

Here are the 12 startups that make up EF Singapore’s first cohort, in the order they pitched:

Lemnis

Lemnis Technologies says it’s building the core tech that will power the next generation of virtual reality headsets. Its offering promises to alleviate the motion sickness that more than 50 percent of users feel when trying VR – something the team claims is a key barrier to the technology becoming mainstream.

Made up of PhD-level computer vision and optics experts, Lemnis has completed a proof-of-concept trial of the tech and is working with a manufacturer to produce the first VR headset based on it. It’s looking to raise US$700,000 to speed things along.

SensorFlow

SensorFlow works on energy efficiency for buildings. Its sensors and proprietary network are easy and cheap to install as they don’t require complex cabling or elaborate setup, and can optimize a building’s energy consumption.

The team offers its tech through a monthly subscription and eliminates upfront installation and hardware costs. It’s currently testing its products with two clients and seeing positive results. It says it has four more clients in the pipeline, in the resort and property development space, and is raising US$530,000.

UI-licious

UI-licious creates software to help companies automate UI testing. The team claims that current tools are only usable by engineers, which slows the process down and generates additional costs. Its solution is easy to use, with a scripting language that can be understood by users without expert coding skills.

UI-licious says it has seven paying customers for its beta and 30 more are on a waiting list. It’s raising US$570,000.

HydroLeap

HydroLeap targets the space of cleaning industrial wastewater. It’s created a process called Electrocoagulation that treats wastewater faster and cheaper than the chemical process currently used by the industry.

Another PhD-equipped startup, it has four upcoming large-scale implementations on construction sites. It says its method could save the industry up to US$10.7 billion every year.

Immerzen

Immerzen is also working on virtual and augmented reality but this team tackles the audio part. The co-founders are working on technology for 3D audio that will increase the sense of immersion in a virtual environment.

The startup uses tech like advanced signal processing and machine learning to replicate a natural sense of hearing. It’s currently working with AR and VR content creators in Singapore to test the technology. It’s looking to raise US$500,000.

KroniKare

KroniKare is a medical technology startup that tackles chronic wounds – the kind that don’t heal like normal wounds and need constant check-up and monitoring. The team has created software that can inspect wounds and gather and analyze data without using invasive methods, just using a smartphone camera.

The team is looking to raise US$700,000, and it’s currently doing trials with Singapore General Hospital and two other clients.

VRcollab

VRcollab, as its name betrays, works with virtual reality. The team uses VR to enable architects to view their designs in real time and present them to clients so they can get faster and easier approval.

The startup says VR will do for architecture what 3D design tool Autodesk did in the 90s. It currently has four customers and is about to sign up four more. It’s raising US$350,000.

MicroSec

MicroSec tackles the problem of security for internet of things networks. Connected devices are already the target of numerous cyber attacks – which cost network operators money, time, and credibility. MicroSec’s software gives each connected device its own session key to protect it from external tampering.

The team is currently working with a government agency in Singapore on a proof of concept and is about to sign up three IoT companies.

Ackcio

Ackcio wants to solve the problem of construction site accidents. The team makes a system based on wireless sensors to improve monitoring and reduce cost. It’s currently pilot testing the tech with three companies in Singapore and a skyscraper design firm in Sri Lanka. It’s raising US$530,000.

Movel AI

Movel AI is working on improving robot vision. The team is using deep learning and fancy-sounding things like probabilistic planning to enable robots to perceive environments through cameras like humans do, enabling more accurate navigation and reducing cost.

The team is working with two robot manufacturers to start deploying its tech. It’s raising US$570,000.

Souschef

Remember Souschef? When we last covered them, the startup was trying to build an ingredient dispenser for cooking at home. The team took the feedback from that product and pivoted to a device for mixing drinks, which it wants to deploy to food and beverage businesses.

The startup claims its solution can save businesses time and manpower costs. It’s had orders of over US$1.4 million in the last three months.

Transcelestial

While it sounds like it could be a Beastie Boys track title, Transcelestial is actually an ambitious startup that wants to upend wireless communication infrastructure using nanosatellites.

The team is building a laser network that can transfer data 1,000 times faster than current wireless technology over any distance. It’s working with two communications companies in Singapore and a data center in Europe and it’s raising US$1 million.

Converted from Singapore dollars. US$1 = S$1.40

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