AccelerAsia is among a crop of accelerators that have emerged in recent years with the growth of startup ecosystem in Singapore and the wider region.
Launched in 2010 by three European expatriates — Arnout Mostert, Joeri Gianotten and Frank Bomers — Accelerasia accelerates and incubates startups interested in growing their business in Southeast Asia. Having operated with a wide rang of companies, AccelerAsia focusses mainly on mobile technologies and apps, digital media and publishing, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), gaming and eCommerce, with offices in Singapore and Indonesia.
It aids startups across the region enter markets by connecting them to a network of multinational corporations, local brands, entrepreneurs, investors, universities and government institutions. Its business model relies upon co-investing or co-founding businesses with their portfolio companies.
This distributes risk across a larger pool of entities, results in an overall derisking of a venture for all stakeholders and allows stakeholders to benefit from the dividends of successful ventures, while reducing the risks associated with a business.
When asked about the origin of AccelerAsia, Mostert explained that AccelerAsia started after receiving numerous requests from entrepreneurs in Europe and the US to connect them to relevant stakeholders in Southeast Asia. Given the founders own entrepreneurial experiences, this was a major advantage when pitching for business.
Another aspect apparently distinguishing AccelerAsia from the incubators and accelerators is its claim of providing business development services to its startup clients, acting as an extension of the firm in order to grow the business and ensure greater viability. Some companies of note currently in AccelerAsia’s portfolio are:
Kiosked, a Finnish company specialising in intelligent marketing for merchants
Idomoo, an Israeli company providing personalised video for online consumers
Basekit, a British company supplying simple website edit to small businesses
Crowdynews, a Dutch firm providing social media curation for online publishers
e27 spoke to Mostert, who explained the role AccelerAsia plays in the startup ecosystem of the region and the basis on which startups are chosen.
An excerpt from the chat:
How should startup founders look for co-founders they can trust? It takes a lot of time networking and drinking coffee together to get the right feeling with someone, it is similar to dating (and most founders spend more time together than with their partners, at least in the beginning!).
Regarding business development, what exactly people in this role do? How does AccelerAsia help startups in this area? Business development can be defined as all activities that need to be carried out to help a business grow, which certainly includes sales, but can also mean spreading the word about a company at conferences, looking at new team members and developing new product or service components for the market the business development people work in.
How is AccelerAsia attempting to get in touch with the Singapore startup ecosystem and why? We attended several networking events and conferences to get to know the most promising Singapore startups, since we feel that our experience in helping European and American startups to grow in this region is also useful to Singapore based startups. Even though we understand that Singapore-based startups may already have access to people who can conduct business development for them, we think our network in the region is unrivalled, and this will help them grow even faster.
What are the selection criteria for the startups that AccelerAsia chooses to work with? Like most investors and incubators, we look at the team behind the startup first; do we think they will be people we can work with and do they have what it takes to make the company successful. Then we like to see some form of revenues, either from successful pilots or from commitments from (large) clients. Finally, does the company have ‘an unfair advantage’, either in the form of (protected) IP or from another source.
At what stage should a startup begin to approach AccelerAsia for assistance in expanding regionally? We are now starting to look at early-stage startups as well since we have access to a large group of angel investors who have asked us to look for interesting and promising companies to invest in, provided that we are involved in the business development. So we are interested in hearing from anyone who thinks they could benefit from working with AccelerAsia, regardless of which state they are in.
Can you give one example of a successful case where a startup reaped high benefits from working with AccelerAsia? Media Monks is a highly successful creative digital production agency with offices in Amsterdam, London and New York and they have chosen AccelerAsia as their partner in Southeast Asia to grow their business. The company has based a regional MD in our office, and together with him a team of two business development people are working almost full time to win new business, which is going really well.
Another example is CrowdyNews, a social media curation platform that is used by publishers in the region to make their content more relevant to the readers by adding social media updates next to the publisher’s content. We are now generating more pageviews in this region for this client than they do in the rest of the world, making us highly successful, which is nice since we also have invested in this company.