In a move that's set to ignite the flames of innovation and entrepreneurship across Singapore's higher education landscape, Protégé Ventures (PV), a student-run venture fund programme initiated by the SMU Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (SMU IIE), has unveiled the Marina & David Su Protégé Ventures Fund II.
This sector-agnostic fund, boasting an impressive $500,000, is a groundbreaking initiative designed to support early-stage technology startups founded by students or recent graduates from Singapore's polytechnics and universities as they seek pre-seed to seed funding.
The driving force behind this visionary fund is none other than David Su, the founding managing partner of Matrix Partners China and a distinguished member of the SMU Enterprise Board. The fund's inauguration was graced by the presence of Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, Mr Heng Swee Keat, during the opening ceremony of BLAZE, the Finals Week of the 11th Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition, a prestigious biennial university startup challenge organised by SMU IIE.
Fostering Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Singapore's Tertiary Institutions
Since its inception in 2017, the PV fund programme has been the catalyst for connecting university innovations with venture capital funding. It has also played a pivotal role in fostering collaboration among students from diverse tertiary institutions, offering them invaluable insights into the intricacies of the venture investment landscape and nurturing the next generation of tech and entrepreneurial leaders.
The journey of Protégé Ventures has been nothing short of remarkable. Over the past seven years, it has trained a total of 251 students, assessed over 1,100 deals, and invested a substantial $265,000 in 10 student-led startups. Out of the 10 startups, three have collectively raised an astonishing US$35 million from prominent institutional investors.
"Venture capital has effectively funded disruptive innovations that fundamentally change the way we work and live,” says Mr Su.
“For Singapore to successfully engage the challenges of tomorrow, we must cultivate a new generation of tech-savvy, agile, and skilled decision-makers who can take the lead in navigating the turbulent and uncertain technological and economic landscape with sensitivity and wisdom."
The success of Protégé Ventures since 2017 has solidified its credibility as a channel for investing in student startups.
"Our student VCs, essentially the leaders of tomorrow, are choosing to fund the future they believe in," says Mr Su, emphasising the importance of forward-thinking investors supporting initiatives like PV and LKYGBPC.
How Tailored Support Drives Innovation to New Heights
The $500,000 fund will empower trained student investors to inject real capital into early-stage technology startups led by students or recent graduates. Anaanya Bijay, the Managing Partner of Protégé Ventures, expressed her honour in receiving this support and highlighted its potential to drive student entrepreneurship forward.
PV's portfolio already includes 10 student-founded startups spanning various industries, from artificial intelligence to human resources, agri-tech, consumer products, food & beverage, and more.
The programme offers guidance on sourcing deals, conducting analyses, and investing in technology startups from Singapore's higher learning institutes, catering specifically to student startups at the seed and early stages.
Beyond financial support, PV stands out by offering tailored support to startups based on their specific needs, focusing on assessing their potential for investment and corporate venture-building.
Protégé Ventures is just one facet of Singapore's vibrant student startup ecosystem, which includes innovation and entrepreneurship programs, student clubs, competitions, venture capital funds, incubators, accelerators, and government agencies such as Enterprise Singapore.
It plays a crucial role by assisting startups through different stages of their journey, from ideation to product-market fit, and eventually, securing pre-seed or seed-stage equity investments. As part of their commitment to education, PV runs the annual Protégé Ventures Academy programme, offering student-run masterclasses, workshops, and networking events.
In the ever-evolving landscape of entrepreneurship, Protégé Ventures serves as a guiding light, supporting young founders as they navigate the challenging path to realising their entrepreneurial dreams. By building enduring relationships with portfolio companies and other startups, PV is not just an investor but a trusted companion on this journey of enterprise.
"The point is to be an interested buddy that has the founders' back,” says Ms Bijay.
“It's like a journey with fellow innovation and entrepreneurship enthusiasts, and it is a difficult journey. In my position with PV, I can also support other young women to encourage them as it is not common to see women founders or women working in VC."
Business innovation initiatives such as Protégé Ventures are not just shaping the future of entrepreneurship. They are also nurturing the next generation of venture capitalists and fostering a culture of innovation that's set to redefine the startup landscape in Singapore, creating a dynamic ecosystem primed for sustained growth and global impact.