When Sequoia Capital India landed in Singapore quietly in 2012, the buzz around town was that a big-name US fund being in the country was going to really jolt the market and provide serious cred to the startups here.
The Indian team running operations here, however, appears to have spent the last year of its time in the island state helping startups in its India portfolio expand into Singapore, rather than directly investing in startups here.
However, the company just moved into a fancy new co-working space called The Co, and is its anchor tenant, so it could be a sign that it’s trying to get closer to local startups. Previously, it operated out of a service office in High Street.
Singapore is a popular choice as a base for foreign companies looking to expand into Southeast Asia, because it’s a mature market with plenty of infrastructure available. But as a tiny country, it’s not often the main addressable user base, and startups originating from Singapore are also taught to have expansion plans charted. Early last year, Sequoia Capital India MD, Shailendra Jit Singh, expressed interest in having the fund’s companies expand into the region. Sequoia Cap in the US also appeared to have been eyeing activity in Singapore for a while—it had its first offsite meeting in the country in 2011, and was in discussion with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong about its presence here.
The Prime Minister’s Office oversees its R&D arm, the National Research Foundation (NRF), which has been busy backing local venture capital firms here over the past few years. Its Technology Incubation Scheme is a program that distributes seed funding to startups picked by 11 NRF-appointed VCs. The NRF matches investment values in the proportion of 85 percent to 15 percent—the larger portion dished out by the government. This allows the VCs here to provide bigger sums of seed capital to startups, with much of the risk absorbed by the NRF.
Former NRF projects head, Yinglan Tan, was also pulled over to Sequoia Capital India’s team in July last year, where he is now a venture partner based in Singapore.
When I ran into Tan in Manila a couple of months ago, he was evasive about Sequoia’s activities in Singapore, but was happy to try to set up meetings with their existing portfolio companies in Singapore—all Indian-based startups, except for Airbnb and Evernote. Some of these companies that are being incubated in Singapore by Sequoia Cap include Via, Druva, Mu Sigma, Idea Device and Practo.
Two months on, those meetings have yet to happen, but word on the street is that Tan has been meeting with some Singapore-based startups that are looking to raise Series A or B rounds, and are looking to expand beyond the island. One that I know of provides Wi-Fi infrastructure.
As for its current startups here, Via is pretty sizable. It operates a flight booking portal similar to Expedia and Zuji, and has about 1,200 employees, the bulk of which are in India, with some in Indonesia and another team in the Philippines. It also lists hotels, and has about 45,000 listings, with plans to add more.
Druva started in Pune, India and is now operationally HQed in Sunnyvale, according to Jaspreet Singh, its CEO and founder. The company provides a backup system for mobile devices in the enterprise.
Idea Device is also a Bangalore startup, and makes a runbook automation system. Runbook automation is a set of technologies that helps take out some of the manual system administration tasks for IT departments.
Sequoia Cap US declined to comment further on its plans for Singapore.
Here is the original post: Sequoia Capital In Singapore After A Year, Has Yet To Invest In A Local Startup
Microsoft is set to invest around $100 million USD in Rio de Janeiro over the next four years while the opening of its first advanced technology center in Brazil, Agência Estado reports.
The new center will be based in Rio’s port zone, an area known as “Porto Maravilha” due to the vast revitalization process it is undergoing. It will receive support from the Brazilian federal government and from the city hall, although the investment will reportedly come entirely from Microsoft.
As the news agency notes, this represents a much larger investment than the $5 million USD Microsoft fueled into its Sao Paulo R&D hub earlier this year. As a matter of fact, Rio’s center is only the fourth of its kind, following the opening of similar bases in Germany, Israel and Egypt.
According to the news agency, this decision is the result of one year of negotiations with the Brazilian authorities, and is set to be officially announced tomorrow during a ceremony in Brasilia in presence of the Education Minister, Aloizio Mercadante, and the Innovation, Science and Technology Minister, Marco Antônio Raupp. An official event co-hosted by Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes will also take place at Microsoft’s future site in Rio on Thursday.
As you may remember, Microsoft had already announced in September 2011 that it would start manufacturing Xbox 360 in Brazil to cater to local demand. While it was already a newsworthy move, it is even more interesting to see Microsoft take things one step further; its plans confirm that it is now seeing Brazil as more than a market where to sell its products.
Microsoft aside, the list of tech companies that have recently announced large investments in Brazil includes names such as Lenovo, Foxconn and Cisco - not to mention IBM and GE, which already have research centers in the country.
According to the Brazilian authorities, Microsoft’s decision will now boost this trend, and result in the opening of at least three advanced tech centers by multinational companies in Brazil by 2014, starting with a research hub from Intel.
Image credit: VANDERLEI ALMEIDA / AFP/ Getty Images
The crackdown comes just a few months after the Pakistani government withdrew its Web censorship plans, which would have restricted access to over 50 million URLs in the country. It also comes just one day after the Interior Minister had claimed, through a tweet no less, that Twitter would not be blocked in the country.
Ironically, the Interior Ministry’s denials, can now not be seen within Pakistan unless you happen to be using a workaround, or according to some reports, mobile access.
Twitter has reportedly come under fire due to a competition putting out a submission call for depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, making it the second time a social networking site has been blocked in Pakistan for the exact same reason.
Yesterday, a Pakistani TV news channel quoted Information and Technology Minister, Raja Parvez Ashraf, as saying that the government could easily block sites like Facebook and Twitter over a new set of blasphemous depictions, prompting the Interior Minister to take to Twitter to allay Pakistani netizen’s fears.
In 2010, Pakistani Internet users were denied access to Facebook, and later YouTube and Wikipedia, following a court-ordered ban. The blockade, which was later lifted, was in response to a Facebook group calling for users to submit caricatures of Prophet Mohammed as part of “Draw Mohammed Day”.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) Chairman, Dr. Mohammed Yaseen, said that the Ministry of Information and Technology ordered Twitter to be blocked, with the PTA passing the message on to ISPs. At least four have complied up until now, but what remains unclear is how long the ban will last.
Yasseen added that Twitter refused Pakistani authorities’ request to clamp down on what was viewed as inappropriate content, while according to the Washington Post, Facebook escaped the same fate by complying with authorities, reportedly taking down pages that celebrated the anniversary of “Draw Mohammed Day”.
Following the harsh backlash that Twitter saw earlier this year, due to a decision to comply with governmental requests to suppress content locally, it would appear that Twitter may be owed an apology. The social networking site is reported to have responded to the Pakistani authorities, saying that they “cannot stop any individual doing anything of this nature on the website”.
In a fast turnaround, Pakistan has restored access to Twitter. According to the Washington Post, “Prime Minister Raza Yousuf Gilani ordered Pakistan’s information technology ministry to restore access to the site”.