EDB eyes investments in tech, ICT, healthcare

It identifies these 3 areas as disruptive sectors, says focus will be on bringing in digital enterprise solutions, health capabilities


AS a Singapore-based investor, self-proclaimed to be "Singapore-first" and to have a "unique" position in the venture capital and private equity community, EDBI has identified deep tech, ICT (information and communications technology) and healthcare as industries to watch.

The investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) said that it would make new investments in these three "disruptive sectors".

Chu Swee Yeok, CEO and president of EDBI, told The Business Times in a recent interview that EDBI ceaselessly seeks companies that can be Singapore champions or game changers in their respective markets.

"Our new investments in the deep tech, ICT and healthcare sectors illustrate our drive to bring to Singapore digital enterprise solutions and digital health capabilities," she said.

In the deep tech space, EDBI invests in startups with enabling technologies that are capable of "disrupting traditional processes while improving productivity".

Bitmain is one of them. According to Ms Chu, the China-based company is among the world's largest producers of high-performance blockchain hardware, software and services.

It also has the ability to extend its market leadership to new areas such as supercomputing hardware for artificial intelligence, she said.

In July this year, EDBI announced it participated in Bitmain's Series B funding round, led by Sequoia Capital China and worth up to US$400 million.

In the ICT space, EDBI will put its money into startups whose digital business solutions can help enterprises digitise essential functions, achieve productivity gains and maintain competitiveness, Ms Chu said.

An example is WalkMe, a guidance and navigation software company based in San Francisco. In November, EDBI said it participated in the startup's US$40 million Series F funding round and will be supporting its Asian expansion efforts.

Ms Chu said: " WalkMe is an important enabler in the digital transformation journey of Singapore companies as they scale their businesses and drive productivity."

In healthcare, EDBI is targeting companies that leverage Singapore's position as a premier healthcare hub in Asia, and focus on building new growth segments in digital health and medical devices, she said.

One example is Livongo, a US company that is redesigning chronic condition management through connected devices, data analytics and real-time intervention.

In March 2017, EDBI announced it was one of many backers of Livongo's US$52.5-million growth funding round.

According to Ms Chu, it is through EDBI's facilitation that Livongo is in discussions with the Singapore's Ministry of Health Office of Transformation to explore starting a 100-200 patient proof-of-value pilot study in the Republic next year.

EDBI's investment strategy is guided by a "distinctive mandate" to deliver financial returns while creating value-added activities and employment opportunities in Singapore, so as to enhance the country's economic growth.

"In this aspect, EDBI is unique in the community of private equity and venture capital investors," she said.