Opinions & Insights

Selective innovation is necessary when resources are finite

Neal Cross, Chief Innovation Officer, DBS Bank


Jul 2016

Around 90 percent of incubators and accelerators will fail. That was a claim made four years ago as more and more incubators and accelerators began to pop up in America. “Failure” here was equated to not being able to return the money that was put into them. With the explosion of incubators here in Asia and Singapore, that claim is very much valid today.


One of the greatest challenges facing incubators is that they have to be highly selective about who they can provide resources and support to. After all, resources are finite and despite being a bank, we have a responsibility to use our finances wisely. It’s the same expectations that many incubators/investors place upon their start-ups. We can’t be any different.


Following the success of our DBS HotSpot 2015 Pre-accelerator programme, we saw over 250 applications for DBS HotSpot 2016. This is in no small part due to the fantastic work from my team, providing the support for budding start-ups and working closely with them. While it was surprising to see the tremendous spike in this year’s programme, it also meant that we had a more difficult task of choosing which of the teams we could work with.


So after first having whittled down those applications down to 29 start-ups, we spent the last three months working closely with them and observing them. The point was to better understand how these start-ups functioned, but also to learn which start-ups had the greatest chance of success. This week, we are proud to announce the final nine teams that are moving on to the HotSpot Pre-Accelerator phase.

These nine teams have progressed by leaps and bounds in the three months they’ve joined HotSpot 2016. Despite being early stage start-ups, many of them have accelerated their businesses, moving from creating their MVPs to producing a Proof of Concept. We’re proud that we could walk with them on that journey.


For us, the final decision was also significantly influenced by the need for diversity. As I’ve always said, DBS HotSpot was conceptualised not only for us as a leading Singapore bank to give back to the local business community, but also a means for DBS as an organisation to learn from the innovation of smaller, faster and more nimble players. Having diversity means we can bring learnings from different industries all in one unified goal – to learn how we can better serve our customers and make banking joyful.


For the nine teams, neither they nor us can afford to rest on our laurels. While we can focus more attention and resources towards them now, it means that there will be greater scrunity for them to deliver success. And that also puts pressure on us to show that we can be effective helping these start-ups grow more. It’s a challenge that I’m sure my team relishes and is more than up to the task for.


To the other 20 teams from the Bootcamp phase, it’s not the end. This is hardly a setback on your business and we hope that you will continue to build on it. Take this as an opportunity to further refine your products and services and find other partners to work with. We wish you every success in your endeavours.


To everyone else, we’re always on the lookout for great ideas. So if you’ve a start-up idea you’re interested to build, we’d love to work with you. We hope to see you at next year’s HotSpot.


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