Deeptech startups are generating a lot of buzz, but the term often defies straightforward definition. They are generally companies that use AI, machine learning, and/or blockchain elements in the services or processes. In an internet age dominated by demand for products, the use of deeptech to reach potential customers has risen to the forefront of the eCommerce experience, and it has also presented solutions in the science and medical sectors.
Southeast Asia deeptech startups are part of a thriving business ecosystem as technology spurs the need for new talent and funding. In 2020, Enterprise Singapore’s SEEDS Capital called for co-investors to pump around $112 million USD into the sector. Using innovative technologies, deeptech startups in Singapore have established themselves as leaders in their respective industries.
Singapore invests heavily into the deeptech industry in 2021
We take a look at the emerging stars in the Singapore-based deeptech startup sector.
When ViSenze found that 87% of shoppers are more likely to find products using visual search, they embraced this data and used it to connect with more customers. It describes itself as a Visual AI solutions suite, and it stands out as a leader in the sector regionally for its outstanding image recognition services that simplify the purchasing process for customers.
Founded by Oliver Tan, ViSenze spun out of a lab set up by the National University of Singapore and Tsinghua University of China. Tan describes the problem statement that the team focused on as “…if we can extract intelligence from pixels and images, what can we do to help online shoppers who are basically telling us that they are searching but they’re not finding?”
By enabling online shopping through visual search, Visenze has amassed retail giants like UNIQLO and Urban Outfitters that use their services to improve conversion rates and drive sales.
Biolidics is a novel technology and medical startup that developed the ClearCell® FX1 System, a medical device that separates cancer cells from the blood. Founder Johnson Chen describes the mission of Biolidics as creating technologies that “have a wide range of applications for cancer diagnosis, prognosis, treatment selection and treatment monitoring. Biolidics also has an infectious disease division that looks into various diagnostic kits and solutions.”
A spin-off of the National University of Singapore and SMART MIT, Biolidics is the first incubatee of Clearbridge Accelerator. The ClearCell® FX1 System helps improve clinical outcomes for cancer patients, and Biolidics received worldwide attention when it launched a ten-minute rapid test kit for COVID-19 in March 2020.
Given that pollination is necessary for producing an estimated 3/4 of staple crops and 1/3 of all crops, optimising pollination techniques is key to reducing food waste. Before industry leader Polybee, pollination was often left up to chance.
Polybee’s technology maximises the fertilisation of every flower and eliminates arduous manual bee pollination. It has built scalable aerial robotics technology for seed companies, greenhouses and vertical farms to reduce error and waste in the pollination process.
Some of Polybee’s partners include the Singapore Food Agency, the National University of Singapore and SGInnovate. In March, they received $250,000 SGD in prize money to help them continue to innovate.
Seventh Sense uses its unique AI products to solve machine vision challenges and increase recognition accuracy to 99.80%. Because their technology runs in Embedded, CPU, GPU and in the Cloud, Seventh Sense delivers a comprehensive and consistent experience on multiple platforms.
The founder and Chief Software Architect, Varun Chatterji, began experimenting with AI in college and initially gave up believing he was a “couple of decades too early”.
Chatterji’s perseverance eventually resulted in a breakthrough that captured the attention of the Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), leading to investment from Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) subsidiary Cap Vista.
Some of Seventh Sense’s products include AGENT 7™, designed for law enforcement and security networks, and SDK 7™, a bespoke option that uses libraries to process videos and photos.
Seventh Sense’s partners include Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the National University of Singapore.
SpaceChain, the first decentralised space agency, was founded in 2017 as a community-based platform. It uses blockchain technologies to aid global collaboration in space.
Founded by Zee Zheng and Jeff Garzik, SpaceChain is one of the first companies in the world to combine space and blockchain technologies. “We want to democratise access to space — space should not be expensive — space is for everyone” says Garzik.
It is affiliated with the Blockchain Research Institution, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and Singapore Space and Technology Association.
From eCommerce to agriculture, space and medicine, these five companies are standouts in a booming Southeast Asia deeptech startups sector. Owing to their solutions-driven missions, use of converging technologies and immersion in the deeptech ecosystem, ViSenze, Biolidics, Polybee, Seventh Sense and Spacechain lead the list of deeptech startups in Singapore to watch. The number of Singapore-based deeptech startups is sure to grow in the coming years as investment in the sector increases, and the country continues to evolve as a hub for innovation and technology.