More than S$200K of seed funding awarded to winning social enterprises working towards a more sustainable future

Singapore, 12 June 2015 – DBS Foundation and NUS Enterprise today announced the winners of the 2015 DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia (SVC Asia), a business plan challenge that aims to identify and support new social ventures that demonstrate scalability and sustainability around the region. Learn Education (Thailand) took first place, while MicroX Labs (India) and iHealth Express (Taiwan) came in second and third respectively. Two additional SVC Asia teams, SDI Academy and Society Staples, received grants from the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise, raISE.

This year’s SVC Asia received 683 entries from 30 countries, a more than 60 percent increase over entries received last year. A significant number of entries were focused on areas such as education, healthcare and the environment, showing that social entrepreneurs are becoming more forward thinking and responding to real development needs in the region. The top three countries of impact were India (229 entries), Singapore (115 entries) and Indonesia (75 entries).

“The increase in participation, diversity and quality of entries this year reflects the positive development of the social entrepreneurial scene in Asia. Feedback from participants this year has also been very encouraging; many have affirmed Singapore as a conducive environment and platform for innovative social enterprises looking for stepping stones to making a positive impact on their respective regional communities. This is also the first set of grants that will be funded by the DBS Foundation, and we will work with the winners on their business plans to ensure that they remain on track, working towards building a more sustainable future,” said Karen Ngui, Head of DBS Group Strategic Marketing & Communications and Board Member of the DBS Foundation.

Amongst the highlights of this year’s SVC Asia was the increase in prize money for the winners, ensuring that they will be better equipped to work on the scalability of their initiatives. Learn Education received S$100,000 in seed funding, while MicroX Labs and iHealth Express received S$30,000 and S$20,000 respectively. Winners received their prizes today at the awards ceremony from guest-of-honour Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State, Ministry Trade and Industry.

“We are heartened to see an increasing interest in social ventures, and are delighted that more countries are participating in SVC Asia. We will continue in our outreach activities to raise further awareness and engagement in social entrepreneurship across Asia. NUS Enterprise looks forward to working with the participants to provide post-SVC Asia support in areas such as incubation, mentorship, assistance in fund raising and access to resource networks,” said Professor Wong Poh Kam, Director, NUS Entrepreneurship Centre, which is part of NUS Enterprise.

In addition, two SVC Asia teams from Singapore, SDI Academy and Society Staples, received S$50,000 and S$25,000 grants respectively from raISE. On top of these grants, raiSE will provide advisory services and relevant resources or link-ups to the teams to help them in their journey as social enterprises.

“Running sustainable businesses that create social impact is challenging, even for mature enterprises. raiSE is keen to support aspiring young social entrepreneurs who want to make a difference in the community,” said Mr Alfie Othman, Executive Director of raiSE. This is the second year that the SVC Asia has been held, jointly organised by DBS Foundation and NUS Enterprise. It is fast becoming a key regional platform for social entrepreneurs to take their ideas to another level. Over the past five months, participants learnt how to develop their ideas into scalable and sustainable social ventures through attending workshops, networking events and mentoring sessions.

SVC Asia 2015 winners:

Learn Education (Thailand): This social enterprise aims to improve the quality of education, in particular for Maths and Science, within Thailand through their blended-learning technology tools. This includes learning modules, which follow the Thai curriculum, to develop critical thinking skills amongst students; one-to-one learning software with tests and analytics; and implementation processes to connect the software with “human-ware”. Learn Education has rolled out its tools in 30 schools across Thailand. One of their pilot schools saw a 31% improvement in test scores after three years. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to have quality education, and this is the belief behind why we started Learn Education. Winning the SVC Asia will help us to accelerate our impact, improve our IT platform and develop more active learning modules. In the next 10 years, we hope to see more than 10,000 teachers confident in using our system, 100,000 less school dropouts and 1 million users in Thailand,” said Tanin Timtong, co-founder Learn Education.

MicroX Labs (India): India currently lacks timely, accurate and affordable diagnostics, where patients must often wait 1-2 days before getting blood test results. MicroX Labs addresses this problem by creating a technological platform for effective point-of-care diagnostics, starting with a Complete Blood Count test. This consists of disposable cartridges and a portable reader. MicroX Labs hopes to roll out this lab-on-chip technology to diagnostic and collection centres in low-income states by end of 2015.

iHealth Express (Taiwan): Although there are 25 medical centres across Taiwan, 80% of them are within the three big cities. This makes it difficult for people, in particular chronically-ill, the elderly or disabled, who live in more remote areas. iHealth Express offers a mobile medical system that aims to eliminate inequality in healthcare delivery across Taiwan. Patients send their prescription to a central location via phone, fax, email, mobile apps or the internet. After checking and dispensing the medication, professional pharmacists deliver the medicine to the designated location. In addition, these pharmacists are equipped to handle face-to-face counselling, medication reminders and health education.

Singapore SVC Asia teams to receive funding from raiSE:

Social Development Initiative (SDI) Academy: This seeks to champion the welfare of migrant workers in Singapore, as well as to create a more inclusive society here, by empowering them with improved communication skills. SDI Academy is currently targeting migrant workers from the construction, shipping and manufacturing industries. These individuals attend 16 weeks of English proficiency courses created and conducted by SDI Academy. This includes lectures, group discussions and a befriender’s session. Various social outreach programmes are also organised to promote inclusiveness with the Singapore community. SDI Academy receives S$50,000 from raISE.

Society Staples: This social enterprise is developing a platform to connect people with disabilities (PWDs) and the rest of society through fitness programmes, in particular strength training sessions and unusual sports such as parkour and cheerleading. Society Staples trainers include those with disabilities themselves, creating a shift in mindsets for participants and to empower and inspire other PWDs on what is possible. Society Staples also offers corporate team building programmes conducted by PWD facilitators, to bust myths and misconceptions about PWDs and encourage interaction and opportunities to learn from each other. The next challenge for Society Staples is to set up Singapore’s first inclusive gymnasium. Society Staples receives S$25,000 from raISE.