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Judges Q&A: Challenge Cup Regional Singapore

Challenge Cup continues its Regional round with an event 6:00 PM on Wednesday, Mar. 9 in Singapore, and some of the expert judges outlined their thoughts ahead of the competition. Judges shared what criteria are most important to consider when evaluating startups’ pitches and what innovations they’re looking forward to learning more about.

The startup competitors and those of you rooting for them will definitely want to read on, and everyone keeping up with Challenge Cup can continue following along online at #1776Challenge!

Juul Gielens

Juul Gielens is the Business Manager Value Segment & IGT synergies at Philips Health Systems. Given Juul’s experience working in the value segment business within the Asean and Pacific region, focusing on go-to-market strategies, driving the commercial synergies, and managing product positioning, that perspective on the judging panel will be extremely valuable.

What do you think is your region’s number one entrepreneurial strength?

In my view, the region has a combination of strengths as well as a particular (macro) economical situation, which is simply in better shape than other parts of the world. The increased access to Internet and smartphones (emerging markets) really makes Asia an interesting region for e-commerce companies.

From my own experience, I must say that the key entrepreneurial strengths in Asia-Pacific are very much about details and content. Nothing gets done here without going granular in the details and really understanding and perfecting the content, which could make it more conservative but in the long term definitely more successful.

What criteria are most important to you when judging a startup pitch like the ones at Challenge Cup?

The most important criteria are: content knowledge, passion, and go-to-market strategy (from concept to commercial business model).

What are you most looking forward to learning about the startup competitors?

I am very much looking forward to the great developments, concepts, and products that will be presented. It is very exciting to get to know the latest and greatest with respect to business and product innovation.

Koichi Saito

Koichi Saito is the Founder and a General Partner of KK Fund. His 10 years of experience in venture capital, private equity, investment banking, and money lending will bring strong additional expertise to the judging panel.

What do you think is your region’s number one entrepreneurial strength?

The ASEAN region is one of the world’s fastest growing for internet and mobile business, and the middle class is growing rapidly. 70 percent of the population is under 35 year old. Since the Internet penetration rate and the number of bank accounts and credit card holders are still very low as of today, the region has room to grow even more in the future.

What criteria are most important to you when judging a startup pitch like the ones at Challenge Cup?

Important to evaluate is the quality of the founding members — how fast they can move and execute.

What are you most looking forward to learning about the startup competitors?

There is so much inefficiency in several sectors in the ASEAN region. I am looking forward to seeing how the startups approach the real issues and solve them.

Hsien-Hui Tong

Hsien-Hui Tong is the Director of Investments at Infocomm Investments and is expert in early stage investments in high-tech startups in several industries including biotech and energy. His extensive background in seed funding is ideal for evaluating the startup competitors.

What do you think is your region’s number one entrepreneurial strength?

If you consider Singapore in isolation, the marrying of a pro-business government, plentiful sources of startup funding with the ease of starting a business, creates a hugely conducive environment for entrepreneurs. Together with countries in the region — like Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, etc. — you have a potential marketplace of close to 600 million people of multiple races, making this an ideal region for startups either as a lab to test their concepts or as a potential growth market.

What criteria are most important to you when judging a startup pitch like the ones at Challenge Cup?

The competitions where I have been privileged to have been asked to judge all have different areas of focus. In general, I look at the business model, the innovativeness of the concept and the strength of the team. However, the weight applied to each may differ. For a startup to change the world though, it is not just enough that the team has an innovative concept. The team also needs to be fully aware of the challenges it faces and have the necessary strategies and motivation to overcome those challenges.

What are you most looking forward to learning about the startup competitors?

I am always keen to see how startups perceive problems in our everyday lives and how they aim to address them. Whenever I finish a session thinking, “Why didn’t I think of that?”… that’s a good session!

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