Happy New Year and a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us with ideas, participation, encouragement and money as we have ramped up to try and close our funding!
Joyful Frog Digital Incubator was actually incorporated on 11th January 2010, so precision geeks might argue we should delay our celebrations. We hope to have news to celebrate when that formal anniversary comes around but, in the meantime, New Year’s Eve felt like a good time to pull together some thoughts and kind of report back to the community that’s been so good to us.
First up, however, we have to apologize. While we’ve tweeted bits and pieces through the second half of the year, we’ve not been keeping this blog or the Joyful Frog google group as up to date as often as we should. We will put that right in 2011 if, as we hope, Joyful Frog closes the funding to really start motoring.
Words, and more of them, are all well and good but we’re in business and that’s about action. The main actions for this year for us were to secure support, get a clear plan and get the money together to do it. So here’s where we are at.
We wanted Joyful Frog to be as much of an open source /crowdsourced enterprise as possible. It was fantastic that hundreds of people downloaded the Request for Comments that we published in February. Around thirty people showed up to comment face to face and around fifty of you
volunteered comments in writing. Wow.
Anyone who’s started any kind of organization will recognize how hard it is to keep up the momentum. Knowing that there are now 120+ people contributing to our development through our Google Group is truly inspiring. We have had amazing support from a huge number of people and organizations, here and abroad, and are now part of a network of Y-combinator style seed accelerators around the world.
It gives us great confidence to know we are not doing this alone and are part of what seems to be a successful movement sweeping round the globe. In 2011 we hope to announce some formal partnerships in that regard.
Locally, government agencies in Singapore have been very supportive and we would particularly like to thank the MDA for making our pilot phase possible through 2009. It made available resources for management, travel and accommodation to enable mentors to visit and support existing startups in Singapore.
Doing that has, of course, been valuable to the startups but it was also important to us because it gave us something real with which to reach out to the pool of entrepreneurial talent here on the island. It also proved that serious players who have been there and built successful digital businesses will come and share their skills with us. We are immensely grateful that so many people gave up their time, for free, to do that.
Joyful Frog Visiting Mentor Programme in Numbers
- 8 mentors committed to visiting, typically for 3 weeks each unpaid.
- 44 Public Talks
- 31 afternoon or evening ‘walk in clinic’ sessions for SMEs (3 hours each)
- 99 hours of individual SME mentoring, plus follow-up amounting to an additional 50% time for SMEs
- Total mentoring time provided by VMP for Singapore’s startups of 544.5 hours
- Mentoring for 68 local SMEs on a one-to-one basis and counting
- In excess of 200 SMEs benefitting from all VMP activities including public events
Speakers from our Visiting Mentor Programme have also been able to contribute to the excellent Founder Institute programme. Like many of the other local early-stage startup programmes, incubators, investors and trade associations with which we collaborate, there’s no sense of competition. They, and we know that everyone will only succeed if we work together to build the ecosystem for early stage companies.
Internationally, we and folk who have worked closely with us have gone out of our way to visit and speak at conferences, barcamps and industry events in countries as diverse as Malaysia, Cambodia, Hong Kong and Vietnam. When Joyful Frog is fully funded we want to work with talent and support the development of entrepreneurship across the region, so making these early contacts has been really important.
We reflected community feedback on our initial ideas in a full investment proposition with the aim of securing funding. We’re particularly grateful to Joe Rouse, Entrepreneur in Residence at NUS, and Pierre Hennes, Co-Founder and Partner of Upstream Ventures, for agreeing to join us as our first Advisory Board members to help us get the plan into shape.
We are also grateful for a lot of advice from people who are already running early-stage support schemes. That’s allowed us to short-cut the learning curve and put together a plan that we feel really confident will deliver. For sure, something like Joyful Frog has not been done in our part of Asia before but hundreds of experienced pairs of eyes have so far failed to spot any good reason why it couldn’t work here.
So as we move towards our second year, the only thing that holds us back is funding to move from pilot to full funding. We’ve known since around April that around 70% of our operating expenses should be covered by Singapore public funding and are grateful for that. We are confident that Singapore Pte Ltd will get a good return on that investment over the next few years.
Meanwhile, our priority has been to pull in private funding to fill the gap because, as investors ourselves, we want to see our customers (early stage investors) put some skin in the game as far as we are concerned too. All now hinges on the private investor community turning interest and words into dollars.
Folk from countries as diverse as Malaysia, Switzerland, UK, US and Hong Kong have expressed interest and we are hopeful that the advanced discussions we are now seeking to conclude will result in some announcements soon.
Our hope is that we can close funding in the next few weeks. We would then aim to run Joyful Frog’s first batch of startups starting around June 2011, followed by second and third batches in 2012 and 2013. In each case the 100-day Joyful Frog bootcamp would end around September.
If, for some reason, we are not able to close our funding then we won’t proceed with Joyful Frog on a cut-down basis. We think it should be done properly or not at all and, if we can’t garner the support needed, would be honoured to hand the baton on to another team giving a similar idea a go, when the time feels right. A lot of people from the community have helped us get to where we are and you guys deserve to enjoy the fruits of that, whoever makes it happen.
Whichever way things go, working with you in 2010 has been great and we sincerely hope to be able to do a lot more with you in 2011. Lastly, while we have the excuse, big hugs for our operations team Juanita Sabapathy and Chewlin Kay.
Hugh and Meng