Glennis Setabandhu made a promise to her husband that she would look after her small village when many lost their jobs. She soon created a hotel near the Thai village’s remote location, and managed to provide jobs to many of her neighbours, wrote the BBC.

The impact of one flourishing business can be felt by citizens, as it provides jobs and boosts the local economy. The Huawei Spark programme was designed to invest and support tech start-ups so they can create these wider benefits.

Leaders from Huawei met at the Spark Founders Summit on 3 August to share how they were supporting these start-ups. The summit is supported by SGInnovate, Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (ASME) and Singapore Tourism Board. It was held in Resort World Sentosa in Singapore, and Hong Kong Science Park in Hong Kong concurrently.

Creating better cyber protections for Singaporeans

Scantist is a cybersecurity service spin-off from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. Supported by the Spark programme, the startup’s cybersecurity tools helped companies identify vulnerabilities in their digital networks.

The startup was able to find vulnerabilities in the systems of a major telecommunications business in Singapore. After 10 uses of the tool across 25 programmes, it found thousands of crashes, reported DigiconAsia. The telco could then replace customers’ devices with more secure ones.

Scantist joined the Spark Fire programme, which provided technical support to improve its cloud services and infrastructure. This helped to boost Scantist’s performance by three times while reducing costs by 15 per cent, the article stated.

“Working alongside partners like Huawei enables us to accomplish our mission of supporting promising talent and emerging tech startups in Singapore,” said Dr Lim Jui, CEO of SGInnovate, at the Summit.

Ensuring smoother urban transport 

The Huawei Spark programme is also helping startups in the transport space. Singapore AI firm NextBillion.ai builds digital map tools to make geographic tracking more accurate and convenient. After joining the Spark Fire programme, it was able to ensure citizens got fairer travel costs when they hailed a cab, it wrote.

A cab company operating in India faced issues with its maps system after it provided inaccurate fares, causing disputes with users. NextBillion.ai helped this company with its map calculations, increasing fare accuracy by 12 per cent and estimated time of arrival accuracy by 8 per cent.

“We benefited immensely from the Spark programme,” said Shaolin Zhang, CTO & Co-founder of NextBillion.AI. programme supported the startup by giving it direct access to other Huawei clients, building its business connections. Huawei and NextBillion.Ai are working together to sell to a third-party courier company Ninjavan, Tech In Asia reported.

Through the Huawei Spark programme, SMEs will be able to grow their business by being “exposed to a wider range of opportunities and potential partners,” says Kurt Wee, President of ASME, Singapore.

Building a responsible tech community

Unicorns, or startups that become valued at over US$1 billion, are not solely self-reliant, said Edwin Chow, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Innovation & Enterprise, Enterprise SG at the Spark Founders Summit.

We must acknowledge “the number of countries and companies and investors that have helped” a unicorn grow, Chow said. It takes the “concerted effort of a lot of people and partners to really make it successful”, he emphasised.

But startups can help their community in return. While high-tech systems can seem “distant” to local communities, startups help to bridge this gap and boost the local ecosystem, Foo Fang Yong, Chief Executive Officer at Huawei International, shared at the Spark Founders Summit.

“Start-ups can stimulate job creation to drive economic recovery and growth in today’s pandemic-stricken landscape,” agreed Jiang. With more technology innovation, Asia Pacific as a “can emerge as a stronger region globally” he continued.

“Here in Singapore, we are also learning to be less interventionist and to work with the market,” said Chow. In Singapore, government officials work with venture capitals and corporate organisations to support businesses. But it is also a role that big companies can play, he explained.

“I was very impressed by this morning’s sharing about Huawei’s plan with the Spark as well as the cloud services”, Chow said. “Hungry smart entrepreneurs” will be able to take advantage of large industry resources and good market channels, he continued.

By working with startups, “it can help to speed up the time to market, speed up the product market fit” and in turn “increase the likelihood of the startup’s survival”, Chow said.

Taking education to a new level

The Spark programme’s plans to invest US$100 million in over 1000 startups over the next three years. It will focus on supporting new startup hubs in Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, said Jiang at the Spark Founders Summit.

Huawei also plans to help educate and create 10,000 new developers in Asia Pacific to support the digital ecosystem, he added. It partnered with higher learning institutions and other learning centres to make this plan a reality.

For example, Huawei worked with Republic Polytechnic and the Singapore University of Social Sciences to give interested students the opportunity to learn about app development and AI.

The tech giant is also working with government agency SkillsFuture Singapore, to develop app development skills and understanding of Huawei’s mobile services. Skilled developers will be given an official certificate and will have priority access to the latest Huawei technology, the article continued.

Big tech is joining governments and universities to support the growth of tech startups. As a result of these efforts, local communities and citizens could reap untold benefits.

Image from Huawei