“You must help me, or else I’ll go crazy,” Albert Einstein once said to his student Marcel Grossmann. Einstein had collaborated with Grossmann to develop the theory of relativity, which fundamentally transformed our understanding of physics.

“If you look at human advancement thus far, our progress comes through collaboration,” said Leo Jiang, Chief Digital Officer of Huawei Cloud & AI Business Group, Asia Pacific Region. “We need to build an ecosystem for all regardless of nationality, with no boundaries,” he added.

A nation’s startup community is “a big part of this ecosystem and the driver of innovation”, he added. Speaking at the Huawei Cloud Summit 2020 Singapore, he discussed how the company’s Huawei Spark programme will help deep tech startups flourish.

Fostering deep tech startup growth

In partnership with Enterprise Singapore and Startup SG, Huawei Spark aims to boost startup growth in Asia Pacific, and will kick off as a competition.

Huawei is targeting startups with “technology at its core”, said Leo. It wants to support deep tech startups with expertise in 5G, AI, machine learning, IoT, mobile edge computing, and mobile & Software as a Service applications. It will also focus on companies in finance, manufacturing, energy, e-commerce and smart city.

The Spark programme consists of two tiers. First, the incubator tier provides startups with medium to long-term support for about 1 to 2 years, said Leo.

Startups will receive free cloud resources from Huawei such as AI modules and AI-based intelligent industry solutions. They will also be provided with open-source software support – like a database and an operating system to develop their own applications, services, and hardware appliances.

Huawei also provides varied levels of support  to startups depending on their maturity. It can come in the form of cloud credits of up to US$125,000; an AI development fund of up to US$100,000; and consultancy services and training.

‘Accelerator’ tier

The second tier of the Spark programme is a 4-6 months program that helps startups achieve specific business outcomes, said Leo. This can be client acquisition, fund raising, or product launches.

Startups in this accelerator tier will enjoy three additional types of support. First, startups will be able to improve their brand awareness and affinity. “We do that by leveraging market events, and providing a platform for you to share your thought leadership with enterprises and venture capital firms,” said Leo.

70 to 80 per cent of startups will fail along the way, said Leo. But startups with good mentorship generally grow 3.5 times faster and raise 7 times more money, according to a report by Startup Genome, a research and advisory firm.

That’s why startups in the accelerator tier will also be coached by Huawei’s advisory committee, said Leo. The committee is made up of industry experts, venture capital firms, government agencies, and Huawei’s executive sponsors. Startups can showcase their products during monthly networking events and roadshows.

The third form of support comes from Huawei’s ‘Spark Fire’ program, which will help connect eligible startups with potential clients – whether it’s Huawei or their partners.

Huawei’s global salesforce will become the “eyes and ears” for startups, said Leo. “When we see a problem statement that matches with a solution, we will introduce you to our client and facilitate the engagement process.”

Startups will also be able to sell through the Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) system, Huawei App Gallery, and Cloud marketplace to reach 600 million mobile users, said Leo. “In short, Spark Fire is the door opener and engine for your growth and success,” he added.

The competition starts now

Huawei has received more than 200 applications from Singapore startups since applications opened on 10 August. Interested startups can submit their proposals until 4 October.

The top two winners of the competition will be fast-tracked to compete as one of the Top 100 global startups at SLINGSHOT 2020, an annual startup competition in Singapore. They will also be awarded US$125,000 in cloud credits, a S$30,000 Startup SG Grant, and admission to the Accelerator tier.

“We fully believe that startups could grow faster and healthier with proper mentoring and support through the Huawei Spark program, and create more job opportunities to support the recovery of economies, not just regionally, but also globally,” said Leo.

As countries recover from Covid-19, encouraging the growth of innovative startups will help to usher in a resilient and connected digital future.

Startups can register and submit their proposals here to participate in the Huawei Spark competition.

Image by Huawei