Singapore Press Holdings plays a bit of much-needed roulette with start-ups


This blog post is inspired by my recent visit to the Seven West Media group in Perth, Australia. I had the privilege of staying a week in five-star accommodations at the Crown Metropol, which is adjacent to the magnificently appointed Crown Casino.

Although I’m not a gambler myself, strolling around the gaming tables brought to mind what publishers operating amidst today’s challenging media milieu need to do to future-proof themselves.

To always remain on the cutting edge of things, I am constantly reminding myself that “organic is lethargic.” These days, attempting to grow the business on our own is so passé and hugely Jurassic; collaborating with qualified and valued partners is now the new chic!

For those who have not yet delved into the art of roulette, let this rant serve as an alarm bell of sorts to encourage you – more specifically, the organisation you work for – to take a step forward and put down a few bets!

Don’t get me wrong – I am not recommending in any way that we should gamble away our hard-earned assets and throw the entire house into the fray.

My point for this piece is that we need to remind ourselves not to get caught up solely in the day-to-day business. We also need to focus on what we should be doing in the near future to shore up our bottom lines.

And by this, I mean disrupting the norm, birthing new business models, monetising along the value chain, and investing in companies to leap frog ahead.

The long adhered to template of publishers putting out great content and selling advertisements strewn amidst a compelling read is over. With the exponential rise of owned and earned media, we need to not only evolve internally within our existing infrastructure, but also externally and beyond the boundaries of our comfort zones.

There is every reason to drive up collaborations and invest voraciously in the right start-ups.

For us at Singapore Press Holdings, we have established a S$100 million new media fund to invest in media-related businesses. We believe these investments will play a critical role to support our aspirations to be the leading multi-media company in Asia. To date, we have committed our support to a host of companies locally and globally.

In addition, we just launched the SPH Plug and Play Accelerator programme, together with Silicon Valley’s Plug and Play business accelerator, and Infocomm Investments, a fully owned subsidiary of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

This collaboration aims to build a strong pipeline of high growth, innovation-driven tech start-ups to address challenges that the media industry will face. SPH Plug and Play will invest S$30,000 in each start-up company selected to participate in the accelerator programme.

The programme is meant to admit up to 20 media tech start-ups within the next year across media sectors ranging from advertising, e-commerce, marketplaces, mobile, news, and content distribution to public relations.

The idea is to build and grow digital media start-ups with high global potential and a strong capability so as to transform the media sector.

SPH Plug and Play will provide the selected start-ups with mentorship from domain experts from venture capital and media industries. The start-ups will also receive training and enjoy opportunities to leverage on SPH’s vast intellectual property and resources. In addition, there will be valuable opportunities to network with industry stakeholders and potential investors.

Whether these gestures will pay off is left to be seen. I am sure you can attest to the fact that if we don’t do anything, much like standing still on a moving treadmill, we will already be left behind.

There are always going to be risks involved in investing in new ventures. However, much like placing your bets on a game of roulette, publishers the world over need to establish the necessary framework, do the due diligence, and start setting their chips onto the table with the hope of turning around winners that deliver healthy returns.

Here’s wishing you “happy betting!”

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