The STILE Initiative Program, Asia's first investment-backed residential incubation program
The STILE Initiative is Asia’s first investment-backed residential incubation program. In a collaboration between Stan Group and Jumpstart Media, the program was launched to ignite the startup ecosystem around the region. TechShake spoke with Stan Group Ventures Executive Vice President Mark Sims to discuss the details of their program.
True incubation and acceleration
As one of the most influential conglomerates in Hong Kong, Stan Group wants to use its network and resources to advance the growth of startups across Asia. Partnering with Jumpstart Media, Hong Kong’s first print publication focusing on startups and entrepreneurship, they created The STILE Initiative to make it all happen.
The 4-month program is designed to provide the chosen incubatees with valuable experience and opportunities to fast track the growth of their business. The program will be offering accommodation, dedicated mentors, relevant workshops, and access to a vast network of investors and corporations.
Taking place in Hong Kong, the startups will be immersed in an ideal test market. Mark explains, “Hong Kong is one of the most aggressive markets in the planet; it’s the optimal test market for startups. If they can make it in Hong Kong, they can make it anywhere.”
Working with partner corporations throughout the program, the founders will also be able to participate in revenue-generating projects. “That’s what makes this valuable to startups. The incubatees get education through undertaking real-life projects that help grow their revenues and market growth,” Mark adds. “What we’re looking to do is make sure that the participants get in front of the industry players for the sector they’re in.”
The search for promising startups
Now on to Cohort 2, The STILE Initiative is open to all promising startups, though they are also keen on working with ventures particularly focused with Hospitality, Real Estate, Food and Beverage, Media and Communication, and Financial Services.
Mark shares more about the selection process: “We’re looking for people with a passion and commitment to startups. Our application process is very light. We ask for basically 3 things: You have to be a company that is already registered; you need to have customers -- somebody paying for your service; and, you need to have more than one founder operating the business. As long as you have those, and we see that there is an avenue for growth, we’re interested in having you onboard.”
Group photo of the Jumpstart and STILE teams during Information Night, the concluding event for their program
The STILE Initiative’s Cohort 1 roadshow around Asia has brought them to 11 select cities where they hope to fund the next big thing. Included in their stop is the Philippines, where they found a lot of exciting developments. “I think the Philippines is really starting to come of age. There has been some groundwork over the last few years to build the ecosystem, and the Philippines is one that excites us. As we reached out to various areas to try and work out where we should go, the Philippines was among those that stood out to us,” Mark says. For their next batch, they will continue recruitment across the Asia Pacific.
The bigger picture
While the program spans only a few months, a long-term plan is underway. Down the line, the program is looking to pool together a portfolio of successful companies. “Like any fund, the goal is to grow these companies and either gear them up for public listing or maneuver them into a successful exit,” Mark says.
The program puts a premium not only in ensuring that the startups in the program are enabled for growth, but also that the startup ecosystem would be impacted by their efforts. Mark explains, “Ecosystem management - that’s our bigger responsibility, making sure everyone is part of the ecosystem, and going into active management of our startup alumni to help them grow further.”
Through the program, the STILE Initiative will be able to build an impressive portfolio of companies across the Asia Pacific, which allows them to help build the ecosystem as well. Mark shares what they expect for the program, “We see this being the start of a number of funds specifically for early-stage startups, and as we progress, we see the creation of more funds at later stages for the life cycles of the startups.”
Mark’s advice for entrepreneurs wanting to be a fellow changemaker: “The number one thing I would say is to make sure you’re dedicated and passionate about your venture. If you’re passionate about your idea and you have good mentors that believe in your idea, that’s a significant part of the battle done.”