Startup Ecosystem Bids Farewell to Asia’s First Startup Accelerator

Posted On September 16, 2016 by Chip Wilcox in Blog, Ecosystem, Verticals

Startup Ecosystem Says Farewell to JFDI, Asia’s First Startup Accelerator

On Tuesday this week the startup ecosystem here in Singapore received some sad news. The Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (known better as “JFDI”) is closing down its startup accelerator program.

Hugh Mason and Meng Wong, co-founders of JFDI, are legends and true gurus of the Singapore and Asia startup scene. (Disclosure: Meng is an investor in Temasys). Together they started JFDI back in 2010, and it was the region’s very first startup accelerator. As Hugh says, “Meng Wong and I have always known we were conducting a giant experiment.” And so it was, a grand experiment.

Maybe It Was Just Time…

JFDI graduated it’s last accelerator batch in December 2015. Meng has headed back to Beantown, USA to pursue a fellowship at Harvard Law School, where he’ll work on a new company called “Legalese“, which itself grew out of JFDI. From my perspective, while the timing and the next steps probably make sense, this turn of events really marks the end of an era for the startup ecosystem in Singapore.

For anyone looking for perspective on what it has been like to raise money, mentor and grow startups in Singapore over the last few years, Hugh’s post about the new direction JFDI is taking is a good place to start.

Mind-Boggling Learnings

The impact that JFDI has had on the startup ecosystem here in Singapore is nothing short of mind-boggling. I would be hard-pressed to name a single startup or early stage technology company from Singapore (including Temasys) who over the last few years hasn’t learned from, or tapped into, Hugh and Meng, their network, and many of the other mentors that have sagged into the armchairs or hung around the coffee bar at JFDI. Whether it was following Meng’s Map of the Money, or watching scores of entrepreneurs pass through JFDI and practice their craft, the evolution of the startup scene in Singapore and SE Asia has been something to behold. Heck, I even learned about Sous-vide from Meng (Foodies Unite!).

What’s Next? No More Comfy Armchairs?!

Maybe the ecosystem here has grown up enough that pioneers like Meng and Hugh can move on to the next potentially massive thing. I will, however, miss the unique energy that surrounded JFDI. It’s now up to the people they influenced to carry that banner a little further and to share the love with the next generation of entrepreneurs. Now that we’ve all outgrown the comfortable nest of overstuffed armchairs and couches at JFDI, it’s time to move out and get a place of our own.

Startup Ecosystem Could Benefit from APAC Middle Class Consumers
The emerging middle class will reach close to 5 billion by 2030. (OECD)

There are some hints in Hugh’s post about what’s next for JFDI in its new incarnation. Asia has a phenomenal growth story that is only beginning and by 2030 the OECD estimates Asia will represent 59% of global middle-class consumption (as of 2009 it was 23%).

The big question is how entrepreneurs and startups can methodically and successfully fund their ideas and scale to access and monetize a rapidly growing, newly minted, but highly fragmented audience of consumers.

I’m crossing my fingers that Hugh and his team at JFDI will help figure that out, and we wish him and Meng all the success they deserve in their new adventures.

Thank you, Hugh and Meng, for everything you’ve done for the startup ecosystem in Singapore and Asia in just six short years!

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