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[Singapore] YES No Longer – ACE Replaces YES! Startup Scheme With ACE Startups

In a press conference today, the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) as led SPRING Singapore announced the overhaul of the Yes! Startups (or Young Entrepreneur Scheme for Startups) scheme, which will be replaced by a new initiative called ACE Startups. The newer scheme, aimed at helping to generate a more entrepreneurial mindset in Singapore, will see  financial support for entrepreneurs at a similar level to Yes! Startups, but removes the previous applicant age restriction to below 26 years old.

“When ACE was formed almost a decade ago, the focus was on areas like financing, rules and regulations, internationalization and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship,” said Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, also ACE‘s chairman, at the press conference. “Going forward, we will focus more on helping aspiring entrepreneurs start their companies and guide them to become sustainable businesses.”

“While we will be providing seed funding, our main focus is to link entrepreneurs to critical resources, such as mentors and networks,” he added. To this effect, ACE is starting a steering committee and various sub-committees (you can tell we love our committees) to oversee mentoring, networking, overseas chapters, and communications, for new startups. These subcommittees will be helmed by established local entrepreneurs who will provide guidance and oversight.

Just A New Coat of Paint?

When queried, Teo admitted that much of the funding for the new ACE Startups comes from remaining funds previously set aside for Yes! Startups, but added that additional funding may be set aside to help achieve the target of over 500 startups within the next year or so.

While some may argue that the removal of the age restriction is simply to help boost the applicant pool to achieve some internal targets, the good news is this means the scheme now open ups to mid-career professionals considering a leap into starting their own businesses. Previously, the scheme was pretty much limited to young entrepreneurs who are just leaving school, and I personally know some older aspiring professionals who would have loved a leg up with this grant.

On the other hand, for those who of us who are above 26 years old and recently set up your business, you may be out of luck. The scheme is still targeted at those who’ve not previously registered or incorporated any business entity (or received prior funding for another government agency), and will not be applied retrospectively.

Alas, that rules me out of the new grant scheme.

Is the ACE Startups scheme simply a case of putting lipstick on pigs? Feel free to comment below.


Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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  • Anonymous

    Hi David,

    From what I hear amongst the startup and entrepreneurship circles – although this would be purely anecdotal – the YES! Startups grant is actually more successful and better regarded than, say, MDA’s iJAM initiatives. It’s launched quite a few local young startups (interviewed on this blog as well!).

    I suspect the extension of the program came because there’s still cash in the war kitty that’s not used up as fast as it should have been. As for the co-matching amount, it could be the belief that the removal of age restrictions would entice more mid-career entrepreneurs, who likely have more initial capital to start with. But yes, you’re right in pointing out it’s somewhat to the detriment of potential young aspiring entrepreneurs.

    As for the list of advisors/mentors, they are known successful entrepreneurs and businessmen in their own spaces. YES! startups and the new ACE startup scheme is not limited to purely technology or web startups, so having people who are knowledgeable in different industries is a good thing. You don’t succeed because you know tech or geek speak, you succeed because you have a proper, sustainable business.

    The civil servants on that advisor list, on the other hand, is pure waste of time.

  • Angel

    Hi David. Can you elaborate on the limitations of the new ACE start-up? I am curious as i am quite interested in applying for this scheme.

    • Anonymous

      The limitations are more qualifying for the scheme. If you’ve started a company before, for example, you’re not eligible.

  • Anonymous

    I myself am an interested entrepreneur in applying for the YES startup grant and I recently became aware that the YES start-up grant has been reviewed to become ACE Startups.
    I would like to take this opportunity to give a feedback from people like me who face the same problems in starting a new business as a young, below 26, entrepreneur born in the middle working class.

    It is to my disappointment, the grant now needs a little over $20000 to be able to get the full funding of $50,000. 

    I have started my jewellery label in 2009 and it is going to be in its 3rd year now (we did not registered and work freelance as we want a shot at the YES startup grant). As we constantly need money to roll into the next collection or the next big event, we often find ourselves stuck in the cash-flow even through we make a profit every month. 

    We earn a well $2000 a month to over $3000 on good month but almost half of the money has to be used for marketing, packaging printing or supplies for the next collection. 
    We thought that the grant would provide us with a good way to get out of this situation, to buy materials, machines and hire man power. However, it is now more difficult for those who don’t come from money. 

    Although the grant is set up for entrepreneurs who have good businesses or ideas to be able to achieve their dreams, i find that it is still those who have the money to be able to make more money. Those who are supposedly ‘poor’ or come from the middle class (which is 80% of Singaporeans) can have good ideas but cannot seem to make it true through government fundings. 

    This is just my 2 cents. Of course i will still try my best to find investors, but probably investors who would be willing to invest without needed monetary matches in return. 

  • Guest

    Hi Daniel, just wondering if there’s any possibility the scheme would be available for a franchise setup?

    • youngupstart

      It’s highly improbable. One of the criteria for assessment is market differentiation, which a franchise idea will unlikely score well.

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