Grab unveils pioneer batch of startups in accelerator programme

The Straits Times

Seen a new widget appear recently on your Grab app, offering home-cleaning services after all the December partying is done?

That service is powered by Helpling, one of five startups picked to be in the pioneer batch of Grab’s accelerator programme called Velocity.

Grab on Thursday unveiled the five startups, which were chosen from more than 500 applications. Chris Yeo, head of the innovation arm Grab Ventures, said half the applications were from Singapore and Indonesia, 30 per cent from the rest of South-east Asia, and the remainder, from the rest of the world.

Besides Helpling, the online home-services platform, the other Singapore startup is Tueetor, an educational platform connecting learners and trainers across 500 subjects. The startups from Indonesia are BookMyShow, an online-ticketing service for cinemas, events and karaoke; Sejasa, a marketplace for home improvement and maintenance; and Minutes, a barber- and salon-booking service.

Mr Yeo told The Business Times: “We wanted to be the everyday super app of South-east Asia, but we saw that we could not do it alone. It’s impossible.

“We are good at some things…but there are definitely other things we know very little of, and that’s why we want to search for the best partners in those verticals and use-cases, and bring that onto our Grab platform.”

The 16-week accelerator programme was kickstarted on Oct 17; on Monday this week, Grab integrated the functionalities of the startups’ apps into the Grab app for users in Singapore and Indonesia. This integration will enable the firm and the startups to gauge how well the apps work within the Grab ecosystem.

Come January, startups will report on the outcome of the integration and make their pitch to a senior group of Grab leaders and venture capitalists for potential collaboration. Grab will decide soon after which startups it will invest in.

Mr Yeo said in picking the ones to support, Grab will assess the startup’s team and how well its mission and culture align with Grab’s, and whether the startup has potential.

The Indonesian arm of Grab Ventures has set aside US$250 million to invest in Indonesian startups and help them scale up nationally and across South-east Asia. The initiative is part of the “Grab 4 Indonesia” 2020 masterplan to support Indonesia’s goal to be the largest digital economy in the region by 2020.

The Grab Ventures portfolio now includes GrabCycle, a bike-sharing marketplace app; Kudo, an Indonesian online-to-offline platform;, which provides AI solutions for autonomous vehicles; and iKaaz, an emerging markets mobile payments platform.