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Startup Insider: How 'The HUB SG' Is Growing the Social Impact Startup Community in Singapore

08/25/2015 10:02 am ET | Updated Aug 25, 2016

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Coworking spaces have been popping out all over the world but one brand has been building its presence around the world, the Impact Hub. I first came across the Impact Hub's Singapore franchise when I was searching for coworking spaces in Singapore. I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of how these coworking spaces operated and what it took to build a community that helped entrepreneurs succeed.

Startup Insider got the opportunity to sit down with the Hub SG team and a few of the Hubbers who are currently going through the Hub's Pact Incubator Program. The Hub SG puts a special focus and premium on social enterprises and helping these startups in Singapore scale their impact.

A Quick Background of The Hub SG

Over the last three yeas, The Hub has built Singapore's largest community of entrepreneurs with over 400 events and workshops, 40+ mentors and 500 entrepreneurs (global network of 10,000+).

The Hub's co-founder, Grace Sai, set out to solve two problems: 1) Widening Singapore's limited definition of 'success' and 2) Channeling an individual's talents, experiences, and capital towards solving social and environmental problems for Singapore and the region. The Hub's Head of Business Development Fiza Malhotra shared with us, "We envisioned a community of people - a "tribe" outside of your family, friends, etc. - with diverse beliefs, skill sets, and backgrounds coming together to innovate solutions."

2015-08-25-1440510875-667959-_6ZA6032.jpg The Hub SG Team

Empowering the Ecosystem

A big part of the Hub's goal is to empower startups that are making an impact in the society. They do this by actively partnering with different companies and orgnizations. For instance, the Hub was a partner of e27, which held its Echelon Top 20 Pitch night at the Hub.

At the same time, you also have companies like Braintree setting up its Singapore office in the Hub coworking space. BrainTree is the fullstack payments platform that powers companies like Uber and Airbnb. Audrey shared with us how it's important for BrainTree to be immersed in the startup ecosystem since it's their goal to help take away the problems when it comes to payments for merchants and startups.

The PACT Incubator Program

The Hub just last year launched PACT, an incubator program that takes in social-impact startups and helps them further develop their business and increase their impact regionally. We spoke with a few of them including the founders of Giveasia, Impact Guru, Skillseed, Nest8 and Society Staples.

2015-08-25-1440511052-801407-_6ZA6255.jpg The Hub SG Coworking Space

Giveasia - Helping People Use Their Passions to Raise Money for Charities

It was back in 2009 when Giveasia Founder Aseem Thakur had come stumbled upon a New York Times article that talked about how toothpaste got more marketing than life-saving causes. This got him thinking about how he could change this. This eventually led him to discussing with his friends on starting a platform that would help charities fundraise.

They were in their final year at NUS when Aseem and his eventual cofounder Yu Ming Pong decided to launch the platform that would allow people to use their passions to raise money for charities. Aseem recalls one of the first big events that used their platform. Charity Bank had teamed up with hundreds of cyclists with a goal of raising $100,000. They ended up raising $350,000. This was the validation Giveasia needed.

Asked what he's passionate about, Aseem shared, "I'm passionate about creating an impact using tools, products and services that create a better future."

Impact Guru - Social Media Crowd-funding for Nonprofits in India

Riding on the trend of crowdfunding platforms, Impact Guru Founder Piyush Jain decided to start Impact Guru to help nonprofits in India raise more money.

Prior to starting Impact Guru, he had worked in finance and did a research paper on how startups raised money at the Harvard Business School. That's where he learned more about the different crowdfunding models. Yet, he was shocked to find out that crowdfunding wasn't as big yet in Asia leading him to start Impact Guru in his home country India.

The innovation behind Impact Guru is its micro-donation support aspect that utilizes the power of social media and incentivizes people to share the different cause and campaigns on Impact Guru. How does this work? If a fundraiser raises a certain amount of money and gets a certain amount of social media shares, Impact Guru will be making a micro donation to the charity.

Starting out, Piyush is spending a lot of time approaching both individuals and nonprofits and telling them about the power of crwodfunding and its interlinkages with social media.

Skillseed - World Class Courses for Real Causes

Social change and impact has to start somewhere, and Skillseed CEO Huijia Phua believes that students should be given the opportunity to develop real world skills for real causes. Skillseed is a learning platform that partners with different social-sector organizations to co-create themed, experiential learning courses for social impact in different fields of interest. For example, Skillseed offers Design for Good courses in Cambodia, Environmental Stewardship Courses in Indonesia and Innovations in Public Policy courses in Sweden.

Huijia shared with us, "We are building a generation of youths who don't just get to explore their interests as early as possible, but also learn how to integrate effective social change into their lives and their future careers."

While it's a challenge dealing with so many moving pieces and key partners, Huijia hopes to continue spreading the impact of Skillseed even beyond Asia. She shared, "I learned that the human will is amazing. With the right attitude and faith one can really move mountains and accomplish things that one would have thought to be impossible."

2015-08-25-1440511226-1417473-Studentsatskillseed.png Students are able to gain invaluable skills through the SkillSeed courses

Nest8 - Financial Literacy for those who need it

Hearing stories from her husband who is a pastor and his friends about different medical missions, Julie was inspired to find a way to impact people in low-income communities as well. While Julie doesn't have a medical background, she hopes to use her background in finance to help people in low-income communities develop a better understanding of financial literacy and budgeting.

She shared, "Helping somebody understand their intrinsic motivation and their spending habits will teach him/her how to budget. So I feel that there are many great financial apps out there but most of them are for people already interested in finance."

Julie is focused in creating a money management application that will help both the social workers and low income communities.

Society Staples - Starting new friendships, and building new communities

You're never too young to create change. This statement couldn't be more true for Society Staples founders Ryan Ng and Debra Lam, who are 20 years young and already striving to help people with disabilities get reintegrated and more involved with society.

Prior to Society Staples, Ryan and Debra were both active in the Dragon Boat scene in Singapore when they decided to reach out to a deaf organization and setup 'Deaf Dragons', a dragon boat team specifically created for the deaf. This is where Ryan and Debra first saw how powerful sports can be in helping people with disabilities.

This led them to start Society Staples, a social enterprise that focuses on team building activities and fitness bootcamps that help people become more aware of people with disabilities. They hope that in the next few years, more initiatives and programs like theirs will be implemented by organizations all over the world. Debra shared, "Just seeing more friendships being forged after each of our programs is really inspiring."

2015-08-25-1440511149-5002041-SocietyStaplesandDeafDragonshaveturnedintomovementsthatbringpeopletogether.jpg Society Staples has gone a long way since starting out as Deaf Dragons

---About the Author---

David Ongchoco is a student entrepreneur and avid storyteller from the Philippines studying at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in what he likes to call, LIFE. He is currently working on expanding his for-purpose organization YouthHack. It's David's goal to make an impact in the lives of as many people possible while constantly learning new things every single day. If you have any interesting startup stories, David can be reached via Twitter @DOitChoco. You can also email startupinsider.official@gmail.com.