Viki points the way for S'pore start-ups

Viki points the way for S'pore start-ups

SINGAPORE - Until recently, Creative Technology was Singapore's only global brand name in the computer technology world. It dominated the sound card business about 24 years ago. No other local tech firm could match it.

Two weeks ago, this drought ended when Singapore's newest global success story, online video website Viki, made world headlines after Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten acquired it for an undisclosed sum that insiders say is close to US$250 million (S$316 million).

Viki has quietly grown into a global tech phenomenon in the last three years. The online video website has 22 million users in 50 countries, tuning in to 15,000 hours of content that has been translated into 163 languages.

Its unique advantage: a corps of volunteer translators worldwide. This enabled content creators from South Korea and Turkey to the United States and Germany to expand their audiences beyond their own language markets.

Viki was founded and incorporated here although its three co-founders - Mr Razmig Hovaghimian, an American of Egyptian-Armenian descent; and Korean husband-and-wife team Mr Changseong Ho and Ms Jiwon Moon - are foreign- born.

The acquisition is a watershed tech event, said Mr Wong Meng Weng, co-founder of tech accelerator Joyful Frog Digital Incubator. It marked Singapore's debut as a legitimate player on the global start-up stage, he said.

If the purchase sum of close to US$250 million is true, the deal tops the more than 20 start-up acquisitions in the tech world in the last five years. These ranged from single-digit millions to tens of millions of dollars in value.

Looking beyond the hurrahs, in terms of impact on investors, entrepreneurs and policymakers, Viki's example shows four ingredients are needed if other eager local start-ups want to make it big.

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