SG leads healthcare tech startups’ rise in Southeast Asia
Vickers Venture Partners’ Dr. Xinhong Lim explains how the digital health ecosystem flourishes in Singapore despite global trends.
As the world grapples with the convergence of healthcare and technology, a report has highlighted the challenges faced by healthcare systems in keeping up with the technological demands.
In the midst of this landscape, Dr. Xinhong Lim, managing director and partner for Life Sciences Lead at Vickers Venture Partners, acknowledged a surge in startups and investments in the healthcare technology sector.
“Singapore has been actively promoting its digital health ecosystem, and has seen significant growth in the number of startups and investments in the healthcare technology sector,” he told the Singapore Business Review.
Citing the Deal Street Asia and Enterprise Singapore report which drew attention to the global trend of decreased deals and valuations in the health tech sector in 2022, Lim said this is “correlated in general with trends in the rest of the world.”
He noted the remarkable growth of digital health startups in Singapore as being buoyed by the utilisation of emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) to drive expansion.
With the city state’s favourable business environment, robust infrastructure, and strong government support, the growth of digital health startups is not so surprising.
“Singapore leads the region in terms of a mature and supportive digital healthcare startup ecosystem, other Southeast Asian markets are catching up and showing great potential for growth,” Lim said.
Despite the overall global trend of decreasing deals in the health tech sector, Singapore remains a resilient player. Notably, Health Tech ranks second in deal value among Southeast Asian countries surveyed.
Here lies importance of a strong business environment for startup development. Lim pointed out that Singapore bears unique advantages in terms of stable governance, accessible talent, and robust networks that pave the way for scaling across the region.
While Singapore leads in terms of a mature digital healthcare startup ecosystem, other markets like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam are showing potential for growth, each with its own unique set of opportunities and challenges.
“One general challenge is the fragmented nature of the Southeast Asian market, which may make it challenging for digital health startups to scale quickly across the region,” Lim said.
In Singapore, healthcare access and affordability, fragmented data, and chronic disease management are still key pain points.
To address these challenges, Lim said startups are developing telemedicine platforms, health data management solutions, and innovative devices for chronic disease management.
One remarkable example is Vickers Venture Partners’ portfolio company, AWAK, which has developed a portable wearable peritoneal kidney dialysis device.
“This is paired with a predictive software engine and remote monitoring platform that are also developing to effectively manage pre-dialysis and dialysis patients,” said Lim, who believes that addressing these pain points can lead to a revolution in the healthcare industry, making it more efficient and patient-centric.
Meanwhile, there is a wealth of the opportunities that the healthcare industry offers to entrepreneurs. With a growing market driven by an aging population and increasing healthcare awareness, Lim is confident there is ample space for innovation.
Technological advancements, including AI and IoT, enable entrepreneurs to create transformative solutions in healthcare delivery, diagnostics, personalised medicine, and remote patient monitoring.
“To foster further growth in the digital health startup economy, there’s a need for continued investment and funding support, which is essential to nurture innovative ideas at the frontier,” Lim said.
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