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Ragnar Kruse_Smaato

Singapore eyes greater focus on ad tech firms

As ad tech takes increasing precedence on a global scale, Singapore’s government investment bodies are actively luring global players.

The investment arm of the Economic Development Board EDBI has said that it sees digital marketing as an area with high growth potential. “Our aim is to catalyse digital innovation, market growth and value creation in the transformation of Singapore industries as well as seed new growth industries,” said CEO & president of EDBI Chu Swee Yeok,

EDBI has invested in several ad tech firms, such as Ooyala (applies big data analytics to help its customers deliver better, more personalised viewing experiences on any screen, build bigger audiences and monetise IP-delivered video), Quantcast (which specialises in real-time advertising and audience measurement), Crisp Media (mobile ad tech firm); Tremor Video (which optimises video campaigns), as well as mobile marketing firm Smaato.

Co-founder and CEO Ragnar Kruse of San Francisco-based mobile RTB ad exchange’s Smaato talked to Marketing about setting up in Asia. The company has been in Singapore for close to six years by now, and was actively aided by EDBI. It also has offices in Hamburg, Germany and San Francisco.

According to a study by eConsultancy and the Mobile Marketing Association in 2014, the demand for mobile marketing is only set to rise quickly. Two thirds (67%) of companies in Asia say mobile will become a fundamental part of their marketing and commerce strategy, said the study, and three in five said that would be backed by an average 20% in spend.

Kruse talks about how EDBI helped to connect the company quickly in Asia Pacific. “EDBI really made it possible that we are able to build this up. They have done so many introductions for us; it helped us to get  around faster,” said Kruse.

For example, Smaato has recently put together a joint venture with Indonesian telcoms giant Indosat, and the move was largely aided by the government investment body. “They were of great help, even finding the right lawyers, for example, on the legal side because they had all the knowledge specifically in the region. And that was really helpful for us.”

Next, it is helping the firm with its move into China, added Kruse.

Kruse admits that while the Singapore market itself is a small one, the infrastructure to set up business and the possibilities of hiring talent made it easy.  “You have great possibilities to hire talent, and the immigration laws are really good here to bring talent here to Singapore. Singapore has a great infrastructure concerning internet, basically you can get any service here, you get financial services here, that is good to do business out of Singapore,” he said, adding that it took more than a one year process comparatively to start up a JV in Indonesia in comparison.

“China is becoming the second largest advertising market. It’s fast and it’s easy to operate from here. Half of our staff – we have nearly 30 employees here in Singapore – half of them all speak Chinese. So it allows us – I mean they speak Chinese, Indonesia, Filipino, Japanese; they speak any languages here, which allows us to really do business in those different countries,” said Kruse, adding how he would manage the regional operations from Singapore.

Liberal immigration laws also make it easy to bring in strong digital talent to work out of Singapore, added Kruse, saying that the firm had already appointed staff from Indonesia, India and Philippines to work out of Singapore.

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