Venture Capital

Since R&D investments yield their returns in the medium or even long term, rather than the short term, finding financial support can be a cause of concern for startups. This concern has recently triggered developments in designing programs to support or establish venture capital funds. For example, in China different financing opportunities aim to support the quantity and effectiveness of venture capital firms. A government-based funding agency that is related to the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), namely the Torch Center, operates the Techbased SMEs Venture Capital Introductory Fund [19]. The Torch Center provides funds to venture capital firms to subsidize SMEs with seed capital in the approach of supporting the 'fund of funds.' In this scheme, Torch Center encourages and motivates venture capital firms to make equity investments in, and provide investment subsidies to, technology-based SMEs.

Another similar structure is the Start-up Enterprise Development Scheme (SEEDS), run by the government agency that supports Singapore's SMEs, namely SPRING Singapore [20]. The SEEDS Program provides additional capital opportunities for Singapore-based start-up firms that are less than 5 years old. The selection of the start-ups is based on the criteria of the products' innovativeness and/ or processes within the domain of the intellectual property of the start-up. These products and/or processes are expected to have strong growth potential across international markets as well as to be in receipt of initial investment by external investors. It is an equity-based co-financing option that enables SPRING to acquire ownership in the company proportional to its investment up to the maximum rate of 20 % and an exit strategy of five years. Based on SEEDS, SPRING acquires the opportunity to be involved in managerial level decisions and to leverage start-ups that have sufficient capability to proceed to the market.

SPRING provides another investment opportunity for start-ups, namely the Business Angel Scheme, which involves a different scheme. In this scheme, the start-up firm is funded by the registered Business Angels in SPRING's portfolio as opposed to any other external investor. If the start-up is able to obtain investment interest and commitment from any of the Business Angel investors, SPRING has the capacity to potentially match the intended amount (dollar-for-dollar) up to a maximum of $1.5 million [20]. In addition, like SEEDS, the Business Angel Scheme can acquire equity stakes in the company proportionate to its investments. An advantage of both schemes is that these programs involve experience sharing from SPRING to the start-up. They also provide opportunities for start-ups to benefit from SPRING's investor network.

Another emerging country, Mexico, provides venture capital funds to start-ups as a means to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit of innovative Mexican firms. The Mexican Ministry of Economy (SE) [21] provides a seed capital co-investment fund for innovative companies, namely the Co-investment Fund Seed Capital. This fund aims to increase the accessibility of seed capital for entrepreneurs and/ or companies and seeks to promote the entrepreneurship ecosystem. The funds go directly into the assets of the fund and/or the project in exchange for equity shares in the newly established firms (up to one-year-old firms). Due to the nature of involving equity shares, the ministry invests up to 50 % in the firm. This threshold is based on the concern of not capturing any control of the start-up. The ministry is careful to contribute with equity shares in the innovative firms to promote firms which have market potential. In addition, SE operates a 'fund of funds' initiative that invests in venture capital funds. The Mexico Venture Program targets domestic and foreign funds that aim to trigger innovative activities in the country. With the Venture Program, Mexico enhances the awareness of venture capital investment opportunities throughout the country by sharing risk with the other investors.

Another example from Turkey is the Venture Capital Funding Program (TÜB˙ITAK 1514). This program was launched to contribute to the creation of a venture capital ecosystem. The program encourages the establishment of new

funds that provide venture capital to innovative SMEs by providing grants to fund managers [17]. This ensures the sustainability of the venture capital ecosystem and enhances the financial support that is specific to the maturity level of the venture capital firms. Accordingly, TÜB˙ITAK can provide grants to domestic and foreign venture capital funds up to 20 % of the size of the fund. The fund is expected to focus on the early stages (seed and start-up) of equity investments and innovative SMEs that have the potential to develop innovative products, services, and/or production processes and domestic technology. The total size of the venture capital funds that received support from TÜB˙ITAK and are available to invest in start-ups in Turkey has risen to about 700 million USD. Of this amount, about 470 million USD has been raised from foreign venture capital funds [22].

 
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