Azione Capital has its humble beginnings in Project:Senso, an entrepreneur volunteer organization with a vibrant online community in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Project:Senso focused on building an entrepreneurial culture, facilitating networking and learning and supporting aspiring entrepreneurs in taking their first steps towards starting up.
In 2006, Azione Capital was brought into being by the Interactive Digital Media R&D Programme Office of the Media Development Authority of Singapore. Through the IDM Jump-start and Mentor (i.JAM) programme, Azione supported start-ups and individuals with breakthrough innovations by marshalling support from business mentors.
Under the leadership of Nicholas Chan, its first Executive Director, Azione Capital focused principally on three strands of work in its first two years.
The first, ‘Community and Education’, extended the spirit of Project:Senso into the mission of Azione Capital by bringing enterprising individuals together. Networking events were organised at business associations and educational institutions to foster cooperation amongst individuals and understanding of interactive digital media.
The second, ‘Invention and Innovation’, sought to help talented people to turn original ideas into products and services with commercial potential. It used a range of funding mechanisms, including grants, equity participation, and loans to back commercial projects and start-up companies.
The third strand of work, ‘Fellowship’, supported talented people and teams with space, resources, and mentoring to develop their commercial expertise and enhance their market approaches. Experienced entrepreneurs, angel investors, and professionals involved in the start-up sector were engaged as mentors with the objective of providing one-to-one mentoring to help start-ups grow in their early venture stage.
Following a review of its work in 2009, Azione Capital divided its innovation and investment activity in two. While maintaining its innovation and incubation programmes, Azione developed relationships with private placement and angel investors to assist businesses and start-ups with greater financial capital. At a time when early-stage venture capital and seed capital was scarce, Azione played a vital role in attracting new flows of capital into the sector and high technology industries at large.
From 2011 onwards, Azione Capital began to move to the third phase of its development.
During this period, building on its experience in start-up innovation and investment, Azione Capital had greatly expanded on its work in venture capital and fund advisory. The focus of the company was shifted more towards seeking to improve the entrepreneurial capacity and the innovation systems of the markets in which it operates.
On the leadership front, Dennis Phua had become Executive Director in January 2011.
In the decade ahead, Azione as a company is continuing with a mix of commercial activities that remain true to the founding mission of helping all stakeholders better capitalise on innovation and enterprise.