Being in the centre of entrepreneurship and technology hub of the world for the past 3 months as well as Summer last year, I have gained a few insights into how entrepreneurship differs from that of Singapore.
I grew up in Singapore most of my life (I moved to Singapore when I was around 2 months old) and studied in the local schooling system all the way up till the final 2 years of my high school education which consisted of the International Baccalaureate (IB). The IB program did teach me tons of skills that were critical to the workplace but also introduced me to the entire idea of innovation, particularly teaching me about where it stems from and where to go from the inception of it to the execution of it in various forms. This did lead me into working with 2 Singaporean startups which are now decently successful and are making a significant impact in their respective industries.
That is where I learnt where a significant chunk of the money that flows into Singapore goes to: Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Given the strong financial stability and solid infrastructure in Singapore, it makes sense – let’s start a business here. I was not surprised to find out that multiple True companies were either in talks of being funded by the Singapore government or had successfully expanded to Singapore.
I understood the reasoning behind this from a economic perspective but having grown up in Singapore and having worked with 2 local startups, I realized there are two key differences between the startup world in Singapore and San Francisco. Entrepreneurship does work in different ways around the world:
Source of funding/capital
I quickly came to realize that majority of the funds running startups here in the Bay Area originates from private funds. In countries like Singapore and Israel, it is the complete opposite. Only around 50 out of the 301 VC firms based in Singapore are interested in local investment. Even then, around 70-80% of the investments made in startups originate from the Singaporean government. Singapore is not the only country going through this phenomenon. Other good examples of countries where governments are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in local startups are Finland and South Korea.
Why this big difference?
This might have to do with the small growth and demand for funding from startups in Singapore given the relatively tiny number of startups operating in Singapore compared to San Francisco. When is the last time you have heard of a Singaporean startup in the news?
However, on top of all these possible explanations I feel that the biggest difference lies in the mindset of investors.
Culture and Mindset
Purely speaking from an economic perspective, all it takes is one day and $260 to successfully register a business in Singapore. Even then, there is a struggle to attract international investment money for local startups. The founder of the company I had interned at claimed that investors in Singapore, and generally Asia, are less inclined to put investments into startups until they show a truly promising product. And by that time – it is often too late. Some companies do not have the necessary resources to proceed with necessary R&D or have to make certain compromises on the quality of their product to deliver.
The concept of entrepreneurship in technology is definitely expanding across the world and the entire process of how it works in each hub of entrepreneurship is different due to many reasons. However, I feel that most entrepreneurs often share similar ambitions and have shared interests. Because of this, I believe entrepreneurs around the world should work together with one another in order to help make their solutions to everyday problems impactful and effective on a global scale. After all, aren’t we all in this to innovate for a better future for all of us?