Need for more robust Entrepreneurial ecosystem in Singapore

Posted on April 12, 2009. Filed under: Enterpreneurship | Tags: |

Found an interesting read posted by Daniel, founder of, on the lack of ecosystem supporting start-ups here at Singapore.

Having researched into the exactly same topic while I was an Intern over at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (Enterprise division), I couldn’t help but threw it my two cents worth.

There is a lack of ecosystem in terms of specialised services to help jumpstart start ups. While Singapore is a small country, it seems that our small geographical area has not created much aggregation effect which Silicon Valley has enjoyed. This is perhaps due to to the dilution of many goals the government has for this tiny red dot.

Market adoption:
During my internship, I realised the importance of having anchor customers, especially for the high-tech coys. If one considers starting from the local market, there are really very few big players that can serve this role. Furthermore, it is hard to expect the government to be an anchor customer. This is because not every business has an offering that fulfills the need of our government agencies. However, it is still useful to note that most government-backed (not as customers) SMEs/post IPOs do make it big in the international scene. Some examples are 77th street, CapitalMall/land etc.

Lack of mentors:
This is perhaps due to the lack of success stories in Singapore. And when i mean success stories, i mean businesses that were truly innovative to begin with and have grown from there. Much of our successful businesses started off with our pioneers mimicking what is offered overseas, and simply bringing it into our then underdeveloped nation. Furthermore, much of our economic development was based on us riding on foreign MNCs. Hence, with little experience in truly starting up, there is few local mentors around. However, the government has started to realise this and embarked on several mentorship programmes in NUS and SMU. However, the quality of mentorship and extent of networks these programmes offer are still questionable.

Perhaps one more point to add to the lack of ecosystem that was not mentioned by Daniel:
the need for cross-interaction between different industries/sectors.
As a current student in a university that is highly skewed towards business but less on technology, it is hard for aspiring entrepreneurs to develop an innovative product. The lack of technology background can lead to two worries: (1) having to copy other technology in order to start a business. This is non lucrative as it is likely the new startup will not be able to sustain its unique proposition. (2) the heavy reliance on others make it hard for aspiring entrepreneurs to know how to start. To share your idea and get a tech-guy to develop it? However, this might risk him selling your idea, unless you have such strong customer network that he feels compelled to stick by you. However, it is unlikely for youngsters to have such sales power.

Perhaps a summary of what is needed is: An aggregation effect of different specialised services, having a cross-pollination of ideas between different sectors, and finally, to have real mentors to guide the new entrepreneurs.


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