Recently, I received an email asking me to fill out a survey about Singapore information and communications technology (ICT) startups. Some of you might have received the same thing.
Anyway, it’s a series of open-ended questions - so I thought I could share my answers here to spur some discussions. Opinions are obviously my own, but I would love to hear what others think. I have also removed some redundant questions to make the post shorter and to the point:
1. What are some good indicators of a vibrant ICT startup ecosystem?
Me: There are a couple, mainly strong laws to support easy company incorporation, risk-taking culture, and knowledgeable investors - preferably investors who have had entrepreneurial experience.
2. What’s good about Singapore’s entrepreneurship ecosystem?
Me: We have money and startup grants.
3. What is still lacking in the ecosystem today?
Me: Risk takers who do real shit. We need more startups to get out of comfy Singapore to explore bigger markets. Hopefully more would realize the need to get out fast once they find some clue of product-market fit - unless the startup is strictly aiming only just for the local market.
And since we have money and good laws (I’m generalizing, yes), we just need more entrepreneurs who think less about the American dream and instead focus on the Asian dream. Like it or not, Asia will be the big wave in the next few decades. Oh yes, and brush up your Chinese too, if possible.
4. Do you think the ICT startup scene obtains sufficient branding?
Me: Yes - Because Singapore is famous for giving grants, its strong laws, and it also welcomes foreign talent with open arms.
No - Small market with few success examples.
On a side note, there should be some sort of measurable economic benefit for the country to brand this so-called “ICT startup scene.” Otherwise, I think it is extremely silly and an utter waste of time. The world should know that it’s easy to set up a base in Singapore. Just let our entrepreneurs do their job. Good work will be discovered, publicized, and rewarded eventually.
5. How closely related is the trade-related and mainstream media like SPH and CNA?
Me: Publicity is always good. So it depends on the purpose of the startup. If they are aiming to introduce their product to the general public, then mainstream media is okay. If their target audience is investors and a tech-y audience, then tech blogs like ours and several others are okay.
6. What is the media coverage of the local ICT scene? Do you find it sufficient?
Me: I’m not sure what is this question asking but I will give it a shot anyway. Besides us, media covering what’s happening in Singapore are SGE and e27. There’s nothing much to cover in Singapore though. It’s small. Asia or U.S usually has more action.
But I’m curious why do we need more coverage and for what purpose? With minimal effort, good startups and entrepreneurs naturally will find their way on media. I can’t see any media/blog focusing on technology not wanting to cover a good product and/or a good startup story.
7. How is the quality of startups you have met? What’s lacking in many of these cases?
Me: My view on “quality of startups” is very much less about the product and more on the entrepreneurs. Products can change overnight - but not the character and intelligence of the entrepreneurs behind them. Thanks to our rock-solid education in Singapore, we do have some smart people building companies.
But smart entrepreneurs don’t equate to risk-takers or street-smart people. And risk-takers also have different risk tolerance. Many folks are happy staying in Singapore and few are unwilling to venture overseas. Unfortunately for Singaporean entrepreneurs, we don’t have the luxury of a big market, so moving abroad is a must in my opinion.
For Singaporeans, whether you have the American, China, or Indonesia dream, you have to be there, be part of them to do the real shit. You should/can test the viability of your product in your home market but once you set your eyes on another market, go for it. Don’t give bullshit excuses. Sure, it’s scary, but fun and fulfilling. There are way more opportunities in, say, China and Indonesia, and to grab these opportunities first requires you to be part of their community, understand their language and culture. And staying in Singapore wouldn’t allow that and guarantees almost zero growth.
Please leave your thoughts too, in the comments - either what you said in the survey, or what springs to your mind right now.