Silicon Straits, an investor’s attempt at building his own tribe

Lessons from IDA, Neoteny Labs and Startup Roots have led investor James Chan to form his own tribe at Silicon Straits, and develop it into the ideal environment for ideas, talent and capital.

James Chan is a prominent community member in the Southeast Asian technology startup ecosystem. Having managed Neoteny Labs with Joi Ito out of Singapore, James has seen the US$5 million fund invest in 24 startups over the course of two years. In December 2012, he announced that Neoteny Labs Pte Ltd, the Singapore-based operations of Neoteny Labs, would be undergoing its rebrand to Silicon Straits.

Silicon Straits is what James envisions to be the “Internet of organisations”. Drawing on his experiences at IDA, Neoteny Labs and Startup Roots, James hopes to create the ideal organisation for a startup to be in. James is in talks with several investment partners for Silicon Straits, two of which were also investors in the original Neoteny Labs fund.

James hopes that Silicon Straits will become synonymous with open innovation across Southeast Asia, starting with its co-working space at Block 71. “I think co-working spaces in Singapore such as the Hub and Kennel are awesome for social, design and creative entrepreneurs to interact, huddle and create from. It is the tech entrepreneurs and developers that have been underserved.” He sees the current state of interactions between investors and entrepreneurs as being too transactional and short on sincerity and openness, and thinks that there sometimes can be too much of an us-versus-them mentality between individuals and organisations. “Open innovation is about innovating with partners and sharing risk and reward. The boundaries between an organisation and its environment has become much more permeable; innovations can easily transfer inward and outward. It’s no longer about win-lose, but about win-win-win.” Silicon Straits hopes to form and shape the collective of like-minded individuals and organisations that come together to work on ideas, projects and companies, and in so doing marry the three key components in the ecosystem – investment, space and community.

Silicon Straits, in its initial phase, will take the form of an incubator. James is setting up shop at Block 71, the startup hub jointly set up and managed by MDA, NUS Enterprise and SingTel Innov8. With design work already underway, James hopes to turn 2,000 sq ft of bare industrial space into a co-working and events space that is compelling to tech startups and innovators. “I’m hoping for its (co-working space) largest differentiators to be our design, tenants and events,” says James.

Perspective sketch of Silicon Straits' floor planPerspective sketch of Silicon Straits

Perspective sketch of Silicon Straits’ floor plan

The most immediate tasks James is faced with is to complete the space, grow the team, put together its investment network and close its first few investments. James counts Neoteny Labs as the first investment partner of Silicon Straits and is working on adding other investment partners that are closer to home. His six years of experience in industry development, venture capital and tech grassroots activism has taught him the importance of blending idealism with pragmatism. “At 31, my relative youth is a disadvantage for my profession in Southeast Asia. The only way I’m going to go the distance is to have an inclusive vision backed by solid execution.”

Silicon Straits will be focusing on the Southeast Asian region in verticals such as Internet, mobile and open hardware. Despite managing Neoteny Labs under the guidance of Joi, James shared that he was actually given a lot of autonomy. “I’ve been a one-man band for the past three years at Neoteny Labs. There’s a limit to how much I can achieve by myself regardless of how I optimize my processes. I think it’s time I took what I’ve learnt from my mentor, make my first few hires and build my own tribe henceforth,” said James wistfully.

The post Silicon Straits, an investor’s attempt at building his own tribe appeared first on e27.

  • Treasure trove of British newsreels reveals Top Gear's ancestors 10 minutes ago
    Treasure trove of British newsreels reveals Top Gear's ancestors

    Long after television grew to dominate American and British homes, newsreel producer British Pathé kept at it, documenting the news of the day until finally ceasing production of new short films in 1970 after 60 years of effort. Last week, all of British Pathé's 85,000 films were put online — including dozens of fascinating, rare and often weird car films that resemble nothing so much as a jet-age Top Gear.

  • Nissan tests self-cleaning paint that could make car washes obsolete 1 hour 24 minutes ago
    Nissan tests self-cleaning paint that could make car washes obsolete

    During this vile, never-ending winter, motorists had three options to keep their cars clean: Shell out on regular car washes; slave away in the cold, wind and snow washing it yourself, or screw it and just drive a dirty car. I, like many, chose the last option. But if only I'd been able to test Nissan's self-cleaning car, all my troubles would have washed away.

  • Popular hot yoga myths debunked 8 hours ago
    Popular hot yoga myths debunked

    What’s the hottest new workout taking the world by storm? That would be hot yoga, also known as Bikram yoga. Conducted in a heated room with sweltering temperatures of about 40°C (or approximately 104° Fahrenheit) and 40 per cent humidity, … Continue reading →

  • Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern
    Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern

    A new picture of Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who is now 90 years old, has drawn concern from people on Singapore's internet space.

  • Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls
    Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls

    After being photographed at work in Jurong pooling used oil near coffee shops, 50-year-old Valerie Sim has been struggling to keep her family afloat. Web portals STOMP and The Real Singapore published pictures of her in February, triggering a witch hunt for others like her and comments from readers like “Who knows if they’ll use it as cooking oil?” Some readers also said they filed police reports against her and other people they believed were doing the same thing she was.

  • I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind.
    I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind.

    I have committed a taboo – I have tendered my resignation without securing the next job. The reactions to the announcement were varied but they all pretty much hint at a deep sense of disapproval. “Why did you do that?” It was as if I had renounced my faith. “What are you going to do from now on?” Almost as though a misfortune had incapacitated me. “What does your family have to say about it?” As if I had offered to cook for the next family dinner. I was, and still am, certain of my reasons and motivations for the resignation. However the response I received got me thinking about why people are so concerned about the gaps in their careers. The developed world evolved from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy to the service age, then to the knowledge economy in the late 1990s and 2000s marked by breakthroughs in technological innovations and competition for innovation with new products and processes that develop from the research community. According to The Work Foundation, the knowledge economy is driven by the demand for higher value added goods and services created by more sophisticated, more discerning, and better educated consumers and ... The post I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind. appeared first on Vulcan Post.