Experience the pulse of Asia's innovation and connect with Asia's technology industry!Love our content? We love you too!Organizing an event? Share it with Asia's tech community on e27!Change the world! Over 200 tech industry jobs in Asia and growing
News  18, Jul 2012

Tales from the trenches – Singapore on the rise…

It’s been a busy couple of months – both personally and in regards to the Singapore circuit. Two fantastic conferences down, Spuul product launches (iOS & IIFA), TWIA fun, and so many important peeps cruising through town that I hardly have time to – well write. I am sure e27 is thinking of anyway they can to dismiss me since I have clearly not upheld my part of the bargain but I am hoping to change that. Wish me luck.

The conferences I am referring to are RedDotRubyConference and Echelon 2012. Andy did a bang up job having a techy conference focused on the Ruby crowd but with enough luminaries and engaging topics to keep even the product guys riveted. I thoroughly enjoyed it and already looking forward to next year.

Echelon, as always, just gets better each year – many congrats to the entire e27 crew. What was noticeable to me this year was the amount of interesting people who flew in to attend, as well as speak, which is a testament to the rise of Singapore and Echelon’s place in the evolving scene. It is easy to get “conferenced” out or too event focused, my motto is most doers don’t have the time, but these two events are some local gems.

I have read a couple inspiring things of late that I wanted to share since although you also may have read them – I don’t see them being discussed much in the local discussionosphere. Before I get to that has anyone checked this out: http://www.slideshare.net/dmc500hats/starting-up-with-sex-love-violence – ignore the fonts, graphics and layout since the deck is full of wisdom. Read it.

The first item I wanted to talk about is also related to Dave McClure, one of my personal heroes who also happens to be interested in the local scene given his appearance at Echelon 2012 and his funding activity. Some of you may or may not have read his recent post on the SVBTLE network – http://500hats.com/late-bloomer/. Being 40 and in the scene I won’t lie that there are times I get down on myself when I constantly play the comparison game or I look back over some sections of my life and realize I wasted time or wasn’t performing as optimally as I could but there is nothing I can do about it now other than to look forward and enjoy the moments.

David’s post, even for the under 40′s, is just so inspiring since it reminds me that hard work, perseverance and a healthy dose of karma is what matters. There are times I think the assumption is that the startup industry is only for those without families or lives for that matter but this is just a very skewed outlook since the reality is many of the local startups that are thriving are usually manned by a more mature crowd. Sure – the kids are killing it too but there is room for everyone. So for anyone wondering what their place is in the world or who longs to be in a “happier” place work wise – it is up to you to make it happen. Don’t let age, lack of experience or the haters get you down since we live in amazing times and in amazing places – like Singapore.

Which brings me to my final thought for this post – what is Singapore’s place in the global startup scene? Recently there was a great post over on Pandodaily about Singapore – http://pandodaily.com/2012/06/21/what-is-singapores-role-in-the-asian-tech-ecosystem/. It had a nice comment train but was not picked up by any of the locals that I know of but I could have missed it. I think in general the overall awareness of Singapore is growing and my recent trip to NY and Boston surprised me with how many people I talked to who had been keeping tabs on Singapore. A few years ago I usually had to explain where it was, why it mattered and that it was a good place to hang your hat. I am not saying there are not better places to live (Bali) but I think when it comes to a homebase in Asia for the startup world – Singapore is exceptional. As a foreigner my reasons may be different than the locals but I think the vibrancy and health of the Singapore startup scene will be partly measured by the many different nationalities that use Singapore as a base. We all know Silicon Valley is not staffed by Americans alone.

Here are some of my reasons for being in Singapore doing a startup:

  • Singapore values intellectual property – I won’t point fingers but plenty of our Asian neighbors do not
  • Singapore allows foreigners like me to seek permanent residency and even citizenship. Try managing that in let’s say Thailand or Vietnam.
  • Singapore has an aggressive stance towards business, taxes, transportation and pollution to name a few. Seen the air in Hong Kong lately or the mass transit in Indonesia? ( I will link to http://dailysocial.net/ here so maybe they get a ping and can start commenting :) )
  • Singapore is creating the basis for an ecosystem that will leapfrog most of it neighbors when it comes to the funding environment, the government vision and the active hub model that will easily allow Singaporean startups to manage their spokes into neighboring countries.

Now before anyone turns around and sings the praises of China or disses me for potentially dissing other countries – I am not saying there are not better places to live or opportunities that exist in other countries – what I am making a case for is that Singapore outpaces most of those countries when it comes to creating a base for building a global startup. This is what I find most fascinating – using Singapore as a place to take on the Globe. In that regard I think Singapore has some amazing times ahead of it.

Yes – I have my beefs about Singapore. The deplorable housing situation, the lack of more green space and well – enough.

I usually don’t get a lot of comments here but as always – discussion is most welcome.

carry on…

  • http://twitter.com/ravibhushan ravibhushan

    Ah! Well Said. Add to that the incredible smartphone penetration and what you get is a great place to pilot mobile apps. Surprisingly enough, we haven’t seen too many of these yet. But times, they are-a-changing.. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713495222 Harveen Narulla

    A great place for cross-pollination of ideas, lots of interesting events to attend and people passing through (and more and more, making it a base). Not ideal for adoption of innovative tech / solutions though, and funding organisations could use more chutzpah when coming to grips with new ideas in the B2C space. Not saying other places in Asia are much better overall, just that the US based funds that have remits to invest in Asia tend to focus on China, India, and increasingly for some, Indonesia – the rest of SEAsia is not on most funds’ radar, and while the funding ecosystem is improving, it still has a way to go before viable B2C tech companies can emerge here). The major market makers tend to be conservative with adopting new stuff, so expect that adoption in Singapore will follow adoption elsewhere. If you’re looking to base in Singapore (with its relatively higher business cost) but focus on a regional / global market, then it’s a good place. 

  • Michael F. Smith Jr.

    thanks for commenting. sorry I am late to following this up.

    I think my premise is sing as a base for regional or global. I am not a local so I dont think I would try to setup to conquer a local biz but I think as a hub its great. 

    Of course it aint cheap but none of the hubs are anywhere.

    I agree in that as the ecosystem develops the right people will be here or will pass through and this will help to sharpen up the locals, the expats and the companies. Just a factor of time.

    I think the funding scene will expand and take on more risk over time. Just need a few more exits

    :)

  • Michael F. Smith Jr.

    We havent – but I have seen some interesting stuff in Jakarta that if proven should hit the region.

Work for a Startup

iOS Developer
Saena Partners
Finance Director
Saena Partners
Marketing Executive
Rocket Internet
Web Designer
Saena Partners
IT Support Associate
Saena Partners