Singapore’s Block 71, Ayer Rajah Crescent started life as a flatted factory for industrial purposes in the 1970s. Built by JTC, the building was a hub for the manufacturing of machine parts and other industrial components. However, all good things must come to an end, and so JTC announced plans to demolish the building… and it would have done so if not for a strategic partnership between Singapore Media Development Authority, SingTel Innov8 and NUS Enterprise, which, in April 2011, transformed the once deserted structure into the bustling, entrepreneurial hub it is today.
Housing, what The Economist calls, “the world’s most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem”, Block 71 has since 2011 become home to over 250 of the best local and foreign startups, incubators, accelerators and the like. In fact, I am sitting in our office in Block 71 as I type this.
And now, you can feel a little bit of that Block 71 magic halfway around the world in the spiritual home of the startup community, San Francisco because Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd (IIPL), NUS Enterprise and SingTel Innov8 have jointly set up Block 71 San Francisco, a US-based co-working space to foster ties between startup ecosystems in Singapore and the US.
The recently launched initiative intends to allow Singaporean startups to learn more about the US and vice-versa in a hope that companies from both countries can collaborate a lot more and explore business opportunities.
According to SingTel Innov8’s CEO, Edgar Hardless, “There has been a steady increase in US-based companies and venture funds looking to access the SEA market, even while SEA-based startups and venture funds are looking towards Silicon Valley.”
According to a statement by NUS, “Singapore tech firms keen to explore business prospects in the US can tap the resources of this facility to better understand the market, set up business and expand their network into the tech community.”
The space, which will be available for use by any startup supported by IIPL, NUS Enterprise and SingTel Innov8, offers space, brainstorming rooms and a gathering area for community events. NUS Enterprise will manage the co-working space, while the three parties will organise regular community events for Singapore and US-based tech companies, professionals, students and investors. IIPL and SingTel Innov8 have offices within the facility to support Singapore-based tech startups.
Block 71 San Francisco is located in the South of Market area, which according to Dr Lily Chan, CEO of NUS Enterprise, “is a dynamic, up-and-coming area for the technology startup community”.