Techventure, Asia’s leading innovation and enterprise event, is here in Singapore again! Held at Marina Bay Sands, a new addition for this year’s event is that participants of Techventure 2014 will be visiting Blk 71, Singapore’s very own hub for technology and the burgeoning startup field.
Blk 71 started its life as a factory building built in the 1970s by the Jurong Town Corporation for industrial activities. Originally slated for demolition in 2011, it was reinstated by NUS Enterprise, Media Development Authority and SingTel Innov8, which envisioned it being the heart of Singapore’s technology start-up community. Now, Blk 71 plays host to over 250 startups within its seven floors.
Being less than a kilometre away from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Blk 71 is also close to other science and technology hubs such as Fusionopolis, Biopolis and the Science Park. This proximity has given rise to a vibrant community of entrepreneurs, tech incubators, investors, venture capitalists, developers and mentors within its space.
So what makes Blk 71 such an attractive place for tech businesses and startups? Here are a few reasons, given by none other than the companies that have made it their home.
1. Vibrant, dynamic community
Most tenants praise the community of Blk 71. With startups, tech firms, and legal and financial services conveniently nestled inside a building, it’s natural that a community forms around them.
This is nicely encapsulated by Jie Ai from Plug-In@Blk71, NUS Enterprise, “It’s nice to have a whole bunch of startups together — whether they’re gaming, web or hardware oriented — exchanging ideas and learning from each other.” She continued, “This makes it easy to organise entrepreneurship events as everyone’s close and there’s no need for travel.”
Both Chun Yan from Ecosoftt and Joseph Ting from Smove agreed. Yan noted, “It’s the people that make the place, and it’s easy to approach the other companies in the place.” Concurred Ting, “Everyone is generally friendly, and we attend events held here if we know the startups.”
The fact that startups and ancillary service providers are brought together did not escape the notice of some, who see it as the driving force behind the emergence of the startup community. “Blk 71 is brilliant, it’s one of the densest concentrations of startups in Singapore,” said Le Thanh from Mercatus Capital, adding, “Events, startups, incubators and investors are all in the same area, making communication seamless and reducing the travel needed between companies.”
Ricky from Games Solution Centre (GSC) shared the same sentiment. “There are many audit, legal, and investment firms, so startups can seek advice without the need to travel,” he noted. “Everyone is plugged in to the same community, and you can see the commitment as there are still people working here even on weekends or late at night,” he added.
2. Low rent
Of course, low rents do help as well, according to Mercatus Capital’s Thanh and Darius Cheung from 99.co. There’s nothing worse for a fledgling startup than to have its little revenue swamped by large cost overheads. “The rent is cheap, and will only get better when the new blocks are up,” shared Thanh, pointing out the future expansion of Blk 71 as Singapore’s startup hub. Cheung enthused, “Blk 71 is cool! There’s an awesome community that has come together because of cheap rents, among other factors.”
3. Convenient location
Blk 71 is located within a five-minute walk from One-North MRT station, and Ting from Smove said that it’s easy to travel to other parts of Singapore via train. “Blk 71’s located near One-North MRT station, and it’s very convenient to travel to work,” he said.
4. Good, cheap food
Being in an industrial zone, the area around Blk 71 boasts hawker centres and food courts with good, inexpensive local fare such as Chinese mixed rice and fish noodle soup. A lot of people like Nie San from Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI) prefer they stay open for longer hours. “The nearby hawker centre provides good and affordable food, though they could extend operating hours till the end of the day,” she said.
5. A place for creative expression
All the factors above make Blk 71 a place that is conducive for creative expression, an essential process for innovation. From her hipster-styled office, Chrissy Lim from Paperplane pointed out the freedom for tenants to furnish their offices. “Blk 71 offers a generic space we can decorate as our own,” she stated.
Ruben Potter from Estellion & Associates LLP gave a more general view, noting that individualism gives rise to creativity and innovation. “Blk 71 is a space where people can be free to shoot the s**t within safe boundaries,” he said, adding, “People are free to express themselves and be creative within the safe haven of the law, and this is how billion-dollar companies are made.”