Enhancing The Entrepreneurship Landscape

8 Ways To Boost Singapore's Start-up Scene

It is no secret that Singapore's start- up scene is flourishing. Over the past decade, local entrepreneurial activity has risen considerably – from 24,000 employing start-ups in 2005 to 39,000 in 2012. Start-ups also employed some 293,000 people in 2012, close to twice the number in 2005. This success, however, does not imply that Singapore can rest on its laurels. On the contrary, there is much to be done to ensure that Singapore’s start-up community continues to develop into a vibrant and successful.

To do this, the Entrepreneurship Review Committee (EnRC) was formed in July last year by the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) to review the existing entrepreneurship landscape in Singapore. Its members include entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and incubators, who engaged members of the start-up community and the public to bring a variety of perspectives to the discussion.

Given the right support, our start-ups have the potential to grow exponentially, generate high value-add and contribute to employment growth. One of the EnRC recommendations is for the private sector to play a more involved role in shaping the entrepreneurship scene. The government welcomes this, and will work with the new ACE team to firm up plans for a private sector-led ACE.
— Mr. Teo Ser Luck; Minister of State for Trade and Industry and ACE Chairman
We need to target youth to develop the right skills at a young age, so that they are prepared to contribute as entrepreneurs and employees at start-ups.
— Mr. Lee Junior; Director, Tembusu Partners, EnRC member

Over a period of six months, the EnRC engaged more than 100 members of the start-up community, including entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists and incubators to gather their views. This work culminated in the committee’s release on 17 January of eight recommendations linked to three key objectives that the committee has identified:

  1. To drive more private sector involvement in the start-up landscape;
  2. Provide greater market access opportunities to entrepreneurs; and
  3. Improve the quality of start-ups.
Singapore’s domestic market is limited, so we need to create opportunities, networks and platforms for start- ups to quickly and efficiently move into overseas markets.
— Dr. Steven Fang; Partner, Clearbridge Accelerator, EnRC member

In the following, we highlight the eight recommendations for developing Singapore’s start-up community.

1. Reduce Government Involvement

The EnRC suggests that Singapore’s start-up scene has significantly matured to the point where government involvement can gradually be reduced, making room for private sector players to take the lead in driving development efforts from within the community. This could come in the form of partnerships with serial entrepreneurs and larger companies to develop ground-up community-building initiatives.

Increased private sector involvement in entrepreneurship is critical, not just in terms of providing funding, but also in providing access to networks and mentoring based on their real-world industrial and commercial experience.
— Mr. Sim Giok Lak; Chairman, Zicom Group Ltd, EnRC member

2. Increase Sources Of Private Sector Capital

Building on the first recommendation, the EnRC advocates for greater private sector involvement in the funding of start-ups. Currently, early stage funding comes largely from the government, and there is a lack of follow-on capital and growth-stage funding. Suggestions to address these issues include incentivising corporate funds to invest in start-ups, facilitating access to venture banks, and leveraging crowdfunding as an alternative source of funding.

3. Bring Together Large Corporations And Start-ups

Start-ups need support to be able to access local and overseas markets, and collaborating with larger companies is an excellent way to provide such support. The EnRC suggests partnership facilitation could come in the form of dedicated pitching sessions, a crowdsourcing portal for ideas, and incentives for co-innovation projects.

4. Help Start-ups Venture Abroad

For start-ups to flourish, they will need to look to overseas markets, and this can be facilitated by giving them access to the networks and competencies of in-market experts and larger companies. The EnRC recommends that one way to achieve this is to form overseas networks of partners and introduce dedicated assistance support for start-ups to venture overseas.

5. Expose Youth To Entrepreneurship Globally

Overseas immersion programmes serve to expand networks and provide an understanding of the global entrepreneurship scene. Current programmes run by universities here provide some 200 students with the opportunity to intern overseas at leading entrepreneurial hubs such as Silicon Valley. The EnRC recommends increased support for such immersion programmes, by doubling the number of students benefitting from them.

6. Spark Youths' Interest In Emerging Technologies

Experimentation is at the heart of entrepreneurship, and students should be given access to new and emerging technologies to spark their interest in science and innovation. The EnRC recommends encouraging schools and other key partners to introduce tinker labs where students can experiment with new technologies such as 3D printing.

7. Facilitate Start-ups' Access To Talent

Hiring and retaining talent is a key concern for rapidly growing start- ups. To address this issue, the EnRC suggests encouraging MNCs and large corporations to second staff and lend expertise to work on joint projects with start-ups. It also recommends more student internships in start-ups and liberalising manpower policies to enable start-ups to attract global talent.

8. Achieve Quality Growth

The EnRC suggests focusing on key sectors with the potential for quality growth by developing a start- up hub in Singapore. This should build on the success of Blk 71 to expand start-up clusters in selected high- potential sectors, and can include facilitating access to key infrastructure and networks, and strengthening links with incubators, venture capitalists and institutes of higher learning. Focusing funding efforts on these sectors will also be critical, which includes incentivising private sector participation in funding.

So What Do These Recommendations Mean For Start-ups in Singapore?

There is a need for greater private sector involvement in the funding of start-ups. Currently, early stage funding comes largely from the government, and there is a lack of follow-on capital and growth-stage funding.

To expand networks and provide an understanding of the global entrepreneurship scene, the EnRC recommends increased support for overseas immersion programmes, by doubling the number of students benefitting from them.

The effects may not be immediate, but the recommendations will be put to the government for consideration and eventual action. It is expected that some or all of the recommendations will be adopted in some form and pave the way for the long-term success of Singapore’s start-up community.

Reproduced with permission from SPRINGnews February 2014 Issue. Published by SPRING Singapore.

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