Singapore invests in the next wave of entrepreneurship

Photo by Stephanie Yeh on Unsplash

Singapore is desperate for innovation, and it has been looking at its startups to power the next wave of economic growth.

The old guard, government-linked companies or GLCs – Keppel, Sembcorp, Singpost, Capitaland, Mediacorp, and many more – have propelled the economy to a 1st world status. But in recent years, their performance has been mixed. Singapore’s sovereign fund, Temasek Holding’s backing out of a “$4.1 billion conditional offer to buy control of Keppel Corp” is a sign to me that the government will not put taxpayer’s money into its own companies who are performing badly. This is commendable.

To spur the next waves of entrepreneurs and potentially unicorns of Singapore, the government announced on Thursday that it will be enhancing the Startup SG Founder programme. I applaud this move. There are two key enhancements:

  • Introduction of three-month Venture Building programmes to groom aspiring entrepreneurs with no business experience to build and scale innovative startups; and
  • Raising the grant support while maintaining the matching amount for the Startup SG Founder grant to help willing entrepreneurs take their first step.

Hopefully, this will bring about a pipeline of new innovative startups in Singapore. In part, thanks to the government’s efforts, we have already seen successes such as Carousell, Sea Ltd and Razer.

LEFT: Singapore tech CEO Tan Min-Liang of Razer (Photo credit: Min-Liang Tan FB); RIGHT: Mock up of Razer’s headquarters in Singapore (Photo credit: Razer)

Innovation in Fintech

Fintech is another area that the government has been trying to nurture. I think for many retail investors, they will be familiar with companies like StashAway, Syfe, Endowus, Singlife and new entrant brokerage like Tiger Brokers. As a financial hub, Singapore is a great city to test-bed Fintech.

But I think none of the companies here have been able to replicate the success of American and China counterparts.  In the US, apps like Robinhood is truly a gamechanger for millennial and Gen-Z retail investors. It basically allows users to buy any amount of shares, including fractional shares, without any fees! In China, Alipay and WeChat Pay have made e-payment the norm, even among roadside stall vendors and small mom-and-pop stores.

Wallstreet and value investors were wrong about Tesla

With their giant populations and economic ecosystem, the US and China have proven to be able to find seek out talents and nurture them. These talented folks have then been able to build companies that have propelled the economy forward, providing jobs and enabling their countries, as a whole, to enjoy a new standard of living. Elon Musk and Tesla is one example. The company is just destroying every expectation and proving that they will disrupt the automotive, logistics and transport sector. Tesla hit the $2,000 mark and it shows no sign of slowing. It goes to show that every value investor who had derided the stock simply did not know any better.

Here’s a video interview of investment company ARK’s CEO, Cathie Wood, explain more:

Besides FAANG and Tesla, companies like Square, Illumina and Nvidia are some innovative companies to watch.

In China, besides BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent), companies like Meituan Dianping, iQiyi and Xiaomi are the companies to watch.

Bringing it back to mediapreneurship

In the area of journalism, foreign companies like Vox, Axios and Vice have also changed how news is produced and consumed. Vox is known for its animated infographics; Axios for its ‘smart brevity’; Vice made hard news gritty and fun. Our local news giants SPH and CNA have studied these competitors and others like South China Morning Post. Mothership had early on emulated Buzzfeed.

Let’s hope that Singapore’s next wave of young entrepreneurs can build companies to match FAANG, BAT and innovative news companies that will change how consume information and live our lives.

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