It’s been almost two weeks since I flew to Singapore. It was nothing but stunning experience to me as a first time visitor to the country.
After talking to many people who are local VCs, media folks, aspiring entrepreneurs, and startup lovers, I have gained quite amount of knowledge about startup scene in Singapore as well as SE Asia in general. Here is my quick summery.
1) Singapore is definitely a booming place but not quite there yet
Despite the fact I’ve seen enormous number of buildings being under construction in the city-state, startup culture there seems to be just started recently. Majority of people are there for established companies, mostly in finance related business.
2) Better place for securing angel/seed funding
Singapore is a far better place than in my hometown and possibly other parts of countries in SE Asia if you are up to angel/seed fund raising. There are relatively plenty of those funding available from both private and public sectors. A governmental institution like IDA has its own funding available to foreign startups.
3) Slight difficulty of securing post-seed funding
However, what I observed is a bit shortage of post-seed funding. Almost all startups are required to go global as quickly as possible if they are about to do next round of fund raising or look for further growth outside Singapore. I found it particularly true to software/IT related startups. Maybe one reasons is that there isn’t simply sufficient domestic market for consumer web services unless you are selling hardware that is designed for SE Asia market.
All VCs will expect startup to show that it can survive in global market. Otherwise, no post-seed funding available to the company. This was slightly different situation from Japan where software/IT startups can still aim at IPO just by doing business in domestic market only.
4) People’s mindset and resource availability
One of the biggest advantages of people in Singapore have is English speaking capability. This alone makes people there a whole lot more competitive in any industry than people in other countries of SE Asia. I must accept Japan is quite behind in this perspective.
However, I found it a little difficult to find the people with startup mindset who are willing to jump out from large entreprises and start new things at their own risks. Also, what’s even harder is availability of resources necessary for doing business as startup. Web developers and UI designers with proven track records are most difficult to find.
Of course, these people can go through extensive training or OJT by working with experienced ones from Valley, but it might take some time. These resources can be outsourced to surrounding countries, but again they might not be up to the mark. Maybe this situation will soon change in the future.
5) Lots of possibilities
Last but not least is the fact that Singapore is definitely aiming at IT industry as next growth engine of the country. This is why DEMO Asia took place in Singapore as its first franchise in SE Asia. Also, the country is extremely open to foreign people and foreign businesses willing to do business there. Its diverse culture is plus if you want to create a team consisting of international people.
Having said all of this, I see LOTS of possibilities in Singapore in the near future. Hence, I plan to visit there a couple of more times. Hopefully, I wish myself being in a position doing something with that exciting country. At the end of the day, I really liked people living in or based out of Singapore.