The Big Read: Defying doubters, S’pore built a flourishing startup scene within a decade. Can it take the next step up?

Have S’PORE’s efforts paid off?

Over time, government initiatives “have led to the vibrant startup ecosystem we see today, involving local, regional and global players,” said Mr. Jungshik Wang, ASEAN leader at EY-Parthenon, the global strategy consulting arm. has attracted him”. From EY.

However, experts interviewed by TODAY offered differing views on what they consider to be the most important success criteria for a startup ecosystem and how Singapore has fared based on these factors.

Mr Ku Kay Mok, senior partner at venture capital firm Gobi Partners, said the “clearest” and “most objective” indicator of success for a startup ecosystem is the amount of investment it can attract.

“Because people vote with their money. So whether you (really) have the best talent, the best infrastructure, whatever — they’re going to vote with their dollars.”

And while major economies such as the US and China naturally account for the bulk of global funding, he said Singapore has “taken the leading share of venture capital financing in the Southeast Asian region.” “.

For Dr. Wong of NUS, an indicator of the vitality of a startup ecosystem is “the self-sustaining, virtuous circle (circle) of the flow of entrepreneurial talent and capital through the system.

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This refers to successful entrepreneurs becoming investors or mentors to nurture the next generation of startups, or key employees in a generation of successful “scale-ups” leaving to become entrepreneurs themselves or help grow new early-stage startups, he said. “Scale-ups” refers to startups that have a sustainable business model and have proven their capabilities.

By this measure, Dr Wong said Singapore was making “good progress”, although he also noted that the virtuous circle was not yet on the scale seen in Silicon Valley in the US.

Success stories

In early October, Forbes reported that FinAccel had become Singapore’s newest unicorn after raising nearly $140 million in a Series D funding round that valued the company at $1.66 billion.

FinAccel is the parent company of Indonesian buy-now, pay-later platform Kredivo. While it may not be a household name among Singaporeans, many are familiar with other startups that have achieved unicorn status. These include delivery company Ninja One, the super app Grab and Sea, which owns e-commerce site Shopee.

However, unicorn status should not be confused with financial stability or permanence.

For example, Grab continues to seek profitability while Shopee has cut staff as its parent company seeks to reduce operating costs. TODAY previously reported that the gloomy economic climate has brought forward the audit deadline for disruptive companies facing pressure to demonstrate profitability.

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Citing the macroeconomic environment, experts told TODAY that these developments do not reflect Singapore’s startup ecosystem in any way. Mr Gerard Lim, XS APAC Accelerator Partner based in Singapore, pointed to the prospect of a potential recession and rising interest rates around the world.

And while it’s unfortunate that some employees had to be retrenched, Dr. Wang said it’s a small silver lining for the startup ecosystem.

“When some of the bigger tech companies cut (staff strength), it might be good in terms of freeing up some of that technical talent (in the market),” Dr. Wong said.

The experiences and knowledge of these former employees may benefit the smaller startups that hire them later.

Apart from startups that have managed to break into regional markets, Singapore is also home to those that are strong globally, such as PatSnap, a unicorn company with over 10,000 customers in over 40 countries.

PatSnap — a portmanteau of “invention” and “snap” — uses machine learning and AI-based technology to examine billions of data sets to produce what it calls “innovation intelligence” for its business customers. According to its website, its clients include Walt Disney, Tesla and Dyson.

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Attracting foreign entrepreneurs

Over the years, Singapore has managed to attract foreign entrepreneurs to set up here, including those from different countries who decided to partner together in the Republic to build their own startups – with EnterpriseSG playing the role of matchmaker.

For example, Fairmart Technologies was started a little less than two years ago by two men from Ukraine and Slovenia.

“The EntrePass visa program allowed my co-founder and I to move here during the pandemic and start a company with minimal fuss,” said CEO Jan Gasparik, who is Slovenian.

He said he and his business partner Daniil Moskotsov, who is Ukrainian, met in Singapore through EnterpriseSG’s incubation program, Entrepreneur First.

“We chose Singapore because it has a more vibrant society, better infrastructure and a supportive government,” said Mr Gasparich, who came to Singapore from Hong Kong while Moskotsov was in New Zealand for three years before coming to Singapore. .


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