Singapore: Encouraging entrepreneurship

ie Singapore - 30 Years of Globalising Singapore
Benedict Soh,Executive Chairman Kingsmen Creatives Ltd
THE meaning of entrepreneurship is ''enter and take charge''. Therefore entrepreneurship is not for everybody. Those who possess the capabilities will still be faced with a myriad of challenges, not least the limitations of operating in a small country and open market environment.
Other than identifying potential winners in the marketplace, those who have proven qualities to be entrepreneurs should deserve even more support.
Singapore, in its next phase of nation building and creating more higher-value jobs, should nurture companies which will prosper in regional and international markets. Our economy should be driven more by the private sector, as can be seen in many of the advanced Western countries. In the long run, a vibrant private sector will create a robust society.
Kenny Yap Kim-Lee
Executive Chairman & Managing Director
Qian Hu
THE strengths of Singapore's current entrepreneurial landscape are a pro-business government, a vibrant venture capitalist market, and ease of starting a business. The weaknesses are Singapore's parents wanting their children to be like them instead of being themselves. Also, for many Singaporeans, career decision is based on money and not so much passion or a desire to make an impact. Of course, an unforgiving environment - Asian society's attitude towards failure, causing people's sense of well-being to plummet when they fail - is detrimental to promoting entrepreneurship.
To take entrepreneurship in Singapore to the next level, first and foremost, parents should pay more attention to the development of their children as human beings and let them be themselves. This is because before you learn how to do business, you must first have humanity. Secondly, we must also believe that money is a means, not an end. Last but not least, those who tried but failed should be accorded greater respect from our society than many people who only talk but do nothing.
In conclusion, our right way of bring up our next generation, our ability to choose passion over money, and an environment that celebrates people who had tried but failed will greatly enhance our Singapore's entrepreneurial landscape.
Ingrid Sidiadinoto
Managing Director
UPS Singapore
SINGAPORE'S fundamental advantages such as its robust financial hub status, good governance, solid infrastructure and logistics capabilities, are optimum factors to facilitate an entrepreneurial landscape. Through active investment in a range of initiatives and policies that aim to facilitate business creation and expansion, the Singapore government has been successful in encouraging a spirit of entrepreneurship, especially among the young demographic within certain industries such as technology.
From a logistics perspective, a trend that we are noticing is that more entrepreneurs taking advantage of the mature logistics landscape in Singapore to drive business growth - for instance, by harnessing reliable e-commerce solutions such as marketable labels which improves the start-up's visibility, to navigate regulations and help grow their business internationally. 
Moving forward, to further support new companies and increase their opportunities for business success, it would be crucial to provide them with logistics support that give them access to a global marketplace.
Samir Neji
Managing Director
Anaplan Asia
IN 2012, the Singapore Department of Statistics recorded 56,778 new business start-ups, some of which aspire to be the next Apple or Spotify. Singapore's pro-business stance supports entrepreneurs through funding, financing schemes and tax incentives. The country also remains an epicentre of Asia's talented human capital.
From experience, I had two start-ups that I have grown into large global organisations, and at one time had to sell off to American outfits. The issue is that we fail to marry the groups that have innovative ideas with the ones that have deep pockets. I think that the next step for Singapore is to move from an asset-based to an idea-based investment.
We have innovations from companies such as Anaplan, which view Singapore as a great place for business due to its regional hub, strategic location, business-friendly policies and talent availability. We should provide innovators the route to raising funds and growing in Asia, with future initial public offering (IPO) opportunities. The intellectual capital will retain and grow the entrepreneurial leadership for the country.
V Hariharan
Singapore Mercantile Exchange
FROM an institutional perspective, Singapore is definitely the best place to start as an entrepreneur in Asia and indeed the world. Time and again, it has been ranked as one of the easiest places to do business by multilateral agencies such as the World Bank. Top of the list of what enables this are the transparency of approval processes, quick turnaround time for approvals, automation and user friendliness of business processes, swift execution on the part of bodies such as the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) and the cooperation and proactive support of the administrative and regulatory machinery of Singapore to empower entrepreneurs to concentrate on adding value.
While entrepreneurs require institutional and government support, the key challenge is in building an entrepreneurial culture among the upcoming generation. What Singapore needs are many more hungry young entrepreneurs who want to go out and conquer the world. Singapore is a relatively small market, so Singaporean entrepreneurs will require the vision and risk taking ability to go beyond national borders and develop sustainable businesses that can tap into markets in the region.
What needs to be done:
All this requires a sustained programme to inculcate the sense of entrepreneurship from a young age so that the risks of starting a business are not shunned in favour of the security of jobs. Secondary school students must be exposed to the benefits of being an entrepreneur. Workshops, competitions, fun fairs at school level can all go into this effort. And most importantly, the young generation should be exposed to the tools of financial management early on as it is the key to any successful enterprise.
Max Loh
Country Managing Partner
Ernst & Young LLP
NOTWITHSTANDING the need to act holistically on the entire entrepreneurship ecosystem, many point-in-time policies and programmes - while necessary and useful - are shorter-term solutions to visible barriers. A strong sustaining entrepreneurial culture must underpin all efforts - and this perhaps presents the greatest challenge today. Societal values need to shift to better embrace risk taking, tolerate or even celebrate failure, and support alternative pathways to and perceptions of career success.
Early through advanced education is central to inculcating the right entrepreneurial values and attitudes in the young, and imparting the ability to recognise business opportunities and the knowledge, self-esteem and skills to put ideas to commercially viable use. Role modelling and mentoring by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs is one such initiative, and the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year programme seeks to facilitate more of such dialogues.
James Tan
Co-founder, 55tuan.com
Managing Partner, QuestVC
and ACE Overseas Chapter Sub-Committee Chair
WHILE there have been many new start-ups, our biggest weakness seems to be the inability of the businesses to scale up. Perhaps it is a general lack of global exposure - not perceiving how small the Singapore market is, not appreciating the vast potential of markets beyond our shores and a lack of understanding in how to enter these markets. We need to enable aspiring entrepreneurs to plan their business with scale in mind.
We should also give our youth more prolonged global exposure during student exchanges, study tours and overseas internship stints, and let them network with successful Singaporeans there.
Rajesh Yohannan
Managing Director and CEO
OANDA Asia-Pacific
SINGAPORE has many qualities that entrepreneurs yearn for. We have great infrastructure, the government is very business friendly and actively encourages entrepreneurship. We are also geographically well-positioned to benefit from the economic growth in neighbouring markets such as China, India and Indonesia.
Unfortunately, entrepreneurship is a bit like creativity - it can be encouraged but it cannot be scientifically planned. Some of the very reasons that we don't have many world-beating athletes, world-renowned artists, musicians or singers are the same ones that also inhibit entrepreneurship. Many young Singaporean adults would rather take up stable nine-to-five jobs than take the risk and start businesses of their own. In some ways, we are victims of our own spectacular economic progression over the last 50 years.
Attracting more venture capitalists to Singapore would be a good start. Right now, the best ones in Asia are all in Bangalore, Shanghai, Mumbai or Beijing. More importantly, the media needs to make national heroes out of the founders of local success stories such as PropertyGuru, Reebonz, sgCarMart. A billion-dollar IPO from Singapore, and the floodgates may open!
Low Chee Wah
Frasers Commercial Trust
AS a mature economy, Singapore needs to develop its entrepreneurial sector as its next stage of development. Singapore has a good talent pool of skilled workers but it needs to develop and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. This would require support from the marketplace and government agencies, from funding to infrastructure support to general acceptance of failure. This may be challenging for a society which places a heavy emphasis on academic excellence and measures success based on one's standing in the career ladder.
Assistance in the form of subsidised premises such as low-cost industrial parks to house start-up companies, and venture capital firms to form a cluster would also help to defray the high operating costs and encourage cross-fertilisation of ideas. Cultivating an entrepreneurial environment and reducing the culture of risk aversion will help to foster new and aspiring entrepreneurs with an ''overcomer'' spirit.
Yeoh Oon Jin
Executive Chairman
PwC Singapore
ONE of the challenges that we often hear from our entrepreneurial clients is the limitation of scale and skill gaps. To fulfil their full potential and achieve ambitious growth plans, entrepreneurial businesses need to successfully negotiate these barriers to growth. When a business achieves a certain size, it can only progress further by taking a significant step either through capturing new domestic markets through innovation or by going overseas. This will require investment and finance to scale up their operations and fill the skill gaps in management.
The sooner these businesses put in place good governance, institutionalise their practices, bring in more professional managers and are willing to use external advisors, the better they can negotiate these barriers. They can then achieve sustainable growth and succeed in the long run.
Benjamin Tan
Group CEO
IN Singapore, there are indeed career options that are very rewarding both financially and emotionally, but without the crazy risk of not making it. So the lure of entrepreneurship is not a very strong or sensible one. Today's young people arguably value life experiences, perhaps even more that before. When I think of all the holidays and adventures that I gave up to be an entrepreneur at age 22, I do struggle to justify that decision even after taking away monetary considerations. It becomes even more pronounced when you put the money back in.
So perhaps therein lies the yolk of the problem - how do we make entrepreneurship much more rewarding without hand-outs? That it is worth the risk for a capable person who has options? People with burning passions or nothing to lose will always be the lynchpins of the entrepreneurial circle, but to grow that, we must address those struggling with options.
In the US and now China, the market size and funding infrastructure does answer this question, and after a generation of successes, entrepreneurship as a career option has momentum. Singapore has invested in admirable efforts to get the ball rolling, and things are getting better, but it's a chicken-end-egg thing - we need success to build more success, but success is a function of talent and opportunity. Unfortunately, a lot of our talent have options, and our opportunity from a market-size perspective is limited.
We should invest in the motivations that seed entrepreneurship (wealth and fame) but in a way that does command respect from friends and family (versus some programme where anyone can claim to be one); invest in sending our young around the region even in formative years so that our understanding of ideas that might work is not limited to our little island if indeed we see the region as an extended geography to enlarge the market size; and continue growing the funding infrastructure to make giants of good ideas.
Tom Zack
President, South-east Asia
EMC Corporation
A KEY strength of the Singapore education system has been its focus on science and business. A culture of entrepreneurship takes time to cultivate and is nurtured from a young age - a process which takes time and effort both from the teachers and parents alike. Beyond taking steps to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset, Singapore also needs to create the necessary environment to retain or attract talented youngsters, who have found greener pastures in overseas markets, to return home - benefiting Singapore in the long run.
Another step is to ensure the right balance between grants and venture capital funding. While there are several grant options for entrepreneurs in Singapore, there are far less venture capital investments. Grants are one-off financial injections which do not encourage competition, while venture capital funding really expects entrepreneurs to show results.
Ang Swee Meng, Allen
Group Managing Director
Aldon Technologies Services Pte Ltd
THE entrepreneurial ecosystem is more developed today than it was 10 years ago when my partner and I started Aldon Technologies. More comprehensive support for entrepreneurs and start-ups are now available from various sources. The culture and perception towards risks and failures have also evolved with more young people willing to start a new business. The strength of our entrepreneurial landscape today tjat is our collective subconscious is more deeply ingrained with entrepreneurial spirit.
However, support to grow start-ups to the next stage is still lacking. Aldon Technologies has been growing organically in the last decade by plowing back our profits into our business. But organic growth strategy cannot take Aldon to the next stage. We are exploring acquisition or joint-venture opportunities locally or overseas to grow our size, expand markets and acquire new technologies. In this, we need funding and expertise.
Therefore, we hope that our entrepreneurial ecosystem can provide growth-stage funding and managerial talent to help mid-size companies like Aldon grow to become multinational corporations (MNCs). It will be useful to attract to Singapore more global private equity firms such as the Carlyle Group, Blackstone Group, KKR, which have experience in nurturing many of the world's global companies. These firms can provide local companies with funding, expert guidance and connections to global markets.
Lim Soon Hock
Managing Director
Plan-B ICAG Pte Ltd
SETTING up the Entrepreneurship Review Committee is a good move. That said, sometimes the critical things that need to be done should not wait for a committee to get them implemented. I believe that for a culture of entrepreneurship to be developed and to take root, more needs to be done upstream. I was very encouraged when the government announced the introduction of more entrepreneurship education in schools, some time ago. That was more than a year ago. I think that it is fair to say that the traction to get this going can be significantly improved, based on what I know.
More key stakeholders can and must contribute to take entrepreneurship in Singapore to the next level. It is not just the responsibility of government. Other than large companies in Singapore, IPCs such as Halogen Foundation can also play a part. Halogen was set up more than 10 years ago to provide leadership training for students, reaching out to more than 60 per cent of schools. The foundation is now collaborating with Network for Training Entrepreneurship (NFTE) from the US, which has been around for some 20 years. It has an outstanding track record in training street-smart kids into entrepreneurial-minded individuals. Halogen intends to introduce this on a massive scale in Singapore to complement our successful leadership programme, to train future leader-entrepreneurs and entrepreneur-leaders.
Note: Lim Soon Hock is also the chairman of Halogen Foundation
David Dzienciol
Regional Vice-President and General Manager, Asia-Pacific
Parallels Software Pte Ltd
AS a multi-cultural nation located at the heart of a region that is poised for exponential growth, Singapore has a strong leadership and is in a prime position to clearly differentiate itself from its neighbours by aggressively leveraging its sophisticated information technology (IT) infrastructure to think and operate globally. However, the nation's mature IT infrastructure and services not only benefit the enterprises or MNCs but also plays a vital role for the entrepreneurs and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in helping them set up their businesses efficiently and effectively.
The current entrepreneurial landscape continues to pursue innovation but the lack of affordable tools to help them scale their business is a main concern. The high upfront costs to implement a long-term IT infrastructure is a high risk for them. All that is rapidly changing. The continued proliferation of cost-effective solutions such as cloud computing is aggressively driving the change. Once associated with huge upfront cost, the cloud market has lowered its barriers of entry to ensure that organisations of all sizes can profit from the cloud. The time is now for the entrepreneurs of Singapore to fully understand the benefits of the cloud and take action.
Tan Chong Huat
Managing Partner
RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP
JOB creation and the overall economic health of the country are dependent on the entrepreneurial landscape. In Singapore, there are favourable government policies targeted at firms, including favourable taxes and licensing and industry regulations. The education sector has also seen reform to encourage more entrepreneurs who benefit from government funding; however, sometimes they are too dependent on government intervention before venturing out on their own.
At the socio-political level, our educational system and social bias for scholastic achievements coupled with the concentration of talent in governmental sectors have a negative impact on entrepreneurship. An immediate action for the government will be to ensure that rising business costs and foreign talent issues can be balanced alongside favourable growth of entrepreneurs.
Steve Melhuish
Co-Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer
WHILE the government has done a lot to foster and build a dynamic entrepreneurial culture in Singapore, critical challenges remain. Key issues are talent shortage and rising cost of operating a business. I see many local entrepreneurs forced to consider and locate their companies overseas for purposes of cheaper operating expenses and expansion. What is most critical to creating a purposeful entrepreneurial environment is the presence of successful role models, entrepreneurs who have built their companies from scratch and minimal self-funding to become a successful Singapore story.
When I first started my company, I met fresh graduates who were really passionate about building products with minimal cash. Now, the entire scene has fundamentally changed. We have local and international entrepreneurs with government-backed investments as well as international heavyweights entering the scene. I have an enormous admiration for people who have the drive to do the things that they believe in.
The environment is favourable now, which makes it much easier to embark and explore entrepreneurship. People in corporate careers have been saying to entrepreneurs that they wish they could be doing the things they are passionate about. My personal maxim is simply this: Just do it! Even if the market is small, just go for it. Be very focused and be brave about starting a new concept with the aim of investing in other markets, and eventually IPO.
Don't make the mistake that I did by stretching the company and people to its breaking point. Ambition is an excellent trait to have but manage your human resource platform well. Continue to hire and emphasise strongly on product development. Aim to do well in one market first, and then use that successful model to expand to other markets.
Kenny Goh
Group Chief Executive Officer
THE global economy is transitioning into a knowledge-based economy, and I believe that Singapore's current entrepreneurial landscape - while vibrant - can stand to benefit from further reforms in Singapore's developmental model and a change in mindset among its entrepreneurs to avoid economic stagnation.
With so many beneficial measures and incentives introduced in the Singapore Budget 2013, start-ups and SMEs are operating in an entrepreneurial ecosystem that has been ranked first out of 183 countries in terms of ease of doing business. However, Singaporeans fear the stigma of failure so greatly that many entrepreneurs replicate tried-and-tested business models of other successful foreign enterprises although they fundamentally lack the knowledge, skills, training, passion or creativity needed to develop a successful business that suits the local market.
Furthermore, with such a benevolent developmental model, the market is being inundated with ventures that might not be suited to stand the test of time or the unpredictability of today's business environment.
In order for entrepreneurship in Singapore to rise to the next level, entrepreneurship education needs to improve; and instead of taking the safe route, entrepreneurs need to develop an innovative spirit and courage to take chances. Only then will we see an emergence of revolutionary local businesses that will ensure continued economic growth and innovation for Singapore.
Chris Comer
CEO and Property Developer
Castlewood Group
NO one can deny that for business, you can do far worse than Singapore. Factors such as a welcoming government regulatory environment, relatively low start-up costs, favourable corporate tax rates, access to quality labour - all these contribute to making Singapore an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and other new business opportunities alike.
Many companies have made the decision like Castlewood Group to move their headquarters to Singapore to leverage on the business-friendly environment here. When you are dealing with property investment and projects in Asia such as we do with our beach club and hotel development in Phuket, having sales operations in London, Dubai, and elsewhere will still turn over strong numbers but consolidating resources and hubbing in Singapore is still better business acumen. The accessibility to surrounding Asia and being a port island are also beneficial factors for a multitude of sectors as well.
For entrepreneurship, Singapore is different from somewhere like China for example, where there is the one child policy which has a natural inclination to breed creativity as there is more pressure on the ''little emperors/empresses'' to be able to support the generations of family above them.
In order to spur on a more creative and entrepreneurial spirit here, we're encouraged that the Singapore government has shown a willingness to listen and obtain insights from different stakeholders from businessmen to venture capitalists with the recent establishment of the Entrepreneurship Review Committee. They are obviously trying to foster growth with government agencies potentially placing more emphasis in bringing out the entrepreneur spirit in youths by dedicating some time in the curriculum of universities and schools to inspire and educate the next generation to take the leap and branch out with more creative new business ventures.
David Leong
Managing Director
PeopleWorldwide Consulting Pte Ltd
THE whole gamut of financial assistance and grants rendered by the government points to its proactive support of entrepreneurship in Singapore. It is therefore not the lack of support but what kind of support really helps. The all important question is: Is such help effective in promoting the spirit of entrepreneurship, the spirit of risk taking and acceptance of failures? 
With easy funding from proofs of concept and proofs of value, young start-ups can get enough funding from Spring to IDA to jumpstart their initiatives.  There is a natural life cycle for start-ups, and it is still the survival of the fittest in the brute business environment. If they cannot survive the initial phase of growth spurt, they are likely to fail. 
Key among many business owners and entrepreneurs is the initial start-up costs.  Existing funding framework depends on pitches and plans, and there are many creative young enterprises whose existences are temporary as they game the funding system by getting funding and subsequently let the businesses die. Such devices and gaming actions defeat the spirit of entrepreneurial venture and risk taking. 
To promote real risk taking, the government should provide cheap loans capped to a certain amount for entrepreneurs within the initial start-up phase or within a fixed period from incorporation. Business plans and pitches are still needed but they take on the risk of the debts. The load of debts will heighten entrepreneurs' sense of survival as the fire behind their backs spur actions. Loans can be structured on different phases - start-up, growth, expansion - and short-term loan and loan interests can be premised on stages of growth and quantum and tenure of loan. Such help will carry the entrepreneurs further. 
I know because I started my business with $10,000 borrowed from my mother. I know I cannot afford to fail. The fire spurred me to a fury to see my businesses through.
John Koh
Managing Director
WMRC Private Ltd
TO be an entrepreneur takes a lot of courage. It means leaving the security of a regular job (with its associated stable income and career progression), and having to deal with unknowns which can work for or against a person. Entrepreneurs often are unable to depend on anyone to support them at the start-up phase, and they must be comfortable being highly hands-on and self-reliant on every aspect of the business. Singaporeans are not conditioned to be natural entrepreneurs. The reasons are varied but the main one could be attributed to our education system, which is extremely structured and academic based. We are educated to meet the specific needs of the labour force in key established industries which drive our economic growth, and it is unthinkable for our youths, especially our cream of the crop, to ever contemplate being an entrepreneur with so much risk at stake.
To reverse this mindset takes a lot of high-level thinking and change in our social-building policies. Entrepreneurship must increasingly be seen as a desirable avenue towards success in our society and the way for Singapore to break new ground and further chart our economic growth. We need to build a strong network of support organisations to develop highly capable entrepreneurs who are creative and quick to seize market opportunities through extremely well-executed business plans. Our education system can be further tweaked to encourage out-of-textbook learning and to instil greater interest among our students on innovation and current trends/ developments affecting our world.
Hugues Delcourt
Country Executive, ABN AMRO Bank NV Singapore and
Chief Executive Officer of ABN AMRO Private Banking Asia & Middle East
AN entrepreneurial culture needs a number of elements to succeed. These include a sound basic education, facilities such as incubator space at reasonable rentals, a supportive regulatory environment, easy access to mentorship and advice and financial support. These factors are, generally speaking, present in Singapore.
We in the corporate world can also play a part in nurturing and supporting young entrepreneurship. The ABN AMRO Foundation, for example, sponsors Kids in Bizz in the Netherlands. It is a young entrepreneurship project which is organised in schools, and ABN AMRO staff volunteers contribute their time, business acumen and experience.
ABN AMRO is also a co-shareholder and sponsor of Startupbootcamp, a European start-up accelerator programme with a mentor and alumni network spanning more than 40 countries. This programme offers entrepreneurs an opportunity to work intensively with more than 100 mentors from different lines of expertise during a three-month period. Thanks to active mentoring by experienced local and international entrepreneurs, start-up capital, a free workplace and numerous sponsor deals, the start-ups are given the chance to make as much progress in three months as in several years. At the end of the programme, the entrepreneurs will pitch for funding at an Investor Demo Day to some 350 domestic and international investors.
Other than nurture and exposure programmes, for entrepreneurship to continue to blossom in Singapore, young business people should also embrace a fundamentally more adventurous and go-getter culture and not be averse to initial failure which in business can often be a stepping stone to eventual success.
Arvind Agarwalla
FACT Software International Pte Ltd
IN terms of the entrepreneurial landscape, Singapore's strengths outweigh its weaknesses. Compared to many countries that are considered business hubs, it is far easier and much quicker to start a Singapore company. In 2012, there were over 56,000 new businesses registered in Singapore, out of which 66 per cent were locally owned.
The government has done a lot to encourage entrepreneurship, in terms of giving grants for raising productivity, investing in IT and helping to take Singapore companies regional and global. In addition, we need to create an ecosystem which encourages entrepreneurs to take more risk. This can happen when failure is treated as a stepping stone to success. Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of the Silicon Valley model.
Ernest Kan
Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants
A KEY objective in strengthening Singapore's entrepreneurial culture is to build a core of entrepreneurs who can serve the global market and make a significant contribution to Singapore's external economy. This is critical to helping Singapore move up the economic ladder.
Globalisation, with its increasingly prevalent use of digital mobile technology, affords opportunities to countries which hitherto were disadvantaged by their small size and lack of natural resources in building such a core.
SINGAPORE has a good pool of well-educated aspiring entrepreneurs.  We also have an excellent and well-connected infrastructure which made Singapore an attractive hub for business activities. These are assets which Singapore can leverage to ride the wave of globalisation and build this core of entrepreneurs.
Nonetheless, constraints such as high business costs and a limited domestic market need to be addressed. While private angel and venture capital investors provide a possible source of support, there are competing investment choices in bigger markets with lower business costs.
Government support remains crucial. It may need to adopt a higher tolerance for risk and wider leeway in supporting our start-ups, in terms of greater funding, less restrictive key performance indicators, and encouraging and helping such start-ups to go beyond Singapore.
Deepakjit Singh
Managing Director, Asia
Encompass Digital Media
AS the global economy and the Singapore economy continue to be in a state of flux and uncertainty, the current infrastructure in the country remains very conducive for entrepreneurs. For example, earlier this year, the government announced in its 2013 budget a number of schemes such as the Wage Credit Scheme, Corporate Income Tax Rebate, and the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) Bonus to help small and medium-sized enterprises to remain competitive in an ever changing business landscape.
Yet, the spirit of entrepreneurship here is not as thriving here as it is in the West because many potential entrepreneurs are afraid of failure.
While their concerns are perfectly valid, I have yet to see a successful entrepreneur who has not failed at least once and learnt from it. When Encompass Digital Media first started operations in Singapore four years ago, we encountered similar challenges that many entrepreneurs face today - low investor confidence, limited infrastructure and aggressive competition. We persisted and turned the situation in our favour by ensuring that our company culture bred creativity and innovation, invested in infrastructure and increased the productivity of our workforce. Today, we are partner to some of the biggest media names and transmit over 110 channels to televisions across Asia from our facility in Singapore.
In the face of adversity, I would advise entrepreneurs to not lose focus of their long-term corporate vision. There are many avenues available in Singapore for them to reach out and receive the necessary assistance that they require to build a successful business. The Entrepreneurship Review Committee (EnRC) is a perfect example of such an avenue. I look forward to the day when we will see many successful entrepreneurs in Singapore.
Annie Yap
Managing Director
AYP Associates Pte Ltd
THE strength of Singapore's entrepreneurial scene lies in the fact that there is a lot of governmental support, such as Spring Singapore's funds to nurture innovative start-ups. Moreover, the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) provides additional support for our budding entrepreneurs.
However, to bring entrepreneurship to the next level would depend largely on the soft skills such as leadership and goal orientation. As our education system undergoes changes gradually, it would be good to have in place initiatives in schools to nurture these skills. This would be in addition to the current entrepreneurship programmes as well as frameworks that are already in schools.
Subbaraju Alluri
Grey Singapore
WITH a world-class body dedicated to promoting and enabling entrepreneurship, and a body to promote Singaporean enterprises abroad, no wonder Singapore is widely seen a pro-business environment. However, we shouldn't underestimate the impact that globalisation has had on SMEs vying for a place in the Singaporean business landscape. The environment is increasingly competitive, and SMEs find themselves in a bigger playing field competing with larger corporations.
Facilitating mentoring programmes, continued education, and training and opportunities for productive and experienced retirees are more likely to result in sustainable businesses, creating a more competitive workforce and better workplaces for Singaporeans ready to compete with international players.
Liu Chunlin
K&C Protective Technologies Pte Ltd
I MUST applaud the Singapore government for providing many platforms and funding to encourage entrepreneurship in Singapore. The Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (ASME) and IE Singapore have also been assisting our local entrepreneurs. The current entrepreneurial landscape has grown in strength. Our entrepreneurs have opportunities to expose themselves to the world, and they have a strong world view. From such exposure, they have also acquired a certain level of sophistication in dealing with businesses at national, regional and international level.
On the other hand, Singapore, being an island city state, does not provide large local markets for a wide range of business opportunities to expand. There is also a lack of motivation and means for them to expand their business to overseas market. Local entrepreneurs have also insufficient knowledge to upgrade from a local start-up to a MNC.
To take entrepreneurship in Singapore to the next level, a higher level of collaboration between the government, ASME, ACE and IE Singapore is needed. This will allow more cooperation with organisations with similar missions in other nations and ease of scouting for the perfect match of overseas partners and representatives. With our strong infotech-savvy population, entrepreneurs should be encouraged to take advantage infotech advantages to expand their market.
Dora Hoan
Co-Chairman/Group CEO
Best World International Ltd
SINGAPORE is a pro-business country; all policies and regulations are transparent, and bureaucratic red tape is minimal. The business environment is efficient compared with many other countries. However, it is also highly competitive and costly to do business in the island state. As these weaknesses are part and parcel of the macro environment, there is no quick fix. Entrepreneurs have to think and work their way around the constraints.
Nevertheless, to advance entrepreneurship, Singaporeans can perhaps help by promoting the ''Singapore first'' notion. For instance, we may consider giving home-grown companies priority when they bid for our projects. Besides that, we can also help by buying local products whenever possible. Before entrepreneurship can progress, home-grown entrepreneurs have to survive.
Patrick Liew
Special Adviser
HSR Global Ltd
CLINICAL studies have shown that education is one of the critical factors for fostering entrepreneurship. It plays a pivotal role in influencing and developing entrepreneurial traits and skills.
To do so, education should encourage autonomy and independence, innovation and creativity as well as risk-taking. The pedagogical approach should encourage students to make decisions and accept mistakes as part of the learning process.
Working adults can volunteer to help teachers and complement the curriculum by training them on work-readiness, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and other skills so as to to help them capitalise on opportunities in the new economy. We can bring to them real world experience and wisdom through a variety of projects and  programmes.
We can organise practical and hands-on workshops as a part of classroom lessons or co-curricular activities. We can also arrange internships and job-shadow programmes to help them understand the realities of the working world.
In addition, we can conduct leadership and business trainings, projects and competitions to enhance their knowledge, competence and behaviour. To help them expand their potential and develop their expertise, we can also work with them to co-create new concepts, ideas and solutions.
We believe that the today's youth have a tremendous amount of potential for entrepreneurial creativity, innovation and action. When the private sector works closely with the schools, we can help to unleash and channel their energy for the good of the community, and groom them to become better leaders in the future.
Ronald Lee
Managing Director
PrimeStaff Management Services Pte Ltd
THE start-up scene in Singapore has been heating up in recent years due to growing government support and initiatives such as the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE). The recent announcement of the new Entrepreneurship Review Committee (EnRC) is certainly a positive move towards fostering an entrepreneurship culture in Singapore. However, when compared with many other advanced economies around the world, Singapore's entrepreneurship ecosystem still has a long way to go.
TO create an entrepreneurship culture, we need to look to the root: the schools. While the journey of an entrepreneur is certainly not for everyone, the education system should offer more diversity and choices for our young to begin cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset, as that is where the seed is sown. Tertiary institutions, for example, can offer more courses dedicated to entrepreneurship and developing entrepreneurs.
Access to funding is crucial for start-ups to succeed so perhaps more can be done to offer funding to nurture promising start-ups, such as more government grants and business support in the form of mentorships, as well as special bank loan schemes for start-ups at preferential rates.
To gain more attention and support from venture capitalists and angel investors, start-ups need to have a global perspective and focus on creating a scalable business from the outset.
Kar Wong
Group MD
Advanced Holdings Ltd
SINGAPORE is not the best place to be an entrepreneur. The market is small, we are generally unforgiving on failures, and we are risk averse. We lack graduates who have strong passion for science and technology, a core ingredient for technological entrepreneurship. In fact, we have more graduates who want to be investment bankers, fund managers, etc.
To enhance entrepreneurship, I have some suggestions:
* Offer incentives and assistance to attract Singaporean talents who are currently working, living or even just studying overseas to return to Singapore.
* Public institutions and private organisations should accept people who have experienced failures as entrepreneurs.
* Do not marginalise non-entrepreneurs, do not make the rest of us feel inferior because we have never started up some business ventures. Remember we only need a queen bee but thousands of worker bees. Can our Singapore be defended against foreign invasion if army is staffed with more generals than soldiers?
* Financial institutions to be more proactive in lending to small businesses. Take some small risks - the returns will be worthwhile.
* GIC to apportion some funds to invest in local start-ups and growing SMEs.
* Expose government scholars to private enterprises, including policymakers who are being groomed. Put them there for a few years. Get their hands dirty first before they set policies.
* Involve entrepreneurs or business leaders who have proven integrity with governmental think-tanks as well as in public office.
* Change bankruptcy laws to enable a discharge over a shorter period amid a proven effort to redeem the debt.
* Encourage students and graduates to study, travel, work and live oversees for more exposure to life outside Singapore.
* Rejuvenate our education in science and technology. We need a sustainable pool of home-based talent, and some of them will become very driven entrepreneurs. Investors and funds will be attracted to Singapore. If we do not have this home base of scientists and technical professionals, we will forever be attracting foreign talent.
Zaheer K Merchant
Regional Director (Singapore and Europe)
QI Group of Companies
IN a recent Forbes interview, former PM Lee Kuan Yew cited America's ''can-do approach'', ''entrepreneurial culture'' and ''great urge to start new enterprises and create wealth'' as its entrepreneurial success. These three elements clearly delineate the strengths of any entrepreneurial culture and landscape. The burning question is whether Singaporeans are ready for such enterprising attitudes. Does our education, background and upbringing groom a mentality of safety and iron rice bowls - perfect lieutenants but not pioneering generals? Or is there a burgeoning Sim Wong Hoo in each of us?
WHILE we critique, the reality and trend may well be that the enterprising spirit is thriving but perhaps remains unseen and thereby portraying ''weakness''. On the small scale, it is evident at Pasarbella at Turf City where engaging hopeful entrepreneurs showcase their acumen with amazing energy. They are not alone as the successes of local businesses such as BreadTalk or Charles & Keith have shown.
If more publicity is given to our enterprising youth, formal grants and training, easier access to funding for business ideas without plain reliance on crowd-funding, an ''IdeaBoard'' to assess promising business ideas is created, we will be on the roadmap to Singapore being an enterprise nation.
Toby Koh
Group Managing Director
Ademco Security Group
START young. We need to expose our youth to concepts of entrepreneurship from secondary school or at the latest, post secondary school. Time must be set aside every school year to educate the youth on the mechanics of running a business, relating success stories of entrepreneurs as case studies and setting up opportunities for students to run small businesses on campus or even outside school in a supervised fashion.
Entrepreneurship concepts are fairly simple to grasp: identify a need, analyse the market conditions, establish competitive edge and fulfill the need. The aim is to engage the students. Success or failure is immaterial but the experience will be priceless. The hope is that the early engagement of youth will inspire a spark that will rear its head later on in their career.
My eldest daughter, Tania, was all of 11 years old when she organised a cookie bake sale with her siblings and cousins. A $50 loan from me was translated into a profit of $30 by the end of a day going door to door around the neighbourhood. If an 11 year old can do it, anyone else will also have a decent shot too. And that is exactly what we need in Singapore.
Shawn Balakrishnan
General Manager
The Hoffman Agency
WHILE there have been many initiatives by organisations such as Spring Singapore and Action Community for Entrepreneurship to help start-ups, in order to take entrepreneurship to the next level, we need to identify areas and gaps where the entrepreneurship ecosystem can be enhanced. One example would be to correct the general impression that entrepreneurship is a risky career path most likely ending in failure. To counter this, there is a need to educate society that, despite its risks, entrepreneurship is a bona fide career track.
The government and educational institutions can consider collaborating to change the risk-averse mindset that Singaporeans have towards entrepreneurship, and highlight that an entrepreneurial spirit is highly valued by the workforce. The entrepreneurial landscape in Singapore can also be enhanced with start-ups and entrepreneurs making communications an integral part of their business strategy. Clear positioning and messaging could help start-ups attract investors, financial support, advocates and strong community partners.
In addition, publicising the successes of local entrepreneurs could also help demonstrate to funding agencies that funds are being put to good use and are generating results. Given that the number of new business start-ups in Singapore has been growing yearly and with there being 56,778 new business start-ups last year, Singapore is well-poised to start taking entrepreneurship to the next level.
Joshua Yim
Achieve Group
AS a nation, Singapore does not have a strong culture of risk-taking. The general population tends to be very much risk-averse, preferring to choose financial security via a stable career instead of striking out as an entrepreneur. Singapore's population is three-quarters Chinese yet I find that the entrepreneurial spirit here is not as prevalent as in other regional countries whose populations are also dominated by the Chinese, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The government has taken many steps to promote entrepreneurship by helping to build stronger home-grown firms that can compete on an international stage like Hyflux, Osim and TungLok Group. In recent years, we have witnessed the prevalence of a lot more initiatives, programmes and associations or groups that are trying to encourage individuals to become entrepreneurs. But looking at the current situation today, I feel the effects may not be as desired.
Showcasing successful entrepreneurs is key. We need to feature success stories of such trailblazers that others can look to, and be inspired by. I believe the government has done quite a fair bit to this end, with a lot of seminars, talks and events featuring some of these high-profile entrepreneurs. The government should continue on this path through its various ministries. There are also a lot of incubation centres now, especially in the technology-related fields. These are great initiatives that provide a platform for world-class entrepreneurs not only to share their insights but also to mentor the aspiring young start-ups. From a practical standpoint, more seed funding could be made available to some of these budding entrepreneurs through the various ministries.
To take entrepreneurship in Singapore to the next level, we really need to galvanise the younger generation. This starts with the education system. We need to build an environment for students to think out of the box - they can chart their own course through a business venture instead of the stereotypical model of success through the structured career path. Our schools can achieve this by integrating programmes and activities into their curriculums that are designed to bring out the entrepreneurial spirit in our students. It should start from young.
Jim Li Hui Hong
JSB Tech Pte Ltd
A DECADE-long drive in promoting entrepreneurship by ACE has gained significant awareness and created a positive image of entrepreneurs in Singapore. It would have encouraged many skilled, professional and experienced bright younger Singaporean and PRs (talents) to embark into entrepreneurship. This is a risk-taking type of profession in line with Singapore moving towards a more diversifying and maturing economy focusing on knowledge and innovation intensive activities. The appreciation of the Singapore dollar and strong growth in Asia's economy provide vast opportunities for Singapore SMEs to venture and expand into the region.
However, it is important to understand what it takes for SMEs to venture into highly niched global market segments. For technopreneurship, a typical start-up or growing Singapore SME specialising in niched global market segments would face significant challenges to deal with a very small cluster size within Singapore that impose significant constraints, such as limited talent pool (time required to train specialists and job hops), access to funding (lack of fund managers knowledgeable in certain narrow domain of specialisation), limited government research institution specialised expertise supports, that impact the competitiveness of these SMEs new product development speed and incurred additional costs in IP filling and overseas marketing as compared to their counterparts operating within a large domestic economy in the US, EU, Japan and China. When compounded, such challenges exerted to these novice entrepreneurs would sufficient to ''shrink'' their drive if not ''killing'' their confident to take on the global competition.
Sustained deliberate efforts, such as ACE and Spring activities, focusing on selected sectors would potentially nurture local champions that would serve as leading examples, and in time could further encourage more top talents to join the exhilarating endeavor of entrepreneurship.
Thirumalai Chandroo
Modern Montessori International Group
SINGAPORE is the hotbed of world business in the South-east Asian region. Many applaud us for the steadfast system in place that leads to the success of their investments. Entrepreneurship is a key motivator of Singapore's affluence; by creating the conditions necessary for new entrepreneurs to flourish, we are investing in our national interests and competitiveness. Yet many young founders struggle to access the resources, technology, funds and networks that they need to initiate and develop their business. This can certainly be regarded as a weakness that can shake or prevent the entrepreneurial spirit.

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