What You Should Know About the Singapore Startup Scene
Eighty out of the world's top 100 tech firms have operations in the city and are increasing their investments
Singapore is one of the tech-savviest smart cities in the world—so it should come as no surprise that it serves as a hotbed for startups and entrepreneurs. The Asian nation-state's active and rapidly growing entrepreneurial scene has only gone from strength to strength over the past five years thanks to its business-friendly environment, low taxation and government schemes and grants.
Singapore is many things - from the city with the best investment potential to the country with the best public safety. It ranks as one of the world's most expensive cities. This melting pot of cultures and businesses makes for a diverse mix, a place where fresh graduates rub shoulders with experienced professionals from the other side of the world hoping to make it in Southeast Asia. From passion projects to established multinational outfits, let's explore what it takes for entrepreneurial success in this corner of the world.
Research Those Regulations
Singapore may be small but it is big on regulatory oversight. Even though 80 out of the world's top 100 tech firms have operations in the city and are increasing their investments, do not for a moment think that they have not jumped through numerous hoops to ensure their legal operation within the city's borders.
There are numerous laws, restrictions and regulations related to setting up a business in Singapore, and each and every entrepreneur must become familiar with them.
Rather than view them as burdensome red tape or bureaucracy, consider these regulations as measures put in place to protect your business from unfair practices.
For instance, Singapore's strong IP laws have been one of the key reasons that many tech companies have decided to base their business here rather than elsewhere in Asia. In short, be sure to make preparations and do the necessary paperwork to avoid any hitches when launching any startup in Singapore.
Find and Keep Hold of the Right Talent
Remember what we mentioned about four-fifths of the world's top tech firms residing in the city?
Singapore has a highly educated workforce with talents across a wide variety of skill sets, but they are in huge demand. Singapore counts about 5.6 million people as citizens and many local workers are hunted by international companies.
It may seem like an uphill battle to compete with multinationals and tech giants in such a small talent pool, but startups can find the right people with the right attitude. The way to succeed is to look for the best fit for any given company instead of the best talent, and provide better opportunities and clear progression to keep them motivated. It is nearly impossible to compete against the best and biggest companies in the world, so cater to your point of difference and focus on that.
Furthermore, one big positive is the local language. English is one of Singapore's main languages, so workers from the West do have the ability to relocate and adapt more easily than in other parts of the world. Companies should be aware, however, that tighter hiring laws introduced in 2018 have made it more difficult to secure internationals on work visas.
Recognize Singapore's Size
Singapore is small in both size and population—and has been an established hub for international business for decades. Therefore, the local market is limited in size and already dominated by a few established incumbents. Players hoping to come into this space need to always remember Singapore's small size and plan their business accordingly.
It may be helpful to view the country as a base from which you can expand into less developed markets in the region. It is small within its borders, yet in a big neighbourhood full of opportunity. However, it is important to note that a small yet globalized economy like Singapore's is also highly prone to larger trends happening in other parts of the world.
As cliché as it sounds, embrace change when it occurs. Such obstacles are more than just challenges, but new opportunities for those who move fast and are nimble enough to do so.
Meet the Locals
Finally, it is integral to reiterate the Singaporean part of Singapore. While hundreds of international conglomerates have descended upon the nation, all the deskbound research in the world simply does not compare to the insights and experience of a local. The vibrant and friendly Singaporean startup community is a good place for any entrepreneur hopeful to learn from people who have been there and done that.
The startup scene here is vibrant and diverse, and one where inspiration is assisted by the government. National agencies such as Economic Development Board and Info-communications Media Development Authority are on hand to help you at every step along the way, be it providing grants or consultative advice. Accreditation from government bodies like these can also be handy to gaining contacts and building referral quality, so do not be shy in finding out how they can help. Remember, these are the Singaporean people and agencies that make Singapore, well, Singapore.