Reflecting on Singapore Startup Ecosystem in 2014 - Happy National Day!

After digesting (partly) the ICM Masterplan  and various ideas suggested for the Startup Ecosystem, these are my thoughts below. I will try to keep this brief. If you have questions about any of it, please email me (it's been a long week). This post will be updated along the way (beta).

As of August 9, 2014, this is my assessment of the Singapore Startup Ecosystem (as per Founder Institute (1 to 5), there is no "3" rating) ;).

Founder Training - 2 
Founder Culture - 2 
Labour Training - 2
Labour Culture - 2
Mentor Quality (SEA) - 4
Mentor Quality (US) - 2
Infrastructure - 4
Regulation/Policies - 4
Market Size (Platform/Distribution) - 2
Monetization (Payments) - 4
Capital - 2
Exit (IPO) - 1
Exit (M&A) - 2
Media - 2

What are the 3 major issues/discussion points facing startups in the Singapore Startup Ecosystem?

1. Culture
Culture takes time to change. Make tech sexy again for students through education and media outreach. Need a coherent long term effort by all stakeholders in the ecosystem. 

2. Market Expansion
Choosing the right markets to expand to with expertise to navigate Southeast Asia and the USA like we do Orchard Road.

3. Government's continuing role
Government efforts need to stay its course (it is a marathon not a sprint) - be humble/flexible and listen, move out of the way if need be. 

What do I propose?

The establishment of one unified entity (with full autonomy - private sector led, public sector supported) to direct all innovation driven enterprise (IDE) efforts, funding and activities.
  • With the one unified entity (privately led with government support), government resources will be allocated as quickly and efficiently as possible. 
  • Collapse all IDE grants, initiatives, funding, subsidies under one roof. Rewire all government grants and funding systems.
  • A central resource for programs, education, travel subsidies for founders and mentors to and from target markets.

Why?

Great intention and a large budget. Too many cooks (spread too thin).

It is not working as best as we want it too. It can be improved. We can achieve (sorry if it is a bit cheesy).

Happy National Day!


- The End -

p.s. love to hear your thoughts, there are ways to fix the 1 & 2 ratings, if you want to know more or how email me.

Kickstarting Emerging Markets Startup Ecosystem Part 1 - Bandung/Jogja

It was my first time in Bandung and Yogyakarta (Jogja) Indonesia recently speaking and visiting startups, incubators and co-working spaces. I caught up with several Founder Institute Singapore graduates in Jogja (above) and dived deeper into the startup community and where their state of affairs are. Here are some findings and feedback on what I discovered.

Ecosystem report card (1-5, no 3): Jogja/Bandung

Founder Pool - 2 (getting better)
Labour Pool - 4 (strong in tech)
Training - 4 (strong technical training)
Culture - 2 (risk adverse, little coopetition)
Infrastructure - 2 (slow broadband speed infrastructure, low operational cost)
Regulation/Policies - 2 (some friction incorporating new companies)
Market Size - 4 (large domestic market)
Capital - 1 (early stages of risk capital coming on board)
Media - 1 (little to no media coverage celebrating startup heroes)  

Positives:
- 1 mobile operator backed accelerator program (Telcom). They run it both in Bandung and Jogja. Definitely a great initiative but not enough from what I hear, as they have certain criteria (telco related) before accepting applicants.
- A large density of Universities and Sekolah Teknik graduates who are technically trained. Strong technical talent pool which is well known for the last few decades.
- Low cost of living compared to other larger cities in Indonesia with much better traffic. Quality of life is better according to many.
- The community is hungry for knowledge, expertise and are gradually looking to be in business for themselves. Looking at product not services companies.

Negatives:
- Little to no risk capital.
- Little to no mentors. Jakarta mentors do come through, but not often enough.
- Crowd are shy and not open to critiques and discussion. Rarely share what they do or what they are thinking.
- Not bold enough to think they can do well outside Indonesia. Even in Indonesia, they don’t think of using Jakarta as a launching pad.
- Ideas are not refined, too insular, but I found a few great teams with great ambitions who hold back because of the realities of life and the ecosystem. No funding, hence need to go slow or bootstrap by doing client work.

Actionable Plan:
- Organize meet ups to discuss ideas (e.g. read Techcrunch, Hackernews, AngelList, producthunt.co) to exercise their thought process on how company/product visions are set.
- Bring more mentors to energize thinking/ideation process. In person or via online. e.g. an Ideation Weekend. Put the community online or on Qiscus/Slack for discussion and feedback.
- Startup a Jogja tech blog to keep track of activities. E.g. Jogjastartup.com
- Set up a Founders Guild to meet, discuss, and keep track of everyone’s progress. Include mentors and investors via an online platform (e.g. Qiscus/Slack). Founders sharing with founders.
- Setup a co-working spaces similar to Hubba in Thailand or Hideout in KL, only for technology startups and developers/designers work/contract for product startups.

I love emerging startup ecosystems, lots of potential especially Jogja and Bandung. Will be visiting more often and striking matches to ignite some crazy teams.