Musings on Singapore…

In the states right now freezing and lamenting the current Cali weather. Would be one thing if I was up skiing or something but I am not. Oh well.

Good to see Nokia coming out swinging a bit. I think all the stand alone GPS guys are going to be taking another one on the chin but in the specialty market I don’t think the phone version of GPS works well. On my motorcycle for instance I would not use an iPhone, Android or a Nokia. They are not waterproof, have small buttons and I don’t want the phone ringing while riding. I picked up a Garmin for my bike and am pretty happy with it.

Those interested in developer activity in SEA should check out this list put forth by e27. Should come in quite handy!

There is a lot going on in Singapore if you are in the tech/developer/media space. I have been thinking about it a lot and decided it was time to put my thoughts out there for people to digest. Right now Singapore is my part time home. I have been in Asia close to 10 years now working in tech, consulting, hospitality, and in general just moving around experiencing the coolest region on the planet. I have lived in Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore. I have had extended stays working in Japan, China, Australia and India plus I have traveled to every part of Asia but Burma. Southeast Asia continues to be my favorite area though but the problem is most of SEA does not provide great employment choices.

For those interested there is a Barcamp happening in Burma BTW.

For those not from Singapore I don’t think many people strive to work in Singapore. It usually just happens. Most of the good expat gigs are in Hong Kong or Singapore. Those with families tend to choose Singapore and the younger singles or couples tend to choose Hong Kong. In my opinion Hong Kong is not what it used to be as China slowly bleeds it out and fills in the harbor.

Singapore is probably growing in its appeal though given the tax rates, the ease of setting up a business and the current activity in the startup/investment community. Over the last six months Singapore is getting a lot of attention as a place for startups, incubators, funds and as a regional Asia hub for all things web/tech related.

Little things make the difference, such as HackerspaceSG – of which I am a member and absolutely dig the space. I think this is the first hackerspace in SEA.

Singapore as a city/state/government has thrown huge resources into getting companies/people/investors to want to build their business dreams in Singapore. Singapore is a great place to work. From firsthand experience I can tell you that getting my employment pass and getting my government paperwork sorted was a dream. The easiest country in Asia I have dealt with. The country is connected and the internet is fine but I get a little tired of the censorship and blocked sites. Such is life. There are a lot of incentives for companies to be in Singapore and recently the government has put together some great packages for investors/incubators.

All this is great but I have always felt that startups getting funded too early and too easily makes for lazy companies. I won’t name any names but Singapore is littered with zombie startups and companies who move REAL slow. I blame the funding models for the most part and the education/entitlement system but I digress.

Just look at the activity as of late:

New Incubation Scheme: . Some commentary on that here.

Then out of the blue Joi Ito and team decide Singapore is interesting – this could be the game changer in the sense that Joi attracts a certain crowd – a certain following. Read about Neoteny to get a sense of what I mean. Can also read more about Ito and team here.

With Joi Ito now comes others – All this attention is great for Singapore and may be the secret sauce that added to the government soup could be just the meal everyone is looking for but let me offer up a contrarian view of sorts.

If Singapore could, I am sure they would put a lid over their little island and control the weather. Imagine Christmas on Orchard Road with actual snow falling and you get my drift. One cannot create an environment – they just happen.

People tend to think that the startup world or ecosystem is simply created by incubators/funding sources/spaces/entrepreneurs/coders/designers and the government climate to allow all of these people to do what they do best with as little red-tape and corruption as possible. Makes sense and in this regard let’s give Singapore an A+. Having worked and lived in other places in Asia they have done an amazing job and this makes Singapore hugely attractive.

The problem is the rest of the environment that excites/challenges/inspires people is lifestyle. This is where Singapore is lacking and I am not sure they can fix it. Most of the people around the world who are involved in startups tend to be people living an alternative lifestyle. That is just impossible in Singapore unless you plan on going to jail. Others tend to go unfunded and live cheap so they can build exactly what they want and how they want without the fear of KPI police or early stage investors calling the shots. First off – you can’t live cheap in Singapore and I have seen incubators/government with PPT slides on KPIs. The bohemian or “starving artist” lifestyle is damn near impossible unless you have parents to bunk with.

Singapore will nail the business/funding side of this equation but not sure they can fix the “lifestyle” side but maybe Joi and team can help:

Neoteny (pronounced /niːˈɒtɨniː/), also called juvenilization, is the retention, by adults in a species, of traits previously seen only in juveniles…

7 thoughts on “Musings on Singapore…

  1. I think that you are perhaps you are little bit harsh on SG, but I don't disagree with the fact that while the government is very good at providing the resourcing for startups, the environment to generate the creative sparks is generally lacking. That being said, if I was going to enter into start up mode Singapore is definitely more attractive than its neighbours, despite the higher costs (and internet censorship)


  2. I am not that harsh…For sure though when it comes to being a hub for making things happen Singapore is not that bad but when it comes to having fun – that is another story altogether!


  3. I guess it all depends on the definition of “fun”. If its the nightlife, drinking, clubbing, there's lots happening here. Supper food as well.. But I share the sentiment Smitty, you can't find the weed in this island, or knowing how to chill and relax is not found in a regular Singaporean… sigh…on a side note, i found a sweet little biker chick who loves ink and has ink! 😀 You two should meet!!!


  4. another reason that startup”s struggle in Singapore is the impatient shortsighted ROI metric. KPI's is important in the govt. sector & high risk does not jive with that. To achieve a balance is difficult and the private sector has to assume real risk and innovation which is missing presently.


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