Tips on how to benefit from Singapore's startup ecosystem (by Christopher Quek)
Christopher Quek19 Oct, 2017
BEAM recently conducted its first Entrepreneur Support Gathering event in Singapore, and many aspiring entrepreneurs asked for a list of resources available to them to help build their startups.
Based on my last seven years working as an ecosystem evangelist in Singapore, I have gathered a list of ten hacks that will help you get an edge in building your tech startup.
They cover a range of entrepreneurial-related news, from fundraising, entrepreneurial stories, startup-related topics and opinion articles by guest writers.
This is very useful to understand what is going on in the entrepreneurial scene.
Tip: Sign up for their daily enewsletters, or join their facebook groups to receive their posts.
It is important to plug into the community of entrepreneurs, as that is where connections are created. There are a number of gatherings that happen regularly with BEAM, Tech in Asia Community, Startup Grind, Technopreneur Circle, Blk71 Singapore and SG Innovate. Events are generally free (unless otherwise stated) but do register before attending!
Tip: If you are new to this, be open and join as many events as you can. It gives you a good exposure of what entrepreneurs are thinking. There are also sponsors to these events who offer freebies like cloud credits and nice beer and pizza to chill and mix around. Be open and share your business ideas. You will never know what type of advice you will receive.
Ever felt that your startup business model lacks the defensibility against competitors? Singapore tech startups are evolving into deep tech to overcome this. In essence, deep technologies are scientific-based inventions which can range from software data algorithms to medical hardware devices. IPI Singapore, a government agency, has built a consolidated database of curated deep technology IPs created by R&D institutions. Entrepreneurs are able to browse easily through the list of IPs and request IPI Singapore to link the creators of the IP to you. Furthermore, there are possible R&D grants available in the RIE2020 program to develop, commercialize and integrate these technologies into your startup.
Tip: Read my interview article with Dr Sze Tiam Lin, CEO of IPI Singapore, on how to benefit from the commercialization of IPs.
Being typical Singaporeans, some founders prefer having a structured program to equip themselves in growing their businesses.
For those who are still discovering a business model, or are relatively new to the startup scene, it is best to join an executive program to learn the basics of business modelling. BEAM has its own VentureStart program, and Platform E runs a year long IntensE entrepreneurial program.
If you have a good business idea and already have a founding team developing the product, it is beneficial to join an accelerator. There are a number of specialized industry vertical accelerators like UOB Finlab, Entrepreneur First, Airmaker, muru-D and Startupbootcamp Fintech.
Do note that competition is quite intense. Accelerators report an average of over 300 applications received for each cohort and only 6 to 10 are accepted.
Tip: Each program have their strengths and does not suit everyone. It is good to speak to graduates of the program and do some research before committing to a program.
You are no longer alone in this entrepreneur journey. Introducing the NEXT50 initiative, a pay-it-forward initiative to build the next generation of entrepreneurs. Meet 1-to-1 with over sixty mentors, absolutely free-of-charge! These mentors are startup founders, traditional businessmen, digital marketers, community builders, medical engineers, data scientists, fintech experts and more.
Tip: This is a very popular service, so having a good pitch deck will help pique mentors to meet you. View the video below to understand more.
It is essential that doing a tech startup that founders should be equipped with technical knowledge of programming like Go, Python, Data analytics and more. And there is a community of programming schools that does just that.
You may choose to attend paid part-time and full-time courses to help train you in the area of programming. Singapore citizens and PRs may also benefit from training subsidies.
Tip: Enjoy the free workshops where even non-techies can understand. It is a great starting point to pick up some tech skills. Most importantly, you must have a good positive attitude to learn in order to benefit fully from these programs.
But with intense competition for talent these days, you can't just post on job portals and pray for good quality programmers to come work for you, especially if you are a startup with limited technical knowledge and resources.
Enter the tech talent experts. If you know what specific skills you are after in a programmer, check out Hackertrail or IoTalents, HR platforms which determines the various technical skills of a programmer and helps get you suitable candidates based on their skillsets.
Or if you prefer to work with remote technical teams and lower your costs, there are Wonderlabs (Indonesian programmers), Momocentral (global mix) and Relote (programmers from Central and Eastern Europe), platforms to help you hire people remotely to handle your tech work.
It also never hurts to visit the Singapore-based programming schools (point 6) and meet their graduates during their demo days.
Tip: It is quite important to have a tech co-founder to help translate your requirements and ascertain the quality of the code done.
SPRING Singapore, a government agency, offers the SG Founder grant of S$30k if there is a S$10k co-matching amount. It is significantly less than the defunct S$150k iJAM.RELOAD grant, and a big bugbear is that you need to be a first-time entrepreneur.
But nevertheless, it is a helpful grant to get your startup moving.
There are over 17 Accredited Mentor Partners (AMP) who can administer the grant, including TRi5 Ventures that offers an addition $20k co-investment.
SPRING Singapore has a useful program called the SME Talent Program which helps subsidize 70% of the stipends of interns. Interns have to be from the institutions of higher learning. This is quite useful if you have skills to impart and are seeking interns for their creativity to boost your workforce.
Tip: ACE is the Approved-in-principle (AIP) for startups. Details can be found here.
There are a number of co-working spaces available in Singapore, with some offering free trials. This is quite useful if you are still in your early stages and do not wish to be committed to long-term rentals.
Do ping me if there are other good stuff and resources that you wish to share to startup entrepreneurs and I will update it.