If you’re an entrepreneur looking for a fast Internet and a vibrant start-up scene, look no further than Singapore
The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Information Technology Report rated Singapore first in the world on its Network Readiness Index, noting that the city-state has one of the best pro-business environments in the world and a government that has established a clear digital strategy to spur innovation. According to Akamai’s State of the Internet Report, the nation continues to come in first for fastest connection speed, and it also tops McKinsey’s Connectedness Index based on inflows and outflows of goods, services, finance, talent and data.
“The general Singaporean is a person that owns one to two smartphones, definitely has 4G, and back at home has fibre Internet because it's cheap and readily available,” explains Samson Leo, the co-founder of Xfers, a Singapore-based fintech start-up that makes online transactions and peer-to-peer payments safer, cheaper and more reliable. The company has received funding from Silicon Valley and Asia-based angel investors including Eduardo Saverin, one of the co-founders of Facebook who is now based in Singapore.
It’s no surprise, then, that Singapore is host to a multitude of technology and start-up business events—including Tech in Asia, innovfest unbound, Echelon Asia Summit, the 2016 CSX Asia Pacific Conference on cybersecurity, the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Singapore International Robotics Expo. It even hosts Inside 3D Printing Singapore, the world’s largest professional 3D printing event. At these meetings, regional start-ups and others like them raise funding, seek inspiration and acquire expertise.
This preponderance of tech shows is due to the wide array of resources available to event planners throughout their event’s lifecycles. Singapore’s seamless Wi-Fi coverage enables organisers to collect and analyse vast amounts of data to understand and engage attendees. And with its ImmersiveAV Suite that uses holographic projection technology, Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre serves as a main draw for event planners and tech industry insiders considering how to best showcase their innovations.
Singapore’s other notable start-up institutions include the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC), Asia’s first R&D center to develop technologies for remanufacturing, and Blk 71, a vibrant entrepreneur enclave, home to hundreds of tech start-ups, venture capitalists and incubators.
But Singapore’s commitment to tech entrepreneurs goes beyond just bandwidth and technology events. Its Smart Nation Initiative works with citizens and businesses to co-create a better future through tech-enabled solutions. Between 2008 and 2015, Singapore’s National Research Foundation invested S$41.3 million in 144 start-ups. In 2014, Singapore-based companies attracted an estimated total of $2.7 billion in venture capital funding, putting the nation well ahead of its Asian counterparts. To further foster innovation, the government sustains R&D spending at about 1% of GDP.
“We were able to interact with some of the bank personnel which normally at the start-up stage wouldn't entertain us,” says Leo. “But it was instrumental. We were better able to position our product.”
Singapore makes a clear effort to reduce many of the logistical barriers associated with starting a business, including minimizing time to incorporation. The government’s open data portal also gives start-ups access to data sets that make it easier to develop innovative ideas, such as Beeline, a mobile app that lets users crowdsource bus routes. If enough commuters ask for a new route, private bus operators make sure it is created. To date, more than 100 apps have been created using the open data portal.
From 2016 to 2020, Singapore plans to pump S$19 billion into scientific and technological research under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan. Through its comprehensive effort to leverage technology and promote digital transformation, Singapore stands poised to both expand its influence as a global innovation hub and reshape the Asian technology landscape in the coming decades.