DID S’PORE’S EFFORTS PAY OFF?

Over time, government programs have “resulted in the vibrant startup ecosystem we see today, attracting participation from local, regional and global players,” said Mr. Joongshik Wang, head of ASEAN. at EY-Parthenon, the global strategy consulting arm. from EY.

Nonetheless, experts interviewed by TODAY expressed differing opinions on what they consider to be the most important success criteria for a startup ecosystem, and how Singapore fared based on these factors.

Mr. Ku Kay Mok, senior partner at venture capital firm Gobi Partners, said the “clearest” and “most objective” indicator of success for a startup ecosystem is the amount of investment it makes. can attract.

“Because people vote with their money. So whether you have (really) the best talent, the best infrastructure, whatever it is, they will vote with their money,” he said.

And while huge economies such as the United States and China would naturally attract the bulk of global funding, he said Singapore had “captured the lion’s share of venture capital funding in the Asian region. of the Southeast”.

For Dr Wong of NUS, an indicator of the dynamism of a start-up ecosystem is the “autonomous and virtuous (circle) of flow of entrepreneurial talent and capital in the system”.

These are successful entrepreneurs becoming investors or mentors to prepare the next generation of startups, or key employees of a generation of successful scale-ups who leave to become entrepreneurs themselves or help developing new early-stage startups, he said. “Scale-ups” refer to startups that have a stable business model and have proven their viability.

Based on this metric, Dr Wong said Singapore is “making good progress”, but he also pointed out that the virtuous circle is not yet on the scale of what can be seen in Silicon Valley in the United States. United States.

SUCCESS STORIES

In early October, Forbes reported that FinAccel had become Singapore’s latest unicorn after raising nearly US$140 million in a Series D funding round that valued the company at US$1.66 billion.

FinAccel is the parent company of the Indonesian platform Kredivo, buy now, pay later. Although not a household name among Singaporeans, many are aware of other startups that have achieved unicorn status. These include delivery company Ninja Van, super app Grab and Sea, which owns e-commerce site Shopee.

A unicorn status, however, should not be confused with stability or financial viability.

For example, Grab is still chasing profitability while Shopee has downsized as its parent company seeks to cut operational costs. TODAY previously reported that the lackluster economic climate has brought forward the reckoning for disruptive companies, which face pressure to show profitability.

Citing the macroeconomic environment, experts told TODAY that these developments in no way reflect negatively on Singapore’s startup ecosystem. Mr. Gerard Lim, Partner at Singapore-based Accelerator XS APAC, spoke about the prospect of a potential impending recession and rising interest rates around the world.

And while it’s unfortunate that some employees had to be laid off, Dr. Wong said it was a little silver lining for the startup ecosystem.

“When some of the bigger tech companies are cutting back (their workforce), that can be good in the sense that they’re releasing some of that technical talent (into the market),” Dr. Wong said.

The experiences and know-how of these ex-employees can then benefit the smaller startups where they are then hired.

Apart from startups that have successfully penetrated regional markets, Singapore is also home to those with strong global reach such as PatSnap, a unicorn company with over 10,000 customers in over 40 countries.

PatSnap – a portmanteau of “patent” and “snap” – uses technology based on artificial intelligence and machine learning to sift through billions of datasets to produce what it calls “the intelligence of the world”. ‘innovation’ for its business customers. According to its website, its customers include Walt Disney, Tesla and Dyson.

ATTRACTING ENTREPRENEURS FROM ABROAD

Over the years, Singapore has managed to attract foreign entrepreneurs to settle here, including those from different countries who have decided to work together in the Republic to build their startups – ESG acting as a matchmaker.

Fairmart Technologies, for example, was created just under two years ago by two men from Ukraine and Slovenia.

“The EntrePass visa program allowed my co-founder and I to move here during the pandemic and start a business with minimal hassle,” said company CEO Jan Gasparic, who is Slovenian.

He said he and his business partner Daniil Moskovtsov, who is Ukrainian, met in Singapore as part of the ESG-backed incubation program Entrepreneur First.

“We chose Singapore because it has a more vibrant community, better infrastructure and a supportive government,” said Mr Gasparic, who came to Singapore from Hong Kong while Mr Moskovtsov had been in New Zealand for three years. before coming to Singapore.