Heart of Singapore’s start-up ecosystem
In a leafy suburb in Ayer Rajah Industrial Estate sits Block 71. A nondescript flatted factory building, it is home to more than 100 start-ups, venture capital firms and tech incubators and an accelerator. They include Zimplistic which makes the world’s first automatic chapatti maker called Rotimatic; Joyful Frog Digital Incubator, Singapore’s first tech accelerator; Plug-in@Blk71, an incubator managed by NUS Enterprise; T-Ware, which makes a therapy jacket for autistic children; Ohanae which provides cloud security solutions; Flocations, a travel discovery site; and Daylight Studios, a mobile game developer.
But some of these companies may not be part of Block 71 this time next year. Some start-ups which have leased office space from the MDA may not have their three-year lease renewed when they expire in February. However, the MDA is giving six-month extension to help them find alternative space.
What is precious about Block 71?
At the place, investors, entrepreneurs, engineers and software developers are a stone’s throw from each other. Anyone who has a problem need only ask his neighbours for help. Investors can meet young innovative companies that they may want to fund. Budding entrepreneurs may find technical talent they can hire or with whom they can found new start-ups.
Bringing these people together are regular activities held there like investor pitching sessions, new web development techniques and talks by foreign tech experts who pass through Singapore.
When the current start-ups leave, they will miss out on the networking opportunities while new ones who take over their office space will not benefit from their experience.
Venture capitalist Chak Kong Soon managing partner of Stream Global, hopes the MDA sees the situation “as an opportunity to celebrate the success of Block 71 and at the same time, hear suggestions to diffuse the unhappiness”.
Other investors like Amit Anand of local venture capital firm Jungle Ventures said the key to solving this situation is for the authorities to understand that “the job is only half done”.
If the government sees it from this light, then he believes that the right solution will follow, he added.
MDA wants to rotate new start-ups into Block 71 so that they also benefit from low rents. But it has a hard task in 2014 trying to find a solution without breaking up the start-up ecosystem.