S'pore has right conditions for start-ups: Forbes CEO

Mr Perlis, Forbes CEO, at the opening of the inaugural Forbes Under 30 Summit Asia yesterday.
Mr Perlis, Forbes CEO, at the opening of the inaugural Forbes Under 30 Summit Asia yesterday.PHOTO: FORBES MEDIA

Singapore is now the "Mecca for entrepreneurship", thanks to favourable government policies that have created an environment conducive to business start-ups.

Forbes chief executive Michael Perlis offered this description of the Republic's great strides in the field of start-ups yesterday at the inaugural Forbes Under 30 Summit Asia.

"This is a community that can have a great deal of Silicon Valley-like aspects. There are inhibitors - business costs can be high - but there are also extraordinary motivators," he told The Straits Times.

"There is a youthfulness and can-do attitude at the government level that is very motivational for starting businesses."

The Under 30 Summit Asia named and invited 300 Asia-Pacific entrepreneurs and innovators - including 24 from Singapore - aged under 30 to a forum held at The South Beach. It is part of Singapore's Smart Nation Innovations Week.

Minister of State for Education and Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary, a speaker at the forum's opening, noted that the start-up scene is "booming" in Singapore.

"Forty per cent of start-up acquisitions in Asia are here, which is incredible, given our size. There were 230 start-ups last year at Bash by Infocomm Investments, and 60 per cent of them are getting follow-up funding," Dr Puthucheary said, referring to Build Amazing Start-ups Here, a facility in one-north that provides business venues for start-ups at low rental rates.

Education also plays a key role, Dr Puthucheary added, as the Government works on exposing students to industry mentorship at an early stage.

All this is being done as Singapore seeks to reinvent itself into a smart economy with jobs and growth driven by innovations.

"Reinvention is a playbook that we know. We've done this again and again, whether it's (solving the constraints on) trade, oil, water, or moving our manufacturing to high-end manufacturing. We want to not just be pushed by the wind of change - we want to surf on that," Dr Puthucheary said.

For individual companies, innovation is just as important, Mr Perlis stressed.

"It's not all about being the next Facebook or e-commerce sensation. Technology is now the tool for all businesses, not just for tech companies," he said.

Forbes has been able to grow its website's unique views from around 10 million monthly to 40 million in five years via an army of paid online contributors who create and manage their own content across a wide range of areas.

"Traditional media companies need to wake up and smell the coffee. If you don't change and adjust, you might die off," Mr Perlis said.

The forum was a showcase of budding young entrepreneurs in the region. Among the Singaporeans were Mr Mohamed Abbas, co-founder of licensed moneylender rate comparison portal Onelyst, and Mr Tengku Syamil, co-founder of Skolafund, a crowdfunding platform for poor university students to raise tuition fees.

From Australia, CliniCloud co-founder Hon Weng Chong brought the firm's smartphone-connected digital medical kit which transfers a user's health data to medical service providers via cloud.

Given Singapore's ageing demographic, Dr Hon hopes his products - currently only sold in the United States - can come here soon to help improve the efficiency of medical services.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore has right conditions for start-ups: Forbes CEO'. Print Edition | Subscribe