Falling rents good for raising start-ups

With industrial rents in Singapore expected to dip in the coming year on the back of a bearish global economic outlook, it is perhaps an opportunity for the statutory boards that manage such properties to work with other branches of the Government and government-funded entities to make that space available to start-ups at a reduced rent.

Since Creative Technologies, there have been few Singaporean start-ups that have been able to capture the imagination of the people. The closest we have today would be gaming company Razer, which, unfortunately, probably enjoys a better reputation and brand recognition overseas than it does locally.

While enjoying considerable government support, start-ups in Singapore are constrained by working within a very small local market and paying very high rents for tiny offices which can sometimes eat up all the profit or funds raised.

Space constraints can often hinder a start-up from taking on more staff and growing, or even staying in Singapore. This has led a number to cash out and sell their companies to larger entities long before they can get on the path to becoming global household names.

There are already excellent initiatives at Block 71 and Block 79 in Ayer Rajah Crescent, which demonstrate that the model of opening up factory space for start-ups to use works.

But if entrepreneurship is to be one of the driving forces behind Singapore's new economy, then similar initiatives should be supported in other parts of Singapore and expanded to include non-tech-related start-ups as well.

Such communities, clustered across the country, may even attract established companies from overseas to set up nearby to tap the innovation and energy such places inevitably create.

Tong Hsien-Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2016, with the headline 'Falling rents good for raising start-ups'. Print Edition | Subscribe