More leeway for global start-ups to operate here

Criteria widen for EntrePass applications, $50k paid-up capital requirement removed

A government scheme to attract global start-ups has been enhanced to make it even easier for them to establish operations here.

The initiative, which kicks in today, involves broadening the criteria for start-ups that want to apply for the EntrePass scheme.

Applicants have been assessed on four innovation criteria, such as whether they have financing from a government-recognised venture capital fund or a collaboration with a Singapore research institute.

Under the newly added criteria, start-ups can also be assessed on factors such as their entrepreneurial and investment track records, business networks and key achievements in their areas of expertise.

The Government has also removed a requirement for the start-up applicants to have a minimum $50,000 paid-up capital.

This is to "recognise the non-monetary contributions of global start-up talent such as expertise and relevance to industries", said a joint statement yesterday from from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), Spring Singapore and Startup SG.

The validity period of each EntrePass will be extended to two years (from one year) after the first renewal, to provide more certainty for global entrepreneurs in scaling up their businesses.

These enhancements to the scheme were first announced during MTI's Committee of Supply debate in March.

Mr Kentwell Kwok, a co-founder of start-up Smartly, which is developing a financial robo-advisory platform, is familiar with EntrePass. His two partners, both Estonians, were on the scheme when they first came here to start Smartly.

The enhancements will certainly help to draw more foreign entrepreneurs here, Mr Kwok said, which may mean more competition for him, but is overall a good thing.

"In the fintech community, our goal is not to compete with each other but to make the whole financial industry more equitable, make consumers question the incumbents. Having more players means more awareness about fintech and roboadvisers, which only helps us."

Besides Spring, the enhanced EntrePass scheme will include two new partner agencies - the Infocomm Media Development Authority and the National Research Foundation, supported by SGInnovate.

These agencies will work with MOM to evaluate the applications in their respective sectors.

Senior Minister of State for MTI Koh Poh Koon said in the statement: "These enhancements are part of the Government's efforts to develop a vibrant landscape that is attractive to global start-up talent, while promoting our local start-ups to establish and build innovative businesses, thus creating new industry sectors and job opportunities for Singaporeans."

Mr Edwin Chow, Spring's group director for industry and enterprise and innovation and start-ups, added: "Singapore's efforts in grooming start-ups have resulted in an attractive ecosystem for global entrepreneurs.

"They will complement our local founders, with their skillsets and understanding of foreign market opportunities, to build stronger and fast-growing start-ups."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2017, with the headline 'More leeway for global start-ups to operate here'. Print Edition | Subscribe