Tech circle cheers EntrePass tweaks

The Manpower Ministry said that Spring Singapore is expected to be a co-administrator of the EntrePass scheme.
The Manpower Ministry said that Spring Singapore is expected to be a co-administrator of the EntrePass scheme.PHOTO: ST FILE

Changes to work pass scheme set to attract talent, ease entry of foreign entrepreneurs

Moves to revise the entry and renewal criteria for the EntrePass work pass scheme later this year will make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to set up businesses here.

The full details are not out yet, but one key change outlined in Parliament earlier this month includes removing the requirement for applicants to have a paid-up capital of at least $50,000 in their start-ups.

The local tech community has cheered the move.

Mr Jamie Camidge, who runs the muru-D accelerator programme, said six out of eight of the start-ups in muru-D's second cohort hail from other parts of South-east Asia.

"Singapore has a lot going for it. But to really establish itself as the Silicon Valley of the region, we need to attract talent from those economies that have network connections," he added.

Although most of the entrepreneurs he has worked with want to stay on in Singapore after they graduate from the accelerator, the requirement to have $50,000 in invested capital had been a barrier for many. "It's often just as hard to raise $50,000 as it is to raise $200,000. It takes time. Most good investment rounds should cover an 18-month runway to de-risk significantly."

CASTING THE NET WIDE

Singapore has a lot going for it. But to really establish itself as the Silicon Valley of the region, we need to attract talent from those economies that have network connections.

MR JAMIE CAMIDGE, who runs the muru-D accelerator programme.

Other revisions to the EntrePass involve extending the validity of each EntrePass from one year to two years after the first renewal, and "broadening the evaluation criteria for global start-up founders with an established track record".

Spring Singapore, which is expected to be a co-administrator of the EntrePass scheme alongside the Manpower Ministry, told The Straits Times that the criteria will include "outstanding achievements in key areas of expertise and good track records of investing in, and contributing to, growth of successful businesses".

Some in the community are also anxious to learn how carefully the evaluations will be done. One suggestion was for the Government to deploy private sector resources to do the job, perhaps using a panel of experienced venture capitalists.

Mr Eugene Wong, founder of Sirius Venture Capital, said: "Because we look at start-ups every day, we can tell... if this entrepreneur is genuine or not, (if he) can make it or not."

And work still needs to be done to make sure foreign entrepreneurs are made aware of the new opportunities here. Mr Wong said: "The key now is, who do we market this to? A hub is (only) as good as the talent it can attract."

Meanwhile, Mr Saify Akhtar, Singaporean co-founder of Hafta, which seeks to revolutionise the way organisations capture and report key dimensions of a person's personality and their performance, hopes that his Malaysian wife and co-founder will be able to qualify for an EntrePass. He said: "We're based in Singapore because it's one of the best places to expand from. (We) don't have a lot of background in running high-growth tech companies, so we wanted to be in a place where we could get a lot of support at our fingertips."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'Tech circle cheers EntrePass tweaks'. Print Edition | Subscribe