Why It Matters

Catching up with Silicon Valley

While Silicon Valley in the United States may still hold the crown as the tech hub to set up shop in, Singapore has an edge over it in one important area: attracting talent.

A recent survey by US-based organisation Startup Genome, which covered 10,000 start-ups and 300 partner companies worldwide, placed Singapore first in attracting start-up talent. This is due to ease of access to quality talent, the lower cost of hiring software engineers and the generous government subsidies offered to start-ups.

This is a promising sign for the Republic as this is the first step towards fostering more local firms that hold the promise of becoming huge, global tech names. Attracting the right kind of talent builds the base for rapid, future entrepreneurial growth. It shows that Singapore has what it takes to develop the next big tech company because it has the manpower.

Singapore is one of the countries with the infrastructure to lead in new tech areas such as fintech and insurtech. By attracting the right kinds of talent early and quickly enough, local companies can jump into new areas of growth and corner the market before it gets saturated.

But that is not enough. It is also important to maintain the momentum in growing the company.

Start-ups need to remain creative and innovative to continue disrupting the market, which local ones seem to struggle with doing.

The report also noted that local software engineers' annual salaries are low compared with the global average: US$35,000 (S$49,000) against US$49,000.

We might run into another case of brain drain, where our brightest tech minds may be tempted to head to more established tech firms overseas for higher-paying jobs.

But there are still many areas where Singapore start-ups can improve.

Perhaps it might spur local firms to catch up on the four other areas surveyed where Silicon Valley still came in tops: performance, funding, market reach and start-up experience.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'Catching up with Silicon Valley'. Print Edition | Subscribe