Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Forget about the next big thing Singapore!

There is a big call for Singaporeans to be Entrepreneurs. The government set aside a lot of money to promote Entrepreneurship. Millions have be spent to run Start-Up Competitions (Even when grand Prize is $15,000) In most of these competitions, venue rental far exceeds the prizes paid out.

Besides the prize money, there are also start-up grants available. Youths can submit business plans and obtain $50,000 seed funding from various sources as well.

Some more funding info

So it is not hard to do a start-up in Singapore, however, on closer examination on the people managing the funds and investments, you can clearly realize that some of these people are life-long administrators, academics, or simply put -- "Not Entrepreneurs"

To Singapore, Entrepreneurship follows some form of formula. Have a good business plan, fudge some numbers, put some data and present it in a beautiful presentation which hits their funding criteria -- EUREKA -- you get funded.

So why do I not think that an company funded this way will be the next BIG thing like Facebook, Google or even anything Global?


Firstly, in my opinion, we need to face the facts, there are not many well know Global Companies that comes from Singapore. For sure, we have SIA, Singtel, and various other large companies that had ventured out of our shores, but they are government linked companies, with plenty of funding and support. When they fail, news will just go quiet and no one will know about it.

What about the Creative and the OSIM? Oh, I don't think they are doing too well.


From a view of these "Next big thing" as Disruptive technologies, I feel that the government and the administrators of the grants and funding, are still rather risk adverse. The Singapore education system will produce many great talents that can support sustaining technologies. So many of these start-ups copy an idea from other businesses, start-up competitions, and the ones that usually win in the competition is never a new idea. And looking at it, the ones that get funded are also not new ideas.

I do see a lot of product enhancements, creating products that competes in the same markets as other products and providing some new interesting features, and charging a premium price for the enhancements. I could see many of these companies succeed, but it is difficult to see them become big as most of the time, the local market is very small.

I feel that the support from Singaporeans and the local brand, "Made in Singapore" does not sell as there is no much of a National Support. I could see that even if Creative MP3 players are made in Singapore, many people will still buy an iPod over it. In many other countries however, their citizens do support local brands, my Korean friends will buy more Samsung / LG before they were popular, similarly, Taiwanese friends will prefer Asus products.

Beside not having a local market advantage, the government also do not support local companies, as I've seen many Singaporean brand of paints and various other products not used by the government in renovations and maintenance works. The government still will go through "tender" and pick the lowest cost for the massive amounts of infrastructure works. The government however has set up IE Singapore to help Singaporean brands go overseas, but without contacts there, and without a home base to build the brand, how are these brands going to succeed outside?

Most importantly, like major corporations, the government and funders will apply sustaining technology knowledge

A typical company will view a disruptive change as a technological one and apply the same methods, and apply technology change to suit know markets. But successful companies that have successfully commercialized disruptive technology see the challenge as a marketing one, to build or find a market for the new products and services.

It is hard to get funding from your traditional funders if there is no existing market, however, that is why there is a big risk, which may yield big rewards, but with management guidelines and KPIs setup, there may not be much room to fund them and channel funds in the right way, rather, funds will be channeled in the known way, and compete in the known markets.

Disruptive technologies also tend to be simpler, cheaper and more reliable than established technologies, however, it is difficult with the "Kiasu-mentality" NOT to over the first products with functionality and features.

There are no "best strategies" and the "best business plans" rarely work out as working businesses. It is totally up to the entrepreneurs to overcome obstacles and adapt their companies and plot their own paths to success.

Forget about the next big thing Singapore, its time to support our local start-ups and collaborate together for our chance to success. Running a business is not like our education system where we compete to get into the limited places in the various institutions, rather, its a community that we should build to support each other, and help one another to reach our goals.

-- Iron Bowl

1 comment:

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