BBC News - Singapore pushes ‘entrepreneurial nation’
Singapore pushes ‘entrepreneurial nation’By Saira Syed Business reporter, BBC News, SingaporeCan Singapore overcome cultural barriers and spur entrepreneurship?
The team at Jobs Bolega, a start-up from India, is hoping to transform the way workers find jobs in developing countries.
Jobs Bolega, which means “Jobs will now talk”, is aimed at people in the lower-income brackets who may not have access to the internet, but have a mobile phone.
"Using mobile voice technology, essentially we are getting employers and employees in a network like LinkedIn to get them a job," says Krishanu Dutta, a founding member of the team.
"We are creating a voice resume (CV) for them."
Krishanu and his team have come to Singapore as part of an accelerator program for start-ups from around Asia to develop their business ideas.
Jobs Bolega, and the other start-up teams from around the region, have 100 days in which they receive mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and specialists, after which they will pitch to investors.The team at Jobs Bolega hopes to create mobile “voice resumes” for low-income workers looking for jobs
The programme is run by Singapore-based Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI) in a partnership with a subsidiary of one of the region’s biggest telecommunications companies, SingTel.
"I see Singapore as the technology and start-up capital of South East Asia, not unlike the US where you recruit from around the world and get them to come into Silicon Valley," says Wong Meng Weng, who helped to start JFDI, taking inspiration from the likes of TechStars and Y Combinator in the US.'Entrepreneurial nation'
There is a growing ecosystem to support entrepreneurship in Singapore, which gives it its hub position in the region. A lot of it has to do with the infrastructure available here, the business-friendly environment and an active push by the government to remove regulatory barriers.
In 2003, one of the recommendations a government economic review committee made was to make Singapore an “entrepreneurial nation willing to take risks to create fresh businesses”.
Ease of doing business ranking
2 Hong Kong SAR
3 New Zealand
4 United States
7 United Kingdom
8 Korea, Republic
Source: World Bank 2012
Less than 10 years later, Singapore ranks number one in the world for ease of doing business and number four for starting a business, according to the World Bank.
Universities and polytechnics now have entrepreneurship programs, as well their own incubators, and private players such as Founders Institute are seeing the opportunity to mentor young people starting out in new businesses.
Angel investors and venture capital funds alike are noticing start-ups coming out of the region.
It is considered a gateway to South East Asia, being a smaller market of five million people which investors use as a place to park their money but then invest in much bigger markets in the region such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.'No right answer'
But Ron Mahabir, founder of Asia Cleantech Capital, says the entrepreneurial landscape still needs time to develop, and resources alone are not enough.
His company invests in and develops clean technology projects in the region. It’s a sector the government is eager to support.
Asia Cleantech worked with government agencies to bring the first electric vehicles to Singapore.
"While the government has done a great job of loans and grant programmes, culturally it’s very difficult to push entrepreneurship very quickly," he says.Hugh Mason Chief Executive of JFDI
The emphasis traditionally here is on conceptual learning, and being smart sometimes weighs against entrepreneurship”
One of the reasons for that, he says, is that in Asia failure is just not acceptable yet.
"In California, if you fail that’s not necessarily a bad thing," says Ron, who moved to Asia from the US to explore clean energy opportunities.
"But in Asia if you fail, it’s tough to turn around from that."
Hugh Mason, chief executive of JFDI, agrees that fear discourages young people from the inherent risks involved in going it alone in business to the point where most won’t even try.
"The emphasis traditionally here is on conceptual learning, and being smart sometimes weighs against entrepreneurship," he says.
"You’re taught in school, it’s all about getting the right answer - well, in early stage business there is no right answer."Local heroes
There is a move towards changing that, and a growing number of people in South East Asia are willing to take on that uncertainty and high-risk environment.
"There are people right next door who have said to their parents: ‘I’m going to disappoint you. I’m not going to be a doctor, I’m going to go start my own company,’" says Meng, pointing to the JFDI workspace, or the "jungle" as they appropriately call it.One of the founders of a Singapore-based incubator says the region needs its own success stories
Ask the aspiring entrepreneurs who they look to for inspiration and they name the usual suspects: Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and other Silicon Valley stalwarts.
But some say what they really need are success stories from this region to emulate.
While there have been successful “exits” by local companies who have sold their businesses to bigger international players, there are few with the kind of star power that would get people to take the leap.
"Once the heroes do appear, and it’s only a matter of time before they do, the stories will change, the greed will kick in and everybody will know that you can do a Facebook in Singapore,” says Meng.
Perhaps one of those heroes will come from this room.
Is Singapore’s scholar system outdated? | SingaporeScene - Yahoo!
With the world, particularly Singapore, having undergone drastic political and technological changes, is the scholar …
By Seah Chiang Nee
It was business as usual for a city which is used to being led by military chiefs or scholars of whatever discipline. The latest, Rear Admiral (NS) Chew Men Long became head of the Public Utilities Board (PUB).
Few ministers in Singapore are non-scholars, and many hail from foreign Ivy League universities. At the top are President’s Scholars.
The institution of selecting the academic brightest to administer Singapore was introduced and fine-tuned into a sort of sacred cow by former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Lee was an admirer of China’s imperial exam system used by emperors to have “the brightest” to be administrators and magistrates to help run the vast country.
In Singapore, the system had worked well for decades. In one year, there were 12 former scholars in a 19-member Cabinet.
But with the world, particularly Singapore, having undergone drastic political and technological changes, is the scholar system outdated?
Can the ancient Chinese way of appointing leaders still have a role in building and running a modern world city?
A practice under fire
So when former Rear Admiral Chew was appointed the PUB chief, what had been a traditional matter of unconcern started raising some hackles.
"What, another military man? Where are the professional engineers?" asked writer gunese. "I think floods are best left to engineers to solve rather than an elite army-man."
A major flaw of the system has been “mismatched” scholars who are from a totally different discipline doing a crucially important leadership task that he had never been trained for.
Like putting round pegs in square holes! The recent MRT disaster was an example.
Eight years ago, the government employed known retailer Saw Phaik Hwa to become its CEO, bypassing people with strong public transport and engineering backgrounds.
Saw was headhunted because the authorities thought she could rake in profit, rather than for her ability to serve rail commuters.Temasek case
When she appointed a military officer in 2007, one critic wrote: “It is bad enough when we have an engineer with no fund management background running our US$100bil national wealth fund.
"Now, we learn of a career soldier (former defence chief Ng Yat Chung) being hired by Ho to be its Portfolio Management managing director."
Ng has just been appointed as the new CEO of Neptune Orient Line.
The history of Temasek, and several infrastructure state boards and ministries is peppered with names of ex-armed forces commanders, all scholars, for a good reason.
There is a history behind it. The system’s architect, ex-PM Lee believes that academic excellence is the best tangible assessment of human intelligence and leadership potential. If you are intelligent, you can shine in any work or position after some training.
Will Lee’s successors eradicate the scholarship system for something else? If it is left to the markets, then it is sunk.
To some Singaporeans, there are few common features between running the military and large-scale world investments; they consider it a “mismatch” of tasks and talents.
Increasingly, the new global economy requires innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship more than straight As that show up in exam grades.
Secondly, with large-scale immigration, Singapore employers seem to opt for lower-trained employees rather than high fliers and post-graduates.
I have several nieces and nephews who are working on the strength of their general degrees and do not mention their Master’s degrees.
On many occasions when they applied for a job with the higher degrees, the boss would say: “Sorry, we don’t need it. You are over-qualified.”
It meant they were doubtful if the employee would stay long in the company and would move as soon as he or she got a higher posting. A recent published survey backs the argument that people are losing faith in higher education.
The number of Singaporeans (aged between 16 and 65 years) who had no intention to pursue further education has reached three-in-ten last year up from a fifth in 2009.
But judging from public perception, the love for scholars will not disappear. From teachers to political leaders, the public here want them highly educated.
Ill-educated candidates will continue to lose out. It looks like this sacred cow will still be around for a while.
A former Reuters correspondent and newspaper editor, the writer is now a freelance columnist writing on general trends in Singapore. This post first appeared on his blog www.littlespeck.com on 14 January 2012.
Infographic: Google Goes Wild With Android Market Stats | TechCrunch
Google’s been celebrating their recent Android Market milestone with a string of discounted (and awesome) apps, but really — what’s a celebration without an infographic? Thankfully, Google has come through on that front with a slew of stats about the Android Market and the people who use it.
For example, despite Android being the most widely used smartphone OS in the United States, Americans are actually only the fourth most active app downloaders in the world. South Korea takes the top spot in this category, with Hong Kong and Taiwan coming in second and third respectively.
What’s more, the most popular time to download apps is 9PM on a Sunday, which certainly makes sense to me. After all, what better way to get pumped for a new week than to find apps that help kill time at work? Google also confirms that games are the most downloaded apps, although Android users don’t seem to be particularly big sports fans.
There’s a lot more to dig into, so take a few seconds and peruse — you know you’re dying to find out how many keystrokes people have collectively saved using SwiftKey.
Hitwise: Singaporeans Spend The Most Time On Facebook Per Session | TechCrunch
Hitwise just published a new study examining how much time people living in different countries spend on Facebook. Singaporeans actually spend the longest on the social network, with an average of 38 minutes and 46 seconds per session, while people living in Brazil spend less than half that with an average of 18 minutes and 19 seconds per Facebook session for August 2011.
Singapore is followed by New Zealand (30 mins 31 sec); Australia (26 mins 27 sec); the UK (25 mins 33 sec); and the US (20 mins 46 sec). Brazil actually has the highest percentage of Internet visits going to social sites (18.9% of Internet usage) with 43% of all social networking visits in Brazil going to Google-owned Orkut. In contrast, the UK has the lowest market share of visits going to social networks with 12.2% of visits.
Facebook was the most visited Social Networking site in the US in August 2011 receiving 91% of visits among the sites followed by Twitter with 1.92% of visits. Tagged.com ranked 3rd for the first time, passing MySpace.com with 1.04% of US Internet visits.
The fastest growing country in terms of visits is India, which saw an an increase in market share of 88% in August 2011 compared to August 2010. The US also experienced a market share increase from Facebook of 5% year on year.
It’s no surprise that Facebook is seeing major growth internationally and in the U.S. Marc Zuckerberg just revealed that as many as 500 million members have used used Facebook in a given day, which is a milestone for the network. And the social network saw a record number of visitors in July.
LOL. Making the news for all the wrong reasons.
Why Else Do You Think IT Scholars Want To Break Bond So Badly?
I think the article speaks for itself.
eSports in Singapore: Is it up to you or the higher powers? - GXBlog
It took one local team from Singapore to encourage many in the same country to rise up and carry the flag that says “Support eSports in Singapore because we’re ready”. Yes, I’m talking about Scythe.SG who has done us proud in the DotA 2 Championships by attaining third in a heated battle involving the world’s top 16 teams. This achievement has garnered countless blog posts and newspaper articles that either condone or condemn eSports in Singapore, or rather just videogames in general. A news article I picked up somewhere, right after the DotA 2 Championship ended, was about videogame violence and they used my name as the hypothetical antagonist. It got slightly personal for me but I shall not mention what it was exactly so as to avoid immortalizing the story.
That said, I was initially going to write something that would side those who are in favour of supporting eSports in Singapore, but I feel there is a bigger picture that we are not seeing. Now this is where I will be as honest and as forthcoming as I can. In this respect, I know I might be offending some people, I might get a little personal and I can be wrong, which I will readily stand corrected. So here goes:
Is it in us to Support Local Talent?
Alright, the first controversial question but one that’s extremely crucial to the cause. I will simply present a few questions as food for thought. What is the first thing that comes to mind if the idea of Singapore creating its own brand of cars was mentioned? Are you willing to purchase one like how we see many Proton Sagas and Wiras being purchased in our neighbouring country? Or would we stick to our dream BMWs just because we feel a German brand is better? I’m not trying to be racist, I’m simply provoking thoughts.
How often do we support our own local soccer leagues, the S-League? Personally, I’ll admit that I don’t actually watch it and call me hypocrite, but I highly doubt the WHOLE nation is actively supporting the games, and encouraging these sports men for their training and hardwork.
In retrospect, an eSports team called Scythe.SG has worked hard to fight their way into third place in the DotA 2 Championships. To drive my point, funding their trip, and taking time off wasn’t granted easily. They had to suck it up and make it happen out of their own pockets and life commitments. Now that’s determination. It would simply be sad if they do not feel that the country is behind them. In a worst case scenario here’s what can happen with that lack of support and I pray that it never happens: The team does not see a need to want to represent Singapore, since the country itself wasn’t there to support them and to cheer for their efforts. You are losing local talents right there.
It’s as good as destroying the dreams and passion of a sports athlete. If you think sports athletes are those who perspire out in the field or in the court all day, you’re wrong. You don’t see professional pool players breaking a sweat in their games, do you? Furthermore it’s torture to be sitting in a chair all day, practicing battle strategies and what not. It is as intensive as a chess player and don’t get me started on what chess players go through.
Coming back to my point, what is our mindset in regards to local talent. Would we buy a local gaming magazine just because it is made in Singapore? Would we buy a game by a local developer just to encourage them? Or are we going to shoot down all their dreams and hopes and eventually destroy our own local gaming industry?
So you bring this up to the Higher Powers.
I’m not sure if this is going to be safe to say, but the Youth Olympic Games did not turn out as awesome as planned or as we hoped. I applaud the effort for coming up with YOG, but the reports of it being overspent kind of tells you stuff I refuse to mention on this public blog.
My point being, we need to band together as gamers and take the initiative to start something out. If you truly have passion for eSports, then put that passion into action. Start being autonomous. There are many avenues to do this and there are probably quite a number of gaming organisational bodies ready. Stop asking the government because their stand on eSports from what I have seen, isn’t clear and the last thing we need is someone who’s not clear about what they want.
I’m also going to take a bold step and say that if it has anything to do about money, suck it up and make it happen. Many dreams and success stories were about people who created something out of nothing. So if you feel you have nothing and want to create something, you’re on the right path.
Violence in gaming? What is this I Don’t Even…
I highly doubt that violence was a spawn of videogames. I’m very sure that even in ancient times, violence existed. In ancient Rome, the Colosseum was an arena where real violence existed. I’m talking about real life limb dismemberment and such. Kids watched that during those times and it was meant to remind them of what will happen to them if they become a prisoner or law break of Rome.
Fastforward to a not so distant past, the television was blamed for inducing violence into kids. Then it was computer games and today, it is still computer games. I hate to burst your bubble, but in future it is going to be something else. Metal music was once blamed for undesirable behaviour and today we have clubs to blame for even more undesirable behaviour. Do you see a pattern? It is an unstoppable force of semantic change. It appears that we as humans find it easier to blame on something that we do not understand, in this case videogames. My advice to parents is to discipline your kid from young. I grew up with a mother who would cane me with a wooden rod like there was no tomorrow. She can vouch for me that I’ve never ever laid a finger on her other than to hug as her my mum. All that, coming from someone who plays videogames as his job.
If I break it down to you, there is a BIG DIFFERENCE in firing a rifle in a videogame and firing an actual firearm. I’ve been through National Service or what many would call the millitary, and I’ll admit sometimes I get a little cautious about carrying my rifle around. Just because I play videogames, that does not automatically make me an elite sniper. If that were the case, the guys from this First-Person-Shooter clan known as “BF Nut” would be commandos by now.
Whew, now that all this is off my chest, I’m off to interview Scythe.SG. Feel free to drop comments, feedback, arguments and disagreements onto the Facebook wall. Cheers.
Finally, someone who knows what he is talking about.
Four outstanding persons get President’s Scholarships - Channel NewsAsia
SINGAPORE: Four young individuals were recognised as this year’s President’s Scholars. They received their awards from President S R Nathan at the Istana on Friday evening.
The scholars - Xiao Yifei , Aaron Koh, Nigel Fong and Yoong Ren Yan - were chosen because they excelled not just academically but demonstrated their commitment to public service as well.
Speaking at the award ceremony, President Nathan said the President’s Scholarships is one main avenue to build up a pool of people with the right calibre who could in future become public sector leaders.
"As a new generation, you will have different values and perspectives from my generation. You will face different circumstances and challenges, but the same passion to stand up for Singapore, to serve our people and do your best for our nation, must still underpin all that you do as future leaders of Singapore," he told the scholars.
"In all you do, always have the interest of our people at heart and never forget to show compassion to those who are less fortunate than you. For our society to remain strong and cohesive, we need public officers who listen and appreciate the problems faced by ordinary citizens and believe in the need to give back to society."
19-year-old Yifei came to Singapore from China when she was four years old.
Though she carries a dual citizenship, the former Raffles Institution student said she has always considered herself a Singaporean and will have no issues renouncing her Chinese citizenship when she reaches 21.
If she chooses to keep her Chinese citizenship, her scholarship will be terminated.
Yifei spent a large part of her school life volunteering and organising charity events such as a camp for disadvantaged children to boost their confidence.
She said: “They didn’t really have any role models in their lives. As JC students, even we could inspire kids who are in primary school. I felt that a lot more can be done to help them rise from circumstances and help these children fulfil their potential.”
18-year-old Ren Yan of Raffles Institution also enjoyed the time spent with children as a volunteer. He said interacting with autistic students at St Andrew’s Autism Centre was the most inspiring.
"It’s a very different education system for them….the fact they are in an autistic school, not a mainstream school. That’s a big difference in itself. And the challenges that both they and their teachers face. And of course that leads me to wonder whether it’s possible to develop policies in order to better serve their needs," said Ren Yan.
For 19-year-old Nigel Fong, the President’s Scholarship is an opportunity for him to contribute, particularly on the medical front.
He said: “I would hope to make a difference in the field of palliative care, because that is a very new field that many countries around the world also have difficulty coping. When it comes to policy, also, it is quite tricky. How do you help this group of people?”
For 18-year-old Aaron Koh, the former Hwa Chong Institution student has used his spare time to help distribute food to the less needy. He was also awarded the Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship.
So she gets a PSC scholarship before renouncing her Chinese citizenship. But by the time she hits 22, she would have completed her undergraduate degree (most Singaporeans finish in 3 years) and she can decide to not renounce Chinese citizenship. Even if they revoke her scholarship, it wouldn’t matter, she would have gotten a degree and be elsewhere by then. Wow, talk about making a huge bet on “foreign talent.” The government is obviously trying to show that they are welcoming to foreign nationals and that foreign nationals can also attain the highest achievements that make them on par with outstanding Singaporeans.
Others might argue that similar Singaporean scholars can also choose to not return to Singapore. But the thing is that they have proper roots in Singapore. Breaking bond and not returning is a more complicated issue than that. If she has always considered herself Singaporean, she would have given up her Chinese citizenship long ago. Something smells fishy here. The fact that she still retains her Chinese citizenship means that it is possible for her to leave to China and settle easily, making bond breaking a less complex issue for her since she has roots elsewhere. Potential bond breaker, if you ask me. Keep an eye on this one.
Elaine Ee: The Singapore rat race starts at age 7
Something big happens in Singapore around this time of year.
It’s not the Great Singapore Sale, or National Day and its multiple peripheral celebrations, but for parents with a child turning seven, it’s time to join the mad rush to secure a primary school place.
Having been through this twice myself, I can personally say that the whole experience can get slightly crazy.
The process starts in July and drags for about two months. Parents are first told where on the priority list of their desired school their child falls and then given a few days to apply for a place.
A quota of places is allocated to each priority group, or “phase.” If the number of children jostling for places in your child’s “phase” exceeds the school’s quota, the school draws lots and parents start praying.
If your child doesn’t get a place, he or she gets bumped way down the list, and, if all else fails, is assigned to the nearest school that has room left.
This whole experience is nerve-racking.
Much has already been said in the press recently about the lengths parents — wealthy financiers and celebrities included — will go to just to give their child a leg up.
Volunteering with a school, which means giving 40 hours of work; moving to a school’s zone, which for many top schools, means fancy neighborhoods; and politicking their way onto the school board, are some of the things parents do to claw their way up that priority list and hopefully past the competition.
So why this mass anxiety, after all we are talking about primary school (seven- to 12-year olds) here, not Harvard.
The reasons are plentiful: our “kiasu” culture, status consciousness, over-emphasis on elite education and the fact that in Singapore, education is completely dominated by our national education system.
Singapore’s Compulsory Education Act makes it mandatory for children to receive their primary education at a Ministry of Education, or MOE-approved, school. After primary school, education options start to free up and students are left to pursue their education in any way they wish from their first year of secondary.
An increasing number of homeschoolers — many with parents who hold strong convictions or whose kids are not benefiting from the MOE system — are emerging among secondary school students.
Beyond secondary school, options fan out, with MOE-related junior colleges, polytechnics, institutes of technical education as well as myriad other private institutions for students to choose from, such as the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Shatec Institutes.
But because the MOE system is so pervasive and ingrained, and because of the Compulsory Education Act, it’s often MOE’s way or the highway, so the pressure is on to get it right, from the start.
Once our kids are in the all-consuming system, the path to doing well involves jumping through a series of well-defined hoops called assessments and exams. Miss one and play catch up.
School examinations channel our children onto more or less set paths at relatively early ages; and while there are more paths to be channeled into, switching (particularly up) is difficult and rare.
In 2009, for example, 38 percent of students in Secondary One had to enroll in the five-year O-level program because they did not qualify for the regular four-year program, and about 30 percent of those dropped out.
That percentage has remained about the same for the last 10 years.
The crux really is: “good” primary schools bear affiliations to “good” secondary schools.
Translation: Get your child into the right primary school and hopefully that will mean better performance at key exams, especially the dreaded Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE); this leads to admission into the right secondary school, which should lead to the right junior college or polytechnic, and that in turn to the right university, the right job, the right career and therefore eternal “success” and happiness.
So prevalent is this mainstream path to success in Singapore that — even if we acknowledge it is blinkered and excluding in many ways — it holds many hostage.
These blinkered notions means the desirable, or “big brand” primary schools are ridiculously oversubscribed, while lesser recognized neighborhood schools can’t fill their classes.
A friend who refuses to succumb to the rat race and deliberately enrolled her son in a low-key neighborhood school reports that there are barely 30 students in his class.
A typical primary class in a big name school still holds around 40 students, despite MOE officially reducing primary class sizes to 30 in 2005.
That must be a relief to my friend and, I can imagine, to the teacher. But my friend has to contend with the prejudice that, in Singapore’s focus on helping the good get ever better, the best teachers and resources are believed to be allocated to the better schools and that her son is therefore “losing out.”
This also begs the question on what makes a teacher good? Aren’t teachers who invest in students who need help as valuable as those who groom President’s Scholars?
So until there is a meaningful alternative to mainstream primary school education or more varied paths to success in Singapore’s education system and what constitutes “success,” come this time every year we will see this madness resurface again.
Bond Breaker Made Good
This was an interesting article. I had stumbled upon this guy’s latest venture’s website before this article but I did not know it was run by a Singaporean. Risque or not, it’s quite a brilliant idea. And it got him really rich, so kudos to him for his success.
It is obvious that this man is a pretty smart guy and that Singapore lost one of its best minds when he broke his bond and did not return. Singapore will continue to lose its brightest minds if the government and its various scholarship boards continue to retain their narrow-minded, old-fashioned and strict authoritarian policies.
In my opinion, he made the right choice in breaking the bond and not returning to a place which did not appreciate his talents and abilities. Look at him now, he is successful. If he had gone back, his career opportunities would have been limited and he would not have the success he would have today simply because Singapore is too bureaucratic for any fledging entrepreneur. He would not have been able to flourish given such a restrictive climate in Singapore and he would definitely not have been happy being in the government service.
Personally, I would not see his inability to return to Singapore to be a punishment. While I would miss my family and the food, exchaging the rest for a successful and happy career, one that includes me acheiving my dreams, is a fair enough trade.
Edit: It is very clear that The Straits Times (ST) are trying to find another scapegoat to divert attention from the Patrick Tan saga. To quote the article, his father held “key management positions at a major property firm here for three decades before he retired in 2004.” They are, in fact, trying to highlight this to show that normal PSC scholars who are not white horses also receive preferential treatment and that he is an even worse citizen for breaking his bond and not serving his NS. Why else would ST be digging up such an old issue?