5 Productive days spent in tropical Singapore with the best Boardman2020 team!
If Hong Kong is a fast growing SaaS unicorn, Singapore is like a determinant & wealth family-run business with a long run view: The People’s Action Party has won every election since 1959. Singapore is kind of a semi-authorial regime with the dominance of the government, coupled with a low level of press freedom and civil liberties.
Singapore has been identified as a tax heaven – one Nokia background entrepreneur described it like ”Switzerland with wealthier climate”. The unemployment rate sits around 1-2 %, with background checking being very valuable.
We visited several co-working places and met several investors and entrepreneurs. We discovered that massive tax advantages, grants and loans are available for seed stage startups. Founding a company in Singapore takes 15 min, setting up legal facilities in one week, but governmental permits are required in some areas like fintech and B-to-C.
Systematic work during the past decade by the government has lead the number of startups in Singapore to increase to up to 10 000 (even more than in Silicon Valley!) but this does not (yet) correlate with Unicorns or with Series A funding.
However, a lot of seed stage deals get very well funding and the VC’s we met, indicated that in the next coming years also the Series A will grow. Four times compared to Silicon Valley, over $ 218 bln is coming from China from seed to Series C. Some VC’s have estimated that $40 bln of that will be invested in the SEA over the next 10 years.
We learnt that the crowdfunding market is not very active, mainly because of the strict financial and B-to-C regulations.
A lot of opportunities are developing for ASEA countries out of Singapore. A good example is that startups are creating their own banking system in Southeast Asia and that the mobile phone is becoming a bank in Asia. Everyone has a mobile phone (but not bank accounts or credit cards) so they are getting loans by using social graphing.
The speed of change is so rapid while the market is still quite immature, leading us to a conclusion that the next time we might visit, Singapore will be different again.
// Päivi Kangasmäki
CEO & Founder of BackedByCFO and Boardman2020 board member.