Singapore's startup ecosystem

October 06, 2019 •

4 min reading

Singapore Startup Ecosystem: An Entrepreneurs' Paradise?

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The Death Valley Curve. The raging gulf between a promising young startup and successful viability on the market. It takes a whole lot to take a solid business idea, flesh it out into practicable form, supply the funding and manpower, generate interest, and stay the distance to make a return. A feat that can be made or broken by the environment in which the idea emerges from its cocoon as a product or service.

Singapore: where entrepreneurial dreams come true

When you think of Singapore, you may think of the skyscrapers jostling for the skyline in clean, sweeping curves. Or statement light shows that illuminate the night and demand attention. But it seems the Lion City’s cityscape and entertainment prowess aren’t the only things striving for new heights.

Singapore harbors a thriving startup ecosystem, home to Block71, the iconic tech ecosystem builder and global business connector, centerpiece of a dynamic landscape marked by big ambitions. Quite the backdrop for the recently greenlighted EHL Campus (Singapore), set to welcome its first cohort of Bachelor students in September 2021.


According to a 2017 report by US-based Startup Genome, Singapore has overtaken tech mecca Silicon Valley as the world’s number one for startup talent.

Various facilitating factors have enabled its rise.

  • Geographically speaking, Singapore is strategically positioned as an entry point into the Asia-Pacific region. Its port lends itself as a hub of trade and logistics.
  • As a small country with limited natural resources, its economic growth depends on innovative macroeconomic approaches, so the will is there to tap into dormant potential.
  • It has strong research institutions and a reputation for ease of starting businesses. Intellectual property is respected and the rule of law transparent.
  • Not to mention livability: the clean, efficient city has one up over say Shanghai or Bangkok.

Singapore Startup Ecosystem: where all systems go to facilitate business ventures

The Singaporean government explicitly backs entrepreneurship and it walks the walk, as well as talks the talk. Its startup-friendly policies include subsidies and a range of incubation schemes – the National Research Foundation’s Early Stage Venture Fund, for instance, catalyzes the formation of funds to invest into startups.

The Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 Plan has lined up SPD 19 billion for investment in R&D over four years, while the Tax Exemption Scheme for new startup companies, introduced in 2005 and to be tweaked as of 2020, currently offers 75% exemption on the first SPD 100,000 of chargeable income and a further 50% exemption on the next SPD 100,000.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry runs an agency dedicated to helping the nation’s enterprises grow and building trust in Singapore products and services: Enterprise Singapore. Earlier this year, the agency announced the appointment of an additional 17 Accredited Mentor Partners (AMPs) to its Startup SG Founder scheme, bringing the total number of AMPs to 45. These partners, the embodiment of private sector participation, scour applications for uniqueness of business concept, feasibility of business model, strength of management team and potential market value, before rewarding those who are successful with advice, learning programs and networking contacts. Startup SG Founder provides mentorship and startup capital grants, with Enterprise Singapore promising SGD 3 to match every SDG 1 raised by entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile the country’s Economic Development Board runs the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA), pursuing three pillars: an innovators’ academy, innovation launchpads and partnership forums. The alliance maintains connections with major innovation hubs around the world and government-supported landing pads in established markets such as Germany, Australia, Japan and Korea, and negotiates bilateral funding agreements with willing counterparts to support co-innovation between local startups and SMEs.

In terms of the human resources required by startups, Singapore’s excellent education facilities encourage students to explore their entrepreneurial potential. The NUS Overseas College, Singapore, for example, sends promising students to Silicon Valley to soak up the startup atmosphere and mentality, with a view to returning home enriched and raring to go. This is complemented by Singapore’s liberal approach to welcoming skilled professionals, executives and entrepreneurs from abroad.

Game on.

With the prerequisites seemingly in abundance, may the games commence! No startup paradise would be complete without arenas in which budding entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas and battle it out for support and cash prizes.

Singapore is no exception: Slush Singapore (South-East Asia’s premier startup launchpad), Startup Elevate (part of TECHXLR8) and SLINGSHOT all take place here. The latter, self-proclaimed as Asia’s most exciting deep tech startup competition, is powered by Startup SG and boasts prizes totaling over USD 1 million.

This is exactly the kind of competitive atmosphere that both demands new talent and lures in would-be students. Exciting times ahead for EHL in Singapore

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