The Difference That is Invent Singapore
November 8, 2009 by Guest Contributor
This was written by Guest Contributor, Abhinav Jain.
Never thought in just one day I’ll be learning things which will put me miles ahead to realize my dream of a greener world. 7 hours on a weekend, amazing talks and discussions by prominent speakers, a knowledge-hungry audience and diligent planning and effort of the organizers – that was all it took (plus some) for Invent 09 Singapore conference to become a prominent conference for budding entrepreneurs and inventors.
With the courtesy of SGEntrepreneurs (who selected me in one of their competitions), I managed to attend the conference on the beautiful morning of 24th October 09.
We all were welcomed by Ms Frieda Loh at Ngee Ann Kongsi auditorium. The conference started with the arrival of guest-of-honor Mr. Iswaran, followed by a welcome remark by Dr Ting Choon Meng and a speech by Mr Iswaran.
The first keynote speech on “Innovation through Collaboration” was delivered by Dr Gideon Tolkowsky, critiquing the do’s and don’t for a startup break. Everyone gathered for a panel discussion on “Challenges in Collaborative innovation” with panelists Dr Ting, Dr Tolkowsky and Mr Tan Kai Hoe and moderated by Prof. Desai.
The discussion carried on to the delicious lunch where everyone savoured the food for body and thoughts and interacted with each other. An after-lunch highlight was an intense round of workshops conducted by experts to choose from. The workshops to choose from were –
Workshop 1: “Innovation and Creativity” by Dr Kirpal Singh
Workshop 2: “Intellectual Property and branding” by Jörg Dietze and Ng Kim Tean
Workshop 3: “Fuel for your fire: How to fund your idea into success” by Pierre Hennes, Steven Fang and Mirza Saad
Workshop 4: “Developing profitable products in the medical devices and instruments sector” by Alexander Gosling and Dr Lim Ser Yong
I found myself excited on the content of workshop 3 and was blown away by the amount and quality of information the experts shared upon. It was an unequivocal opportunity for an aspiring entrepreneur like me and made me aware of many ingenious thoughts related to getting your idea kick started. After the workshops, everyone gathered to thank the sponsors and the speakers and a token of appreciation was presented to them by Prof Desai. Workshop officially ended with a closing speech of Dr Kirpal Singh, however the participants could be seen sticking around, mingling and networking for quite a while.
Unique Learning Journey
Overall, the kind of knowledge and learning I took back home was more then I could anticipate from a conference. Many times I might end up attending a conference or a seminar designed for very young entrepreneurs or contrary to it would end up in a talk meant for seasoned entrepreneurs. However, Invent Singapore 09 bridged the knowledge gap between having an idea and getting it onto feet, where I would find myself being lost.
Some Thoughts and Takeaways
I managed to jot down some of thoughts and information shared during the conference and hope some of the readers who were unable to attend the conference would find it equally interesting. The thoughts are compiled in form of phrases or punch lines and most of them reflect what the speakers had to say (however, there is always something ‘lost in translation’). My personal comments are preceded by “~~”. So, here we go,
Mr Iswaran is Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education, Singapore.
“In Singapore, the business or innovation is not based on ‘cost’ but in terms of ‘value’ it generate.” “One of the focus of the Govt and industry here is on alternative energy (solar and its R&D)”
Dr Gideon Tolkowsky
Dr Gideon Tolkowsky is currently the managing director of BME Capital Management, Ltd. He is also dubbed at one of the “elders of the Israeli VC tribe”.
“Exit valuation will increasingly hinge on proprietary IP” “Subsidies are Evil. A management should never justify a project on the basis of subsidies” “VCs don’t want to see a business plan with subsidy column in it. Never built a business plan over subsidies” “University should loosen up IP thing” “Business should not be done by professors. Academics should not start a company.” “A scientific/technical expert’s place is on scientific advisory board not on Board of Directors” “Same applies to industry experts, unless with senior management experience.” “BOD of over 5 members conveys weakness. Never go more then 5, it reflects weakness” “Don’t incubate a start-up for more than 1 year”
~~ This is a very interesting idea. We can see it as birth of a child. A baby remains in womb of his/her mother when s/he is quite vulnerable to the outside world. However, s/he has to come out and face the actual challenges. Need to start breathing, start standing and walking and eventually become capable of sustaining another life. If the society remains overprotective towards a start-up, then the company will never get grow. After sometime, it should be left out to struggle in an open market, for its own good.
“There is wide difference in academic and business culture, so what actually works!?, Well, a charismatic and ambitious entrepreneur with $50 k and a financial advisor, a bright friend in a university lab, and of course a skeptical spouse.” “World is full of inventions and ideas. Look for value creation aspect of it. Don’t try to invent things. Try to find space and create value for people and turn it into a business.” “It’s ok to take risk, it’s ok to fail and it’s ok to rise back again.” “Best way to validate your concept will work is to go out to the customers” “However, if your customer knows what he want, then your window is already closed.” “Luck is very important to cross the valley of death” “Once you file a patent, you get psychologically attached to it. So, don’t do it until things work out for it” “Think global, go global.” “Entrepreneur should have whole control of the company.” “Wise investor is the one who leave things in hands of the team.” “Function of money – Money is an effect, not a cause” “Ten VC commendments – (one of them) No news is bad news.”
“Ten Startup commandments”
- Team up with leaders.
- There is no such thing like overqualified. Hire the most senior person you can get.
- The most important #2 person in a starup is the CFO.
- If it takes a genius to run the company, change the business.
~~ I specially liked this one. Most of the time you’ll find yourself struck in an idea which needs a highly talented person. You’ll end up wasting a lot of time and effort finding one and probably may not be even successful. So, act wisely.
- Target your first product to the high-end of your market. Competition will bring you down.
- Manage R&D by deadlines, not by product specs. The best products are those designed by the tightest schedule.
- Don’t bother to develop a product with under 75% profit margin. And the argument that the cost of softwares is not zero.
- Time value of money is infinite. $1 today >> $2 tomorrow.
- Happiness is +ve cash flow. Strive to be happy.
- VCs can never tell whether your thing will work or not, they can only guide you.
~~ To add to his words, if you are not confident about your own product, then nobody else will be. Believe in yourself, believe in what you believe and the world will follow your belief.
Dr Ting Choon Meng
Dr Ting Choon Meng is a medical doctor, an inventor and an author. Dr Ting has served on the govt. board of advisors of Medtech Concept, EDB and currently sits on the panel of Spring Singapore’s Technology Enterprise and Commercialization Scheme. He founded the Fellowship of Inventors in April 2008.
“Proving your concept is very important” “Value added investor is the one that fall with you and is a good friend in times and listen to you. The entrepreneur’s life tend to get very lonely sometimes.” “Don’t muzzle an ox who ploughs for you.” “Learn to lock down the idea. When you get an idea, scribble it down and it’s your homework and first step to systematize your company.” “What carries forward is your mental state.” “How far you can go matters.” “Let yourself know how to read trends. That will put you three steps ahead.” “Plan IP strategy. It’s more important than the patent itself.”
Mr Tan Kai Hoe
Mr Tan Kai Hoe is deputy chief executive of SPRING Singapore and his current portfolio includes driving SPRING’s efforts in innovation ans entrepreneurship, spearheading the development of technology innovative enterprises, and overseeing SPRING’s quality and standards initiatives.
“Govt. look for inventors which are technically sound and have shown passion to form a product out of it.” “Find yourself a mentor who can lead you to the destination.” “You need to form a company to get money from the govt. It just takes $300 to setup a company and around half an hour time.”
Prof Desai is a Professor of Information Systems Practice at the School of Information Systems, Singapore Management University and is the Director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“In a start-up your best assets walk out every evening.”
Dave is a member with Fellowship of Inventors and could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Hire highly skilled people.” “It’s all about raising the right amount of money.” “Why companies fail: Lack of experience, Misaligned expectations, Poor Business model, Poor Management, Unrealistic Values, Founder issues, Under financing”
Mr. Pierre Hennes
Mr Pierre Hennes is co-founder and partner of Upstream Ventures. He also serves as Managing Director of Extream Ventures Pte. Ltd., a new Singapore-based early-stage VC firm funded in part by the Singapore Government’s National Research Foundation.
“VC are looking for 30~35% gain as returns.” “VC is not like applying to many universities. Pick one and make relations with them” “Once the company reaches $3-5 M, bring in new team.” “Never go blind on VCs. It’s all about relationships and references. Network and get to know people.” “Check out Singapore VCs Association”
Mr Steven Fang
Mr Steven Fang founded CordLife Singapore in 2001, and negotiated the merger with Cytomatrix in 2003 which led to the establishment of CyGenics which was later renamed as CordLife.
“Don’t tend to wait for best product to come out of your R&D” “Get money by licensing and renting your technology” “Rule of ½ for start-ups (Ion, Wharton School): Take ½ the revenue, Multiply cost by 2, Multiply time by 2.” “Most angel investors are looking for 5% to 25% stake in the business” “Some involve securities – either common stock or preffered stocks.” “How to go for an angel investor: (1) Assemble an advisory board. (2) Business plan itself should define the reason for financing. (3) How capital will be spent and the time table for going public or seeking VC funding.” “Most important of all, take your time in forming a relationship with an angel. Get to know him.” “Raise money when you don’t need the money.”
About the Author
I was taken over by entrepreneurial fever many years ago. Born in a business family, I grew up seeing business happening around. My father and my uncle were my first teachers teaching me business ethics, development and procedures. My love for technology drove me all the way from Bachelors in Chemical Engineering to Masters by research at National University of Singapore in microfabrication and Lab-on-chip technology. I’m currently working towards realizing a unique wind energy turbine for distributed electricity generation. A recreational jogger and a free-spirit traveler, I like interacting to people driven by their passion and who want to bring a change in society. I can be reached at email@example.com.
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