The latest Startup Genome report, which ranks startup ecosystems around the world, released a deluge of numbers, facts, and statistics. But what do they actually mean for entrepreneurs belonging to the cities involved?
In Singapore’s case, the report could validate an observation that has often been made about the country: While there is plenty of startup money from the government and private sector sloshing around, dealflow has not been as forthcoming.
So unless there is drastic improvement, Singapore’s innovation output, relative to its investments, will continue to underperform. Think of it as a major infrastructural project — perhaps a highway — that becomes underused and hence a massive waste of money.
PhewTick, the memorably-named mobile app that pays you to meet strangers, has become all the rage in Asia. Since its launch in June 2012, it has already amassed a remarkable 500,000 users from 50 countries.
Skeptics might say that the app sounds too good to be true. Users earn cash by scanning each other’s QR codes using the PhewTick app on iPhone or Android. They then play a cute mini-game which involves controlling a cat as it tries to capture fish containing a different amounts of points. Every 1,000 points earns the user about SGD1.53, which they can cash out via PayPal after they hit a SGD30 (USD23.50) threshold.
The app is designed to encourage serendipitous encounters between strangers and also people that already know one another. It’s possible for me to ‘phewtick’ with my colleagues again and again — all that’s stopping me from doing it every second is a 12-hour time lapse that is required between scans of the same person. Read more
The GameMaki team had a turbulent 2011, but their circumstances has improved. From left: Jesslyn, Keith, Damon, and Brenda. Photo: GameMaki.
Startups in Singapore are caught in a bind. While located in the heart of Asia, the city has a minuscule domestic market and is surrounded by countries with varying levels of internet adoption.
Developed economies like Japan and South Korea, while tech-savvy, pose language challenges. China, meanwhile, plays by its own set of rules. US and Europe aren’t a walk in the park either.
Nonetheless, Singapore-based startups aiming at developed markets do have several possible paths to pursue.
Gamemaki offers one blueprint. It looks like a Silicon Valley style startup on the surface. Its most visible product is a mobile social network where denizens earn points for completing fun, real-life challenges. Not exactly a certain money maker. Read more
Block 71 stands out with its fresh paint and newly installed glass panels, within a largely ageing industrial estate. Photo: Fang Shihan
Freshly painted bubblegum stripes sweep down the right hand corner of Block 71, while cartoons adorn the walls on the first floor. Color? Wall art? Creativity? These are things you do not usually see at the otherwise drab Ayer Rajah industrial estate.
But Block 71 is no ordinary building.
Rescued from the bulldozers by the Media Development Authority (MDA), which leased the seven-storey building from national industrial infrastructure developer JTC Corporation, it was relaunched in April 2011 as “Mediapolis Phase Zero”, an incubation centre and prototype of Mediapolis — the future media hub of Singapore.
Spanning an area of 19 hectares (about 26 football fields), Mediapolis is still largely under construction. But the transformation of the formerly sleepy area is already in the works. National broadcaster Mediacorp has already announced its move to Mediapolis by 2015, where they will occupy a 1.5 hectare complex while property management firm Ascendas announced in February last year the construction of a 10-storey building to be developed at a cost of SGD 60M (USD 49M).
Walking out from the newly-built One North subway station, to the mostly pallid Ayer Rajah industrial estate which at present remains home to a large number of small and medium enterprises, three food courts, a minimart, and one medical centre, one is reminded of how quickly industrial landscapes can change in a country that leaped from the third world to first in less than half a century. Read more
Minister-of-State Teo Ser Luck listens as students pitch their idea to him. Photo: Terence Lee
ACE, a private-public organization promoting entrepreneurship in Singapore, has unveiled recommendations for a structured entrepreneurial education program in schools. It will be implemented in secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics, and Institute of Technical Education (ITEs) colleges.
Broadly speaking, the new program, which will cost the government SGD15M (USD12.3M), combines theory with mentorship and hands-on experience. Internships will be a big part of it too.
The program will be implemented within 6 to 9 months’ time in nine secondary schools. These institutions were picked because they were either a part of YES! Schools, or already have entrepreneurial programs in place. The program will then be extended to junior colleges, polytechnics and ITEs later on. Read more
It turns out that Singapore was the top buyer of Threadless T-shirts last year, as far as cities go. And while Sydney has pipped Singapore for the top spot in 2012, the little red dot still makes up an outsized proportion of the company’s revenue.
So it’s unsurprising that Threadless, which crowdsources designs and turns them into T-shirts, is now seeking for partners in Singapore to better serve its customer base here.
During SGE’s exclusive interview with the team, which is currently in the country for a Threadless party (almost 2,000 revelers have RSVPed), we’ve learnt that they’re looking to partner brick and mortar retailers to distribute their shirts here. They’re also looking for on-demand printing services located in Singapore to improve the efficiency of T-shirt delivery. Read more
Fame has found 19-year-old student Gian Javelona. Soon after launching PUP Mobile Portal, the first mobile app for a school in the Philippines, he transformed from just another enthusiastic app developer, very common these days, into the latest talking point on national news.
The computer engineering management student appeared as a guest on the ABS-CBN News Channel, the CNN of the Philippines, to talk about his app. TV5, a major television channel in the country, has interviewed him as well. His achievement brought great pride to his college, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. A banner even hangs on the entry gate just outside Gian’s campus, proclaiming, “we are proud of you.”
Score one for the country’s tech startup scene. Ever since a bevy of funds, expertise, events, and passion were injected into the ecosystem this year, Filipino entrepreneurs have increasingly been put into the national spotlight. The media attention will certainly help galvanize a nation that is trying to establish itself as a rising tech startup powerhouse (read: The Philippine startup scene: Asia’s best kept secret?). Read more
Platformed creativity. Creative commerce. The maker movement. These words could very well become mainstream vernacular in the near future, not just in the West, but also in Asia.
Several digital trends are converging to make that happen. E-commerce and smartphone adoption are on the rise, and tastes in Asia are becoming more sophisticated. More consumers are demanding not just for cheap but also well-designed goods. Businesses are starting to recognize the need for effective branding, and are willing to hire designers to spruce up their image.
Just as important is the fact that creative professionals are warming up to the idea of using the Internet as an avenue to grow their businesses. E-commerce platforms, created by startups that sense a growing need for better tools, have become more sophisticated, social, and user-friendly.
Call it the rise of platformed creativity. Think of a flea market where upstart fashion designers go to sell their creations. Or an indie art gallery in a colonial shophouse. Now migrate all of these online. That’s platformed creativity at its core — aggregating creative products online, and then selling it to an audience. Read more
ChatWork has plenty of fans in Japan. With 100,000 signups, mostly from the country, and 10,000 added every month, the app has been adopted by companies and organizations like Zoho, Kyoto University, and Kuai Hospital. It also partnered with Japanese telco KDDI to create a variant of its app for large enterprises.
Interestingly, at a recent networking event in Singapore where I talked to ChatWork reps and an employee from another Japanese company, the employee proclaimed that he is a ChatWork user. Small world indeed. Read more
Singapore startup Vibease, which makes smartphone-enabled smart vibrators, has earned a top 4 spot at the Dublin Web Summit, a prominent technology conference in Europe. It was selected from over 1,000 entries from around the world, 100 of which were invited to pitch at the event.
The Dublin Web Summit had prominent tech luminaries like Paul Sciarra of Pinterest, Niklas Zennström of Skype, and Mike McCue of Flipboard as speakers. The overall winner, SmartThings, which turns everyday objects into smart objects, won EUR100,000 (USD130,000) in cash. The other finalists were: Tictail, a platform for users to start online stores, and Ovelin, which is like Guitar Hero for real guitars.
Since Vibease tickled audiences with its quirky pitch at Startups in Asia Singapore in February this year, it has gotten a female spokesperson to help market the product and raised funding from 3 angel investors in Singapore. The startup has also refined its prototype and business model. It’s now calling for preorders.