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Startups in Singapore need to think big: Steve Leonard

Zafar Anjum | April 29, 2015
The startup ecosystem in Singapore is ahead of the curve but that is not a reason to be complacent. "We need to think bigger thoughts," said the executive deputy chairman, IDA Singapore, urging innovators in Singapore to aim to serve a bigger market.

Steve Leonard

Steve Leonard, executive deputy chairman, IDA Singapore, talking to mediapersons at the InnovFest Unbound

"For Singapore to be a global player in the startup ecosystem, we need to be rushing and sweating because others are catching up," said Steve Leonard, executive deputy chairman, IDA Singapore on Wednesday at the InnovFest Unbound, a two-day conference organized by NUS at Suntec Convention Centre in Singapore.

Leonard was discussing the growing startup ecosystems in the region and how Singapore could play the role of 'Gateway to Asia' for startups wishing to set up business in this region.

According to Leonard, the startup ecosystem in Singapore is ahead of the curve but that is not a reason to be complacent. "We need to think bigger thoughts," he said, urging innovators here to aim to serve a bigger market.

On the question of startup founders and staff not being paid adequately, Leonard said that startup founders and employees should go for more equity than pay, because in the West, founders are willing to 'work for peanuts'.

Another drawback of startups in Singapore is that they tend to be a little more hidebound to set ideas, and if they fail once, they think it is the end of the road for them. That is not the right approach to have, he said. According to him, startups need to recalibrate themselves and pivot to succeed.

In the same panel was Lily Chan, CEO of NUS Enterprise and Co-chairman of the conference. She pointed out that unlike in the West, VCs here don't pay well to the startup staff, which is not fair. Startup staff should be adequately compensated so that they could focus on their work.

She also advised VCs not to follow the herd. If a few VCs back a venture here, almost all other VCs too rush to support the same company. There are other startups too that might do well if properly guided and VCs should be on the look out for such companies too.

Commenting on the upsurge in startups in the region, Edgar Hardless, CEO of Singtel Innov8 said that he has been seeing a resurgence of innovative activities in the entire region and today Southeast Asia is one of the hottest areas in the world in terms of startup activity. Singapore has become the hub of entrepreneurship in SE Asia, he added.

 

 

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