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Singapore and the startup world according to Dr. Alex Lin

Zafar Anjum | March 26, 2014
Singapore, as a startup hotspot, has strengths and weaknesses, says Dr. Alex Lin, head of Singapore’s Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd (IIPL) in this exclusive interview. We are, in a sense, losing our edge, he says. But despair not as Dr. Lin has some magic number in his mind that will help create a very vibrant tech ecosystem in Singapore. What is that magic number and how Dr. Lin and his team are going to achieve success?

Dr Alex Lin

Dr. Alex Lin, Head, Singapore's Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd (IIPL)

Dr. Alex Lin is a veteran in the startups and technology scene and recently he was appointed to head Singapore's Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd (IIPL). He came on board on 1 December 2013 to serve this wholly-owned subsidiary of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore's (IDA) which invests in growth-stage infocomm startups.

Managing more than US$200 million worth of funds, Infocomm Investments invests alongside leading venture capitalists in growth-stage infocomm enterprises.

Dr. Lin, who works closely with IDA's Executive Deputy Chairman, Steve Leonard, has the important responsibility to strengthen the tech startups ecosystem in Singapore.

A trained engineer who obtained his Electrical & Computer Engineering degree at University of Wisconsin (Madison) and Doctorate at Stanford University, he is active in community service, especially in the entrepreneurship development space.  He is an active member of Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE), and is an ACE grant review panelist.

For the past ten years, Dr. Lin has held a variety of roles in which he actively built companies, mentored entrepreneurs, invested in startups and worked closely with Singapore universities promoting creation of rapid-prototyping capabilities and incubators.

In this freewheeling interview, Dr. Lin talks to Computerworld Singapore's Zafar Anjum and discusses his own journey as an enterpreneur and startup consultant and his plans for IIPL in Singapore and beyond (edited excerpts):

Would you like to start with a little background on yourself? What you have been doing so far, and how did you come into this position?

Dr. Alex Lin: Basically I'm trained as an electrical and computer engineer. During that time (when he was a student), it was the hottest career. Apparently not anymore - things change.

One of the characteristics of being an engineer is that you do engineering job for a short while before you move on to something else. So, I went on to the computer industry, before moving on to sales, and then logistics. The reason I went to logistics was because, while I was doing computer sales, I realised that the thing that killed the industry was that you were not able to expand because for logistics (business), somebody would buy and you had to deliver. That was the major weakness for most of the computer manufacturers in Singapore, including companies like HP. So that was the reason why I went to logistics industry - to really understand that. I was in FedEx and I spent quite a lot of time building the Asia Pacific business.

At the same time, I looked into how the computer system is being used. FedEx is one of the companies that really deployed a lot of IT in its own business, although it's a logistics company. But it spends a lot of money, and you have a lot of mainframes down there. Eventually, I moved back to the computer industry. I went back to HP and started an Internet business unit. That was during the dot com boom, and we were trying to figure out what we should do.


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