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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?

One advantage that they had is that they were having the downturn. Because of the downturn, the start-ups were able to get formed. When people are out of job, it is easier to form startups. And because of the downturn, property prices were going down. They were given the opportunity - that gap - to build themselves up. If you compare it to Singapore, if anybody were to congregate in a certain place, all of a sudden the place gets hot; and property prices will go up. Silicon Valley took the opportunity, and it grew this way. I would say it established itself comfortably.

To London, to London 

And if we start moving overseas, say up and coming London, it's the same thing. But the key thing is that it requires a lot of government intervention.

Government pumps in a lot of money trying to hire people. They come up with schemes and try to attract foreigners there. I told my Incubatees to try and apply for it, and they got it. So the dilemma (for incubates) was whether to stay here or go there. I told them to just go and experiment, and see how it is. If you can't make it, at least you get to experience a different environment.

So, the thing is that there is a governmental push behind all these schemes. It will run into similar problems like property prices in London. The price in Central London, for example, is ridiculous. We want to track it because IIPL is looking at a London office. That is the situation and they are doing reasonably okay.

One of the very interesting phenomena is that the techie that fails in London, the manpower or talent gets absorbed by the government. The government hires them because they don't have the people.

Is it going to be a sustainable ecosystem? I'm not too sure because it appears to be too much of a government push. There's nothing wrong with government push, but you have to have the idea of government pushing it eventually to reach a certain stage of maturity so that the government can step back versus the government put money and absorb, versus a lot of company creation. I'm not saying they are not working but from the current trajectory, they will create a lot of buzz. How it will go, we will have to see about that.

Berlin is another hotpsot

Of course, in the European side because of the downturn, there are small little hotspots appearing like Berlin. Berlin has been a very creative space. Munich has been around for a while.

Ireland also has a lot of spots appearing. Property is cheaper and people are looking for jobs, and eventually they grow.


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