In 2003, one of the recommendations a government economic committee made was to make Singapore an “entrepreneurial nation,” willing to take risks to create fresh businesses”. Today, Singapore is considered the easiest place to do business in the world, according to the World Bank. This has a lot to do with the infrastructure available there, the business-friendly environment and an active push by the government to remove regulatory barriers. Universities and polytechnics now have entrepreneurship programs, as well their own incubators, and private players such as Founders Institute are seeing the opportunity to mentor young people starting out in new businesses. Singapore is considered a gateway to South East Asia, being a smaller market of five million people which investors use as a place to park their money but then invest in much bigger markets in the region such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Though its title of easiest place in the world to do business would disagree, some say Singapore’s entrepreneurial landscape still needs time to develop. “While the government has done a great job of loans and grant programmes, culturally it’s very difficult to push entrepreneurship very quickly,” says Ron Mahabir, founder of Asia Cleantech Capital. One reason, Mahabir claims, is because failure is not an option. “In California, if you fail that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “But in Asia if you fail, it’s tough to turn around from that.”
One of the founders of a Singapore-based incubator suggests that success stories could help foster an entrepreneurial spirit and keep potential risk-takers from being scared off by failure. Similar to Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and other Silicon Valley stalwarts, many believe that local heroes play a big role in inspiring young upstarts to get their ideas off the ground.
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