Singapore’s Block 71 set to expand: govt minister at dialogue with incubators

block 79

Hi Block 71, meet Block 79. Google Streetview image from 2009.

Ever since Block 71, an old industrial building in Singapore, was relaunched in 2011 as an epicenter for the country’s startup community, it has become a hive of activity.

Its rental fees, cheap relative to other locations in Singapore, has attracted companies like JFDI.Asia, DropMyEmail, and Jungle Ventures. But it is also bursting at the seams.

In a room at Plugin@Blk71, an incubation space located at the hub, Minister-of-State Teo Ser Luck engaged in a dialogue session on August 27 with startup incubators on how the government can help the ecosystem.

street directory mapOn the topic of Block 71, he said that he has told JTC, a government-owned industrial estate developer, to demarcate the neighbouring Block 79 for startups as well. The building was formerly occupied by consumer electronics firm JVC.

Meanwhile, Block 71 will continue to serve as a home to startups.

“I want an identity for the startup landscape. This whole area will be purely for startups, no change. We’ll develop it in such a way that entrepreneurs can call this place home,” he said.

Minister Teo hinted that this could just be the beginning. He mulled the possibility that Singapore’s community centers, which are government buildings earmarked for community activities and admin services, could become incubators as well.

There are more than a hundred of these buildings in Singapore, spread out around the heartlands. They are not fully utilized at the moment.

“We could have startup incubators in the CCs. Cheap, cheap space, zero rental. We can get two, three rooms and convert them into incubators. Hopefully, this will create a ripple effect, then society can become more ready to embrace entrepreneurship, embrace failure,” he said.

Minister Teo has already successfully pushed for part of the centers to be converted into business enquiry stations. Small and Medium Enterprises are an integral part of the heartlands, he said.

SME renewal a national priority… sort of

This is the third dialogue session he has held with the ecosystem. The first was held with entrepreneurs, and the second with venture capitalists and angel investors.

The feedback will be collated and considered by the Entrepreneurship Review Committee, made up of prominent entrepreneurs and investors. The Committee is charged with making suggestions on how to finetune the government’s policies towards entrepreneurship.

The session provided a penetrating look at the government’s thinking towards startups. In summary, it’s a matter of economic survival.

In an era of technological change, some SMEs will inevitably drop out of the race as they may be unable to adapt. As such, the government needs new blood to replace the older firms and continue providing jobs for Singaporeans.

This attitude underlines much of government policy towards tech startups. While entrepreneurs may be more concerned with their company’s bottom line, the government is thinking like the CEO of Singapore Inc — it has to feed its own people.

As such, government money typically has strings attached — to the purse, wallets, and bank accounts of ordinary Singaporeans.

Anyway, while the community may be gratified by Minister Teo’s efforts to listen in, the reality is that there is a limit to what the Committee can do.

While participants at the dialogue session threw up some interesting suggestions, not all of them will be easy to implement, especially if it involves multiple government agencies.

An example is the ecosystem’s struggles with importing foreign talent to make up for the shortfall here. While probably the most pressing problem facing startups in Singapore, Minister Teo gave a dose of realism about what he can do.

“Tightening of labor is a national policy issue. It’ll take a while to change or tweak. And even so it may or may not be focusing on startups. So you’re trapped in a situation where you just have to make do with it,” he said.

Even if the government decides to adjust its labor policy, sectors that will be reviewed are more likely to be infrastructure-related sectors involving the building of roads, houses, and other public projects.

“We’ll just have to figure out other ways to do it, maybe we have to outsource, maybe we just have to be overseas for the majority of the work, but at least the nerve center is here, and the role of managing will be through Singapore,” he said.

Ways around talent shortage

There is no shortage of what these “other ways” could be. Vinnie Lauria of Golden Gate Ventures and Hugh Mason of JFDI.Asia suggested creating special startup visas specifically designed for founders or employees. These could come tied with a set time frame to either make things work or go home.

The devil is in the details. It’s unclear what length of time should be deemed sufficient for a startup to prove traction and whether government employees should even decide whether to extend a visa based on metrics from a world they do not understand.

Hugh also believes there might be a way to tap more on women and seasoned executives with in-depth domain knowledge to be part of the startup world.

He has seen weak participation by women at startup accelerator JFDI: While about 30 percent of attendees for events are women, they only make up five percent of applicants to its three-month, full-time bootcamps.

The room, again was dominated by men, seemed stumped. Even Minister Teo had no firm answers, except to say that Singapore women may be burdened by family responsibility and hence may not see entrepreneurship as a stable career.

But Hugh pointed out that with Singapore’s low birth rate of 1.20 births per woman, there should be a sufficient number of them who are unencumbered by the need to care for children.

Ultimately, it may come down to a single statistic: Singapore’s low unemployment rate of under two percent, which means residents are unlikely to start businesses for survival reasons.

The government might need to raise awareness about entrepreneurship from the perspective of self-actualization.

Other suggestions that were brought up included creating low-rental housing for entrepreneurs and creating an online platform to match MNC’s business needs to startup solutions.

Minister Teo seemed unconvinced about the first suggestion, pointing out that the government’s existing housing policies and home ownership schemes are affordable for Singaporeans.

The country’s small geographical size and relatively quick travel times — heartland to city typically takes 45 minutes by public transportation — also make it unnecessary.

“If I have a place for housing, I’ll rather convert it into an incubator,” he said.

On the online matching platform, Minister Teo said that the government has easy access and networks with MNCs and the larger SMEs. But its awareness of startups is relatively low, and that is an area it will have to beef up in order to confidently recommend solutions to meet the needs of large corporations.

The session ultimately hinted at the knowledge and conceptual gaps that exist between the startup community and the government. In official discourse, it seems that SMEs and startups are lumped together under one category.

When the issue about the shortage of labor was brought up, Minister Teo pointed out that his constituency is full of programmers that could easily fill up an apartment block.

But SMEs and startups have different needs, and they require different sorts of talent. Hugh pointed out that startups are built for scalability, and as such require engineers that may be more well-rounded, creative, and risk-tolerant than the average set.

So, unless the government’s understanding of small enterprises is more nuanced, tech startups may find itself faced with a set of policy changes that don’t exactly fit.

Map image from StreetDirectory.com

The post Singapore’s Block 71 set to expand: govt minister at dialogue with incubators appeared first on SGE.

--

Get stories like this on the Yahoo app and discover more every day.
Download it now.
Loading...
  • AP NewsBreak: Ritz's office backed app deal without bidding
    AP NewsBreak: Ritz's office backed app deal without bidding Associated Press - 8 minutes ago

    Indiana schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz's office approved a lucrative technology contract that state government officials said should have been subject to competitive bid, benefiting a company that ... … More »

  • Shareholder committees could curb UK bosses' pay bonanza - report
    Shareholder committees could curb UK bosses' pay bonanza - report Reuters - 17 minutes ago

    British public companies should be required to create shareholder committees responsible for proposing executive pay, to help constrain the spiralling salaries of top bosses, said a report published on Thursday. The report, by lawmaker Chris Philp … More »

  • Sunovion Pharma to buy Canada's Cynapsus for $624 million Reuters - 43 minutes ago

    The announced purchase price of $40.50 per share in cash was a 120.5 percent premium over that closing price. Through the deal, Sunovion will acquire Cynapsus’ drug candidate, APL-130277, which is currently in its phase three clinical trial stage. … More »

  • Salesforce third-quarter revenue forecast misses, shares fall
    Salesforce third-quarter revenue forecast misses, shares fall Reuters - 56 minutes ago

    For the third quarter, Salesforce said it expected an adjusted profit of 20-21 cents per share and revenue of $2.11 billion-$2.12 billion. Analysts on average were expecting an adjusted profit of 24 cents per share on revenue of $2.13 billion, … More »

  • EU VP tells British to 'get their act together'
    EU VP tells British to 'get their act together' AFP News - 1 hour 8 minutes ago

    Britain's political leaders should "get their act together" and tell the EU what they want from their divorce, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said in an interview with AFP. Timmermans, the Dutch right-hand man to commission … More »

  • Dollar weakens on contrasting economic data AFP - 1 hour 42 minutes ago

    The dollar weakened against the euro and the pound on Wednesday as dueling data on both sides of the Atlantic offered a mixed picture of economic conditions. Towards 2100 GMT, the euro was at $1.1156, ... … More »

  • Oil Slump Sparks Stock Losses as S&P 500 Wipes Out August Gains Bloomberg - 1 hour 47 minutes ago

    Energy share sled declines as New York-traded crude fell below $45 a barrel on data showing U.S. stockpiles climbed more than analysts had projected last week. The S&P 500 ended the month down 0.1 percent, ending its longest run of gains in two … More »

  • Business Highlights Associated Press - 2 hours 3 minutes ago

    ___ Historic commercial flight from US lands in Cuba The first commercial flight between the United States and Cuba in more than a half century landed Wednesday, re-establishing regular air service severed ... … More »

  • France's Orange says in talks with Iran's MCI on potential cooperation
    France's Orange says in talks with Iran's MCI on potential cooperation Reuters - 2 hours 3 minutes ago

    French telecoms operator Orange is in negotiations with Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran (MCI), the country's largest mobile operator, "regarding a number of areas of potential cooperation and business topics," a spokesman said. The … More »

  • BP OKs Whiting refinery Tier 3 hydrotreater Reuters - 2 hours 7 minutes ago

    BP Plc's (BP.L) 413,500 barrel per day (bpd) Whiting, Indiana refinery has received corporate approval to build a new hydrotreater to meet Tier 3 gasoline standards that will be required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a … More »

  • WeChat Chatter Fuels China Money Exodus Into Hong Kong Policies Bloomberg - 2 hours 28 minutes ago

    Forget about restrictions imposed by mainland regulators trying to halt the exodus of billions of yuan out of China and into Hong Kong policy purchases. For Hong Kong part-time agent Wen, who declined to give her first name, it’s been that easy to … More »

  • Italy and Germany signal tougher EU stance on migrants
    Italy and Germany signal tougher EU stance on migrants AFP News - 2 hours 28 minutes ago

    Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed Wednesday to step up efforts to send migrants with no right to asylum in Europe back to their homelands. "All of us in Europe must work for the repatriation of those who … More »

  • Energy drags Wall St lower; S&P down slightly in August
    Energy drags Wall St lower; S&P down slightly in August Reuters - 2 hours 30 minutes ago

    Stocks ended lower on Wall Street on Wednesday, as energy shares tracked oil prices lower, and the S&P posted a loss for August, the first negative month for the benchmark index since February. The Nasdaq gained 1 percent in August and the S&P shed … More »

  • How the Dow Jones industrial average fared on Wednesday Associated Press - 2 hours 33 minutes ago

    U.S. stocks took small losses Wednesday as energy companies fell with the price of oil and chemical and materials companies traded lower. That pulled the market lower for August, ending a five-month winning ... … More »

  • H&R Block and Brown-Forman tumble, Chico's FAS rises Associated Press - 2 hours 34 minutes ago

    Stocks that moved substantially or traded heavily on Wednesday: H&R Block Inc., down $2.54 to $21.66 The tax preparer reported a bigger first-quarter loss and less revenue than analysts expected. Brown-Forman ... … More »

  • US stocks fall, dragged down by sinking oil prices AFP - 2 hours 47 minutes ago

    US stocks fell modestly Wednesday, pulled down by sinking oil prices, closing out a sluggish August which saw the S&P 500 score its first monthly loss since February. At the close the Dow Jones Industrial ... … More »

  • Infoblox reports 4Q loss Associated Press - 2 hours 50 minutes ago

    On a per-share basis, the Santa Clara, California-based company said it had a loss of 18 cents. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, came to 8 cents per share. The results exceeded Wall Street ... … More »

  • Cloud management company Box's quarterly revenue jumps 30 percent Reuters - 3 hours ago

    (Reuters) - Cloud management company Box Inc's (BOX.N) quarterly revenue jumped 30.3 percent as the company added customers. Its net loss narrowed to $38.1 million, or 30 cents per share, in the second ... … More »

  • Salesforce.com tops Street 2Q forecasts Associated Press - 3 hours ago

    The San Francisco-based company said it had profit of 33 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were 24 cents per share. The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average ... … More »

  • Shoe Carnival posts 2Q profit Associated Press - 3 hours ago

    On a per-share basis, the Evansville, Indiana-based company said it had profit of 22 cents. The footwear retailer posted revenue of $231.9 million in the period. Shoe Carnival expects full-year earnings ... … More »

  • Markets Right Now: Stocks edge lower on Wall Street Associated Press - 3 hours ago

    The latest on developments in global financial markets (all times local): 4:00 p.m. Stocks are closing out their first losing month since February as a quiet summer continues on Wall Street. A thin batch ... … More »

  • Ireland says Apple CEO spoke to PM, committed to stay
    Ireland says Apple CEO spoke to PM, committed to stay Reuters - 3 hours ago

    Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny spoke to Apple (AAPL.O) chief executive Tim Cook ahead of the European Union's announcement of a 13 billion euro (11.04 billion pounds) back tax bill and the U.S. firm committed to remain in Ireland, Kenny's office … More »

  • US stocks slip as lower oil prices sink energy companies
    US stocks slip as lower oil prices sink energy companies Associated Press - 3 hours ago

    U.S. stocks are down slightly in afternoon trading Wednesday as energy companies fall with the price of oil and makers of chemicals and other materials take losses. Stocks are on track for their first ... … More »

  • Feds: Company tied to polygamous group used child labor Associated Press - 3 hours ago

    Federal labor lawyers have filed another child labor case against a Utah-based company tied to a polygamous group alleging underage laborers were put to work for long hours for little pay in dangerous ... … More »

  • Grain lower, livestock mixed Associated Press - 3 hours ago

    Grain futures were lower Wednesday on the Chicago Board of Trade. Wheat for Sept. fell 2.25 cents at $3.61 a bushel; Sept. corn lost 2.50 cents to 3.015 a bushel; Sept. oats was off .75 cent at $1.61 a ... … More »

 
Recent Quotes
Symbol Price Change % Chg 
Your most recently viewed tickers will automatically show up here if you type a ticker in the "Enter symbol/company" at the bottom of this module.
You need to enable your browser cookies to view your most recent quotes.
 
Sign-in to view quotes in your portfolios.

MARKET MOVERS

  • Most Actives
    Most Actives
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.119-0.004-3.25%
    N21.SI
    0.36+0.01+1.41%
    E5H.SI
    0.9950.0000.00%
    Y92.SI
    4.02-0.08-1.95%
    Z74.SI
    0.22-0.02-6.38%
    5ME.SI
  • % Gainers
    % Gainers
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.285+0.035+14.00%
    5SY.SI
    0.60+0.07+13.21%
    BKB.SI
    0.23+0.03+12.20%
    I06.SI
    0.50+0.05+11.11%
    BFK.SI
    0.67+0.05+8.06%
    5CP.SI
  • % Losers
    % Losers
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.305-0.060-16.44%
    BQO.SI
    0.105-0.020-16.00%
    578.SI
    0.181-0.019-9.50%
    P36.SI
    0.21-0.02-6.67%
    1A4.SI
    0.22-0.02-6.38%
    5ME.SI

Market Data

  • Currencies
    Currencies
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    1.3619-0.0003-0.02%
    USDSGD=X
    1.5200+0.0004+0.03%
    EURSGD=X
    1.7898+0.0002+0.01%
    GBPSGD=X
    75.8060+0.017+0.02%
    SGDJPY=X
    5.6951+0.004+0.07%
    SGDHKD=X
    2.98960.000.00%
    SGDMYR=X
    9,769.7354+2.2061+0.02%
    SGDIDR=X
    4.9013+0.0011+0.02%
    SGDCNY=X
    1.0239+0.0003+0.03%
    AUDSGD=X
  • Commodities
    Commodities
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    1,313.30+1.90+0.14%
    GCZ16.CMX
    18.64+0.01+0.07%
    SIU16.CMX
    90.17-1.67-1.82%
    ^XAU
    2.070.00+0.19%
    HGU16.CMX
    44.86+0.16+0.36%
    CLV16.NYM
  • Bonds
    Bonds
    TreasuryYield (%)Yield Change
    1.180.00
    ^FVX
    1.570.00
    ^TNX
    2.230.00
    ^TYX