What's hampering tech firms

What's hampering tech firms

The points raised by Dr Francis Yeoh ("Fan flames of entrepreneurship"; Wednesday) and Mr Leonard Loo Kok Swee ("What S'pore needs to become next Silicon Valley"; Monday) need to be analysed in a wider perspective.

It is expected that over the next five years, there is an opportunity to create $100 billion worth of B2C (business-to-consumer) centric brands and services that leverage the enormous growth in smartphone usage. Hence, we are looking at 10 new global smartphone-centric brands at least. This opportunity may lapse by 2020 when the smartphone app market gets saturated.

Singapore is well positioned to tap this opportunity due to factors like our technical skills, bilingualism, infrastructure and proximity to smartphone-savvy populations.

The good news is that various agencies like Spring and the National Research Foundation have been incubating technology firms in Singapore since 2006.

However, an analysis of local success stories, such as TenCube, HungryGoWhere, YFind and Zopim, will indicate that the collective wealth creation may not have even hit the $100 million mark.

It is time to leverage the huge wealth creation opportunity and put the "Developed in Singapore" brand on the global map.

The key common element behind the successes of Hotmail, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook and WhatsApp is much larger funding in the pre-revenue or loss-making stage, easily hitting $10 million to $300 million each, till the point where these firms have five million or more users.

Many critics claim that none of these companies would have succeeded in Singapore, because our funding ecosystem does not have the stomach to support pre-revenue-stage companies beyond $2 million to $3 million.

To create successful B2C global brands, it is necessary to have larger risk appetites so that good teams can just focus on creating great apps and multimillion-user bases before the revenue starts flowing in.

Our existing funding ecosystem funds a B2C idea up to $1 million before the pressure to generate revenue takes over. This is the key reason why many good B2C teams and ideas have not been able to succeed.

It takes a shift in the funding mindset before we can expect global B2C brands originating from Singapore.

Letter by Anand Singh

This article was first published on May 24, 2014.
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