Search on for more start-up launch pads

Search on for more start-up launch pads
PM Lee takes a close look at a 3D holographic display system prototype with (from left) Spectral Reality director Bernard Song, JTC Corporation chairman Loo Choon Yong and Rock Nano Global CEO Ang Chong Lai.

The search is on for new locations that can be used to accommodate "launch pads" for start-ups, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

He noted that one possible site is near CleanTech Park, which is next to Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Jurong.

This location would be focused on clean-tech start-ups.

Mr Lee was speaking at the official opening of Launchpad@one-north in the Ayer Rajah Industrial Estate. The centre comprises three blocks housing about 500 start-ups and 35 incubators.

Launch pads are enclaves where start-ups, investors, entrepreneurs and others can gather in a single place, allowing greater interaction and sparking new ideas.

Mr Lee said the name is apt as it describes how the Government is helping start-ups rent space and access mentors and financing, which, in turn, helps them better focus on getting their businesses past the first stage.

"After that, it is for you to launch, go for it, and shoot for the stars," he said to more than 100 investors, entrepreneurs and other guests at the event.

Industrial landlord JTC said start-ups have grown from 24,000 in 2005 to 42,000 in 2013, with the number of people working in such firms almost doubling, from 167,000 to 306,000.

A good example of the Government's approach is the experiment it carried out three years ago in Block 71 in the Ayer Rajah Industrial Estate.

The block was to be demolished but the Media Development Authority convinced JTC Corporation to let it use the building for digital and media start-ups.

"I'm very happy that Block 71 has been successful. There are now 1,200 people working in 260 start-ups and 25 incubators," Mr Lee said.

Block 71 and two other blocks - 73 and 79 - which make up Launchpad@one-north, have an occupancy rate of 90 per cent.

A further three blocks will be built by the end of 2017, providing space for 250 start-ups.

But it is not all work and no play at Launchpad@one-north as the centre has a basketball court and a futsal court.

Mr Lee noted that the Government also aims to build a network of overseas sites to help local start-ups connect to the world. An office named Block 71 San Francisco opened in the US on Tuesday to give Singaporeans working in Silicon Valley and start-ups from here a place to meet. Local start-ups can also connect to the US market and mentors and investors there.

Many Singaporeans are already working in Silicon Valley, some in their own companies, working in start-ups or in big companies such as Google or Facebook, said Mr Lee, adding: "We hope that Singaporeans overseas will return and launch their own companies here."

He hoped that successful entrepreneurs would "pay it forward" and give back to the local start-up community like Mr Tan Min-Liang, co-founder of Razer, which makes keyboards and other accessories for the gaming sector. Mr Tan was involved in the Entrepreneurship Review Committee in 2013, which recommended creating Launchpad.

Mr Lee visited five start-ups in Block 71 and viewed a showcase of products and services developed by start-ups in Launchpad.

Launchpad is a joint effort between Spring Singapore and JTC and supported by government agencies like the MDA and the Infocomm Development Authority.

This article was first published on Jan 24, 2015.
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