Gaming buddies show Spirit of Enterprise

PHOTO: Gaming buddies show Spirit of Enterprise

SINGAPORE - Most fresh graduates spend a lot of their time applying for their first job but three friends decided to bypass that stage of life and take the plunge to set up a business.

Their boldness has already paid off but a bonus came on Friday night when they clinched a coveted entrepreneurship award.

The trio - who met during national service - graduated from Nanyang Technological University in 2008 and set up Gaming How that year.

The company runs video games cafe St Games Cafe with branches at The Cathay and Bugis Plus, which has become a hub for gamers.

Co-founder Lee Ming Wei, 30, told The Straits Times last night: "All of us are casual gamers, and we wanted to set up something in this colourful and fun industry. We're not just selling games, but also a whole experience."

Mr Lee added that many customers have their own game consoles at home but still visit the cafe.

The trio's ability to find the right formula to click with gamers won them the Spirit of Enterprise Award, which is given out annually by the non-profit Spirit of Enterprise (SOE) organisation.

The body, which was set up in 2003 to promote entrepreneurship, is run by volunteer board members.

In addition to Mr Lee, representatives from 29 companies also received the award at the Mandarin Orchard Hotel ceremony.

They were selected from a pool of 58 nominees.

Another winner, Ms Corinna Chang, chief executive and founder of music school Klassique Musik, said she hopes to make the company a global brand.

"We plan to expand to the rest of South-east Asia," said Ms Chang.

The company was established in 2005 and runs courses in classical and contemporary music for children aged 12 months to six years. SOE also presented the Entrepreneurship Award to Mr Ong Tze Boon, group executive chairman of environmental design solutions firm Ong & Ong.

He is the second son of the late former President Ong Teng Cheong, who founded the company with his wife, both architects, in 1972. Ong & Ong now has 800 employees across offices in 12 cities.

The entrepreneurship environment has improved greatly over the years, said the Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Mr Teo Ser Luck.

He told the gathering that the availability of private capital for start-ups - from angel investors and venture capital firms - has grown. The Government has also put in place several schemes aimed at helping budding firms.

There were 24,000 active start-ups employing 167,000 people in 2005; by the end of last year, this had grown to 39,000 employing about 300,000 people.

"Having said that, we still have a long way to go," said Mr Teo, who chairs the Entrepreneurship Review Committee.

The committee is reviewing the entrepreneurship landscape and will release recommendations early next year.

SOE president Thomas Fernandez said one of the organisation's goals is to cultivate an interest in entrepreneurship among the young. It plans to roll out a scholarship scheme for underprivileged polytechnic and university students pursuing courses in entrepreneurship, he added.

"Our young must look upon the journey as an entrepreneur as a viable career option. Times have changed. Being an entrepreneur is no longer a road less travelled and a challenge that most shy away from."

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