Singapore Startup Negativity

I have been accused (gently) that I have a negative view of the current state of the startup ‘ecosystem’ here in Singapore. I disagree (but of course I would, negative soul that I am) I think a little healthy cynicism is required.

I’m not going to pretend that I think everything in the ‘ecosystem’ is fine, when certain things are not. Or pretend that people all treat each other well, when they do not. Or go along with ‘experts’ or ‘veterans’ who are nothing of the sort. Or even that some investments are good ideas, when they don’t seem to be.

There are times when I’ll speak my mind, as is my right, to call out stuff that could and should be better. This by its nature is going to involve me disagreeing with people, but we can’t go around pretending everything is fine all the time. Without good critique, nothing gets better. If you can’t see where things need improvement, how will you make them better?

I do struggle with blowhards with nothing to back up their points of view, and I also know of several people who’ve behaved pretty badly towards others in this community. So if I have a problem with someone it’s because they’ve demonstrated a distinct lack of human judgement.

However, I’m never going to rubbish someone because of jealousy, if someone from this part of the world does well it’s good for the whole community, but let’s wait until they are doing well, running a profitable business or producing amazing products. Without those things it’s just noise. Hopefully those successful experiences can be fed back into the community, warts and all, to help others.

I am actually very positive about the current state of Singapore’s technological entrepreneurship. You only have to look at the number of attendees at the Accelerate conference to see the optimism in the crowd. 1,500 people is a lot of potential entrepreneurs.

Combine that with the effort (and cash) the government is pumping into the scene, both directly and through investment funds. I do have concerns that the money sloshing around is driving some pretty speculative investments, and perhaps ‘locking’ talented individuals into spurious projects. But then that could equally be said of the large amounts of money in Silicon Valley.

Plus the quality of some of the work happening here is great.

  • gothere.sg provokes astonished ‘holy shits!’ when first encountered by new users
  • buUuk are producing a legion of mobile apps for others alongside their flagship
  • Alvin Lai made an awesome (bootstrapped?) product in FreshLog
  • Darius recently caught the eye of a bigger fish after working his nuts off for years
  • Terence and the InSync crew are knocking their product out of the park right now.

And if you still think I’m negative then I have the ultimate counter… I’m trying to make something people want and make a business out of it. If that isn’t optimistic, then what is?


2010