Sunday, 24 August 2014

Top talent the key to Singapore 'unicorns'

Woo world's best to help start-ups succeed: Investor
By Irene Tham, The Straits Times, 23 Aug 2014

FOR Singapore to create the next Google or Apple, it must attract the world's best to set up shop here.

"(Success) is about probability, large numbers and scale," serial entrepreneur and investor Ong Peng Tsin told 1,000 delegates at the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) IIMPACT event yesterday.

It is no coincidence, said the 50-year-old Singaporean, that the United States and China dominate the 180 "unicorns" today - referring to the new investment buzzword for companies which hit a market valuation of more than US$1 billion (S$1.25 billion) in the last 10 years.

Today's unicorns include Facebook, LinkedIn and Dropbox.

Although recognising that Singapore is one of the easiest places to start a company, Mr Ong lamented that it is not letting in the right people.

He believes the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is not differentiating between people who come here to work in the service industry and those who want to set up Google-like companies.

"MOM needs to get more expertise in understanding what is creating the future for Singapore versus what is just service support," he told The Straits Times on the sidelines of the event.

Another obstacle is the prevailing belief that companies started by foreigners here should not be considered Singaporean.

For instance, when news broke last week that Singapore-based Nonstop Games was acquired by Candy Crush Saga developer King, one of the world's largest video game companies, for up to US$100 million, "some people complained the founders are not Singaporeans".

"Would you rather they make their US$100 million in some other country?" said Mr Ong, partner at Singapore-based venture capital firm Monk's Hill Ventures.

"Singapore is too small to afford to lose these people."

The serial entrepreneur was the founder of three software firms. His last start-up, California-based identity and access management software maker Encentuate, was sold to IBM in 2008.

The IIMs is a network of publicly run management educational institutions across India.


Singapore is too small to afford to lose these people.

- Serial entrepreneur and investor Ong Peng Tsin, referring to the prevailing belief that companies started by foreigners here should not be considered Singaporean

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