Private sector, venture capitalists can help nurture start-ups: Koh Poh Koon

Private sector, venture capitalists can help nurture start-ups: Koh Poh Koon

The Minister of State for National Development says there also needs to be continuous engagement with the start-up community to create "an ecosystem of success".

Dr Koh together with other Asean economic ministers at Prospect Silicon Valley

SAN JOSE, California: The private sector and venture capitalists can help build a more conducive environment for start-ups in Singapore, said Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon on Thursday (Feb 18).

Dr Koh said the private sector and venture capitalists have an eye for what technology can be successful, and they know more about the marketplace. In addition, there needs to be continuous engagement with the start-up community.

“While the Government is willing to give funding and provide impetus for start-ups to take off, what is important is to engage the community of start-up entrepreneurs, especially those who have succeeded, to give us better insights, and work together to create an ecosystem of success,” said Dr Koh when speaking with reporters during his visit to Silicon Valley on Thursday.

Dr Koh, who is also Minister of State for Trade and Industry, was part of a group of ASEAN economic ministers on a roadshow to learn more about innovation and entrepreneurship in the United States. They visited Prospect Silicon Valley, a non-profit organisation that helps the public sector, start-ups and corporations find solutions for smart cities.

Dr Koh said there are several things which are unique to Silicon Valley which Singapore can consider.

“One of the things quite highlighted here is the mindset that’s needed - the ability and the willingness to accept failure as ingredients for future success. Nine out of 10 start-ups do not go into a successful launch. I think in Singapore, we need to inculcate the mindset of willingness to accept failure before we can see greater success,” said Dr Koh.

He added that this will form a large part of the work for the committee tasked to look at the future of the Singapore economy.

On Wednesday, the ASEAN ministers also attended an ASEAN Economic Community conference in San Francisco.

At the US-ASEAN summit in Sunnylands, California earlier this week, US and ASEAN leaders agreed to work closer to encourage greater innovation and entrepreneurship in the region.

Last year, Singapore launched its own mini-version of Silicon Valley, dubbed JTC LaunchPad @ one-north, to encourage the growth of start-ups in the country.

Dr Koh said every country needs to look at their own context, and see how some of the ingredients for success in Silicon Valley can be modified and applied back home.


Southeast Asia has seen a rapid growth in start-ups in recent years. Early stage venture capitalist firm 500 Startups said it has funded about 1,500 start-ups in the region since 2010.

“We’re very very bullish about ASEAN and all the start-ups there because there are so many young people, and they are excited, they are passionate. I think it’s just a matter of building the ecosystem slowly,” said Ms Edith Yeung, a partner at 500 Startups.

Ms Yeung also has a suggestion for budding entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia.

“There are so many examples already overseas that you can borrow. You can literally say, I am the Uber of ASEAN. There are a lot of shortcuts that founders in Southeast Asia can communicate with outside investors, and they will understand it right away and put more money in,” said Ms Yeung.

Source: CNA/dl