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From Hong Kong to Singapore

By Doug Gould, Head of Community

After my trip to Hong Kong (which you can read about here), I was lucky enough to spend some time with our team in Singapore. Jian Min Sim and Lujie Chen have done a great job building our community, not just in Singapore but across the entire ASEAN (Association of South East Asia Nations) region.

My home base in Singapore was the Joyful Frog Digital Incubator, one of the best incubators in SE Asia. Based out of Block 71, a government-funded startup co-working space, JFDI invests and incubates companies across a number of different verticals ranging from consumer tech to enterprise. They’ve been incredibly successful at helping companies from around the world build their businesses in Singapore, and go after the rapidly growing SE Asian market. In our conversations, they flagged the importance in having young entrepreneurs engaged with their community; several of their teams have younger co-founders, with the number expanding. They would love to see more members of our community see JFDI and SE Asia as a viable place to launch and scale a business.

Thanks to the help of our Regional President for Kairos Australia, Rachel Bui, I connected with the new Muru-D accelerator. Founded in Sydney, Muru-D is an enterprise-focused accelerator funded by the telco giant Telstra. Their team looks for companies that can use Telstra’s relationships to make further traction in enterprise. An interesting thing to understand is the move towards Singapore as a hub. Using the momentum from their success in Sydney, the Muru-D team saw opportunity to expand their operations and capture the growing markets across SE Asia. They mentioned Singapore as being a great place to be able to keep their finger on the pulse of the region as well as attract top talent. We’re looking forward to getting more ingrained with Muru-D, both in Australia as well as across SE Asia.

National University of Singapore is one of the top universities in the world when it comes to management and entrepreneurship. Kenneth Lou, a student entrepreneur based out of the University, gave me a tour of the campus and impressive infrastructure they’ve built to support startups on campus. NUS has a great track record of producing founders (an example of an interesting startup is Carusell), VC’s, and government supporters of startups. The infrastructure they have for an education in entrepreneurship is some of the best in the world. It was fascinating to learn about some of the inner workings.

The NUS Enterprise program sends students to cities all over the world to get hands-on experience working with startups. Beyond just Silicon Valley, the students are able to travel to London, Berlin, Shanghai, and Tel Aviv among others. It shows the importance that NUS places on not just talking about entrepreneurship but actually getting real-world experience for aspiring founders. There is a lot of alignment in the goals of NUS Enterprise and Kairos--we’re looking forward to working more closely with them in the future.

While at NUS, I linked up with our new president for Kairos Switzerland, Luca Harrichhausen. Luca is currently studying entrepreneurship at NUS for the next few weeks, where he is hoping to get a more global perspective on what it takes to build a company. We put him in touch with our local team--they are showing him the technology scene in Singapore, and showing him around! It’s cool seeing that when people in our community travel, they really do have a network of friends anywhere.

I met with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to understand what level of support they offer startups in Singapore. They have been doing some interesting work helping companies with traction engage partners and customers by leveraging their corporate connections. It was really impressive to hear the forward-thinking approach they have towards supporting startups, as well as being active in the startup community. From the angle of young entrepreneurs, companies like PwC are crucial in helping industry leaders understand working with startups and vice versa.

Towards the end of my week in town, I connected with Infocomm, a division of the Singaporean government. Infocomm is an organization that focuses on startup ecosystem development and support. They look at how to enhance programs for everything from seed-stage startups to scaling companies. Since their office in San Francisco is right around the block from Kairos HQ, we’re looking forward to having them over for our next Kairos Happy Hour!

Lastly, I got together with Jian Min, Lujie Chen, and Nicholas Gerard Sagaram of our Kairos Regional Executive team for some dinner and planning. Just like in Hong Kong, our teams in Singapore and across SE Asia have some big plans for the next year. You’ll get to meet them at the Kairos Global Summit to learn all about them!

Overall, the trip to Asia was a really unique experience in observing the components that need to come together to help an emerging startup ecosystem grow. The approaches from both Hong Kong and Singapore have some similarities, but also a lot of differences in how they position themselves. One of the major similarities is that support of young entrepreneurs is a key component in helping the startup ecosystems grow. Here at Kairos HQ, we’re excited to see what the future holds for both our Hong Kong and ASEAN regions. Even though my time was short, I was able to see enough to expect some great things! Between this and my previous trip to Europe, it looks like 2015 is shaping up to be a big year for the Kairos community!

Doug Gould
Head of Community
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