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2020 Guide To Singapore Tech Scene: Events, Startup Hubs and VCs

Nov 4, 202012 min read

Michał Rejman

IT Marketing Strategist at Ideamotive. Travel addict and remote work advocate.

What do they say about Singapore? A fairytale city, a dream city, a garden city, a technological paradise, an advanced economy, the world's most innovative port, the best place to live, a leading financial center, one of the most expensive cities in the world, Disneyland for adults, and the like.

 

And it's hard to argue with some of these names: Singapore has technology, money, and the beauty of a modern city. In many ways, Singapore seems like heaven, so people who move to Singapore for the sake of the Singapore tech scene have high expectations.

 

That’s why we decided to gather all the info needed for those who want to conquer this city. Here you’ll find some basic info and stats, the best Singapore Startup & Tech conferences and events, data about the biggest tech companies in Singapore, and much other useful stuff.

What is the Singapore Tech Scene?

An advantageous geographical position and a well-thought-out development strategy allowed Singapore to become one of the most developed countries not only in Southeast Asia but throughout the world. Every 10th inhabitant is a millionaire.

 

The megalopolis is controlled by an ideal state machine. Singapore is a prime example of how a microstate without resources can become an economic giant with state-of-the-art technology. 

 

Its success is based on the “three pillars” of the local economy.

  • First, over the past 30 years, the city has become the largest logistics center in the region. Hundreds of sea and air routes pass here in transit to all corners of the world, which provides a lively trade. 
  • The second “whale” is the financial sector. It owes its prosperity to an incredibly light tax regime. For local and offshore banks, Singapore is a tax haven. 
  • And finally, the third factor is industrial production. These are shipbuilding and electronics that are sold to China, Japan, Korea.

Singapore is constantly leading in various ratings: 1st place in the development of the business environment, ease of doing business, and the work of e-government; 2nd place in the development of information technology and overall competitiveness; 3rd place in the IT competitiveness rating.

 

The country did not immediately become a technology leader. Initially, its economy was based on oil refining and mechanical engineering. Then cleaner, science-based products, and financial services came to the fore. The financial sector is the engine of the local economy. It is followed by shipbuilding, electronics manufacturing, IT, and pharmaceuticals. Major trading partners are Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, China, the USA, South Korea, and Japan.

 

Over the past 10 years, GDP has been growing by 7% annually. In 2008 alone, the global financial crisis hit the figure to 1.2%.

What makes the Singapore startup scene unique?

Startups in Singapore, as in any country, are not much different from one another. Most often, they have an idea, breakthrough know-how, disruptive technologies, but practically no access to funding sources. As a result, techies try to retrain as managers as soon as possible and go around the world with an outstretched hand.

 

In most cases, the search for an investor is delayed since the startup does not have a final product, but only an idea or a prototype that is very far from practical application. In the future, 2 scenarios for the development of events are possible:

  1. the money is found, but in return, the investor demands full control over the company or the right to an invention (technology), 
  2. the startup goes into oblivion, burying the initiative in the bud.

 

But the Singaporean government has decided that it is irrational to waste talent in these difficult times and leave them to their fate. Therefore, numerous programs of financial support for startups were developed and implemented. They are very profitable and transparent. 

 

The reasons for success are:

  • First of all, the stability of jurisdiction is “to blame”: economic and political. Here the probability of abrupt, systemic changes is zero, if not negative. 
  • In addition, Singapore can provide startups with many other benefits and not “paper” but quite real ones.
  • A complete absence of corruption.
  • Minimal influence of the bureaucratic apparatus.
  • The Supremacy of the Law.
  • Modern and well-developed infrastructure.
  • World-class transportation network.
  • 100% coverage of the territory with broadband Internet.
  • Tax preferences.

 

Many states provide some similar opportunities, but perhaps no other country has such a comprehensive and thoughtful approach.

 

Like what you are reading? Check our guide to Stockholm Tech Scene!

Best Singapore Startup & Tech conferences and events

ConnecTechAsia 2020

Date: 29.09.2020 - 01.10.2020

Organizer: Informa Markets

Exhibition Center: Singapore Marina Bay Sands - Sands Expo and Convention Center

Link: https://www.connectechasia.com/home/

 

ConnecTechAsia will bring together BroadcastAsia, CommunicAsia, and NXTAsia. It will showcase the latest technology in communications, entrepreneurship, broadcasting, and innovation. Combined with a busy agenda with renowned speakers at the ConnecTechAsia Summit and a host of experimental events, ConnecTechAsia is paving the way for Asia's future for technology.

 

Forget the mainstream and spread your message in a unique way at Asia's flagship information and communication technology (ICT) trade show. Meet F2F ICT innovators and discuss topics that interest your visitors and potential buyers.

Seamless Asia Virtual 2020

Date: 15.07.2020 - 16.07.2020

Organizer: Terrapinn Holdings Ltd.

Exhibition Center: Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre (SUNTEC)

Link: https://www.terrapinn.com/virtual/seamless-asia/

 

The all-encompassing trade event in the Asia region - Seamless E-commerce, an international e-commerce showcase, will take place as part of the Singapore International Retail Technology and Solutions Showcase Seamless Asia. 

 

Managers, representatives of retail chain stores, shopping centers, hospitality industry, restaurant business, and government agencies will participate in the event in order to get acquainted with innovative products to develop a strategy focused on prosperity in the complex Asian markets. 

 

The show is a significant milestone in showcasing the latest innovations in e-commerce, revenue management, pricing, security, and more. 

 

Participants of the event will be able to assess opportunities for cooperation, find interested buyers, get information about modern technologies applied in practice, and take into account the needs of the business. 

 

The main sections of the exposition:

  • e-commerce technologies and services, 
  • shopping portals and sites, 
  • software, 
  • digital marketing
  • search engine marketing and optimization, 
  • Internet analytics, 
  • payment technologies, 
  • security, and authentication.

The Tech Show Singapore 2020

Date: 12.11.2020 - 15.11.2020

Organizer: Exhibits Inc Pte Ltd, Sphere Exhibits Pte Ltd

Exhibition Center: Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre (SUNTEC)

Link: https://thetechshow.com.sg/

 

The Tech Show is a four-day event held at the Suntec Singapore International Convention Center in Singapore. 

 

This event showcases products such as processor, cables and adapters, chassis, card printers, external hard drives, flash memory, graphics, and sound cards, ink cartridges and toners, keyboards, microphones, camcorders, digital compact cameras, digital printers, and imaging equipment, digital devices, storage devices, DSLRs, photographic equipment and accessories, video gadgets and imaging devices and more, etc. in the computer hardware and software industry.

 

Sitex 2020

Date: 26.11.2020 - 29.11.2020

Organizer: SingEx Exhibitions (India) Pvt. Ltd

Exhibition Center: Singapore Expo

Link: https://sitex.com.sg/

 

Sitex is the only consumer lifestyle information technology trade show in Singapore that incorporates technological elements from both an experimental and a didactic component in consumer electronics, setting the trend for consumers in electronics and technology.

IOT Asia 2021

Date: 24.03.2021 - 25.03.2021

Organizer: SingEx Exhibitions Pte Ltd

Exhibition Center: Singapore Expo

Link: https://www.internetofthingsasia.com/

 

Today, the Internet of Things (or IoT) as an evolutionary and promising direction for the development of Internet technologies is becoming a global strategic tool with a great future. Market forecasts for this segment are very optimistic because the number of connected devices in the world is growing at an incredibly fast pace.

 

The exhibition will occupy 4000 sq. m, which will feature more than 90 sponsors and exhibitors in six thematic zones - smart city, IoT data analytics, application design, wearable electronics, industrial IoT and programs and technologies. Visitors will get acquainted with IoT innovations in the pavilions of Holland, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan. New exhibition elements such as the Startup Exchange and the Institutional Zone will provide investors and buyers with an appreciation of new projects and IoT solutions from startups and educational institutions in Asia. In addition, a dialogue arena called Techspace will offer attendees the opportunity to learn first-hand about the latest IoT trends and innovations in Asia from industry insiders and exhibitors.

 

At the conference, delegates from all over the world will discuss ideas from more than 100 international speakers who will share their experience and discuss the problems faced by practitioners in the field of IoT applications, telecommunication technologies, information security systems, environmental monitoring, smart home systems, healthcare, libraries, energy, agriculture, water management, aviation, mining, etc.

 

A wide range of technologies and solutions were introduced by two new zones (Cybersecurity and Robotics), as well as Smart Cities, Wearables, Industrial IoT (IIoT), Design Applications, Enablers and IoT Data Analytics. There will also be a dedicated Start-Up Exchange for visitors to learn more about the IoT system.

Important startup hubs

Singapore has repeatedly become the venue for Startup Asia. Therefore a startup business incubator has been created to support projects.

 

Conferences and exhibitions are constantly held to support the digital industry. Grants from educational organizations are provided for high-tech projects. There is a whole system of support from both the state and private foundations. 

 

The authorities are very actively involved in shaping the environment for new IT businesses. They not only create support programs but also promote them.

 

The unique microfinance program for innovative developments should be noted separately.

Startup SG

This is the name given to the comprehensive startup support program launched by the Standards, Productivity, and Innovation Council (SPRING Singapore).

 

It is interesting that "Spring" very aptly determines the direction of the activity of this structure.

 

In fact, this is an auxiliary platform, a kind of framework on which the state aid program is built. Let's clarify that the main task of this Singapore startup hub is to simplify the integration of startups into the global economic space of Singapore. Therefore, the financial support programs themselves are only an effective tool for this.

 

At the time of this writing, 8 main programs were allocated into separate, independent sections: Accelerator, Equity, Founder, Infrastructure, Investor, Loan, Talent, and Tech.

 

Below you can see more about each of them.

Startup SG Founder

Link: https://www.startupsg.net/programmes/4894/startup-sg-founder

 

The main goal is not so much financial assistance (although it is also provided), but mentoring and custody. The size of the grant is relatively modest - only 30,000 SGD, the ratio of the size to the funds raised is 1:3. SG Founder can only be applied through a dedicated mentor partner.

 

Required characteristics of candidates:

  • A unique concept.
  • Practical possibility of implementation.
  • Professional management team.
  • Potential for future financial returns.

The list of candidates is approved in spring. The grant will be split into two tranches in accordance with the project plan.

Startup SG Tech

Link: https://www.startupsg.net/programmes/4897/startup-sg-tech

 

The program provides an opportunity to receive additional funding for startups that develop and promote their own technologies and solutions based on them. Priority is given to POC (Proof-of-Concept) and POV (Proof-of-Viability) programs.

 

For the first type, the funding limit is 250,000 SGD, for the second - 500,000 SGD.

 

Required characteristics of candidates:

  • Registration in Singapore for up to 5 years.
  • Active work in the jurisdiction (virtual startups will definitely not receive funding).
  • At least 30% of the shares are local.
  • Annual income does not exceed 100 million SGD / staff no more than 200 people (one of the characteristics to choose from).

Startup SG Equity

Link: https://www.startupsg.net/programmes/4895/startup-sg-equity

 

The project involves not direct government investment in startups but stimulating the private sector of the economy in the Singapore tech scene to provide financial assistance. 

 

It is expected that innovative startup companies will be able to use SG Equity to profitably commercialize their developments.

 

Required characteristics of candidates:

  • Private Limited Company only (Pte Ltd, private limited company). It must be officially registered in the jurisdiction (5 years or less) and have a registered capital of 50,000 SGD or more.
  • No subsidiary status.
  • The main business activity is carried out within the jurisdiction (note - "main," but not "the only").
  • Factual evidence that a product, service is truly innovative (rather than rethinking old ideas).
  • Growth prospects.
  • Scalability of the business model with an eye to expansion into international markets.
  • A clear definition of a third-party (external) investor, one or more, willing to invest.

Startup SG Accelerator

Link: https://www.startupsg.net/programmes/4900/startup-sg-accelerator

 

Comprehensive support program for accelerators and incubators. Interaction method - mentoring with partners (recommended only). Note that SG Accelerator does not involve the use of venture capital.

 

Priority industries and areas of activity:

  • Medicine, medical equipment, and equipment.
  • Fintech sphere.
  • Developments and technologies related to artificial intelligence.
  • IoT (Internet of Things, Internet of Things).
  • Robotics.
  • Information Security.
  • Data analysis.
  • Smart logistics.

Startup SG Investor

Link: https://www.startupsg.net/programmes/4893/startup-sg-investor

 

The support program is not so much for startups themselves as for interested investors who are ready to invest in local companies.

 

The AITD (the Angel Investors Tax Deduction) scheme is designed for business angels who have the opportunity to invest at least 100,000 SGD in a startup. The amount of the deduction is 50% of the amount at the end of the 2-year period. The minimum investment for participation in the AITD is 500,000 SGD (in this case, the deduction will be 250,000 SGD). 

 

It is important to remember that investments made before the approval of the application are not reimbursed by the incentive.

 

The terms of participation:

  • Only individual (not through funds or trusts) investment.
  • Only for: 
  1. a) business angels with investment experience at an early stage of project development; 
  2. b) investors with sufficient business experience; 
  3. c) senior executives and corporate managers.

 

Required characteristics of candidates:

  • Extensive practical business experience.
  • Appropriate personal qualities (including in the field of startup development).
  • Free orientation in current industry trends.
  • Technical and / or scientific knowledge.
  • Business network.
  • Registration and headquarters in Singapore.
  • All statutory licenses and permits from MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore).

 

In general, to participate in the project, candidates must submit an application and CV in free form, where they should indicate the proposed method of investment growth.

S13H / FMI schemes

Both are essentially government-backed tax incentives. 

 

The target audiences of S13H are accredited private equity funds and venture capitalists.

FMI - companies that manage funds.

 

S13H, tax rate 0% for 10 years for:

  • Income from the sale of portfolio assets.
  • Profit from dividends from foreign portfolio companies.
  • Income from interest on foreign loans.

FMI, 5% rate for 10 years in relation to:

  • Payment for management services of an accredited venture fund.
  • The prize received from them.

Startup SG Infrastructure

Link: https://www.startupsg.net/programmes/4896/startup-sg-infrastructure

 

The program does not provide startups with financial support, but a living space for research and integration into “big business.” This place is somewhat reminiscent of Silicon Valley (San Francisco, California, USA). 

 

Optimal areas for a startup:

  • Biomedical technologies.
  • Mass media (primarily electronic).
  • Electronics.
  • Various “green” and energy-saving technologies.
  • Engineering.

Startup SG Loan

Link: https://www.startupsg.net/programmes/4899/startup-sg-loan

 

Startups can look forward to government-backed and backed loans. Their intended purpose is the purchase of equipment, trade operations, production. Funds are allocated through partner banks.

Startup SG Talent

Link: https://www.startupsg.net/programmes/4898/startup-sg-talent

 

The main goal of the program is to find, stimulate, and attract talent from all over the world with the aim of their participation in the work of Singapore startups.

 

Initiatives being implemented:

  • EntrePass. Designed to attract and stimulate business people to open their own business in Singapore.
  • T-UP (increasing the potential of the enterprise). An interesting scheme that allows a startup to gain free access to the research and scientific potential of A-Star institutes. Subsidized 70% of spending on engineers and researchers for up to 24 months.
  • STP (SME Talent Program). 70% reimbursement of subsidies received by interns.

 

There are successful examples of the successful launch of projects from Singapore, both local and with the involvement of expats. The loudest success belongs to MyRepublic, which literally burst into the local elite of telecom operators. This site has a list of startups. A platform for communication for aspiring entrepreneurs - a community on Facebook from another site for startups.

 

The performance of 90% of companies in the startup ranking is rather modest. There is no clear difference from Malaysia, where the business environment is much less developed. 

Singapore VC and funding possibilities

The Singapore tech scene has been repeatedly ranked number one in Southeast Asia for investment prospects. However, the reality is not keeping up with expectations. This has led to polarizing press coverage and accusations of Singapore overblown hype around startup opportunities. One of the Thai startups even dumped the assets. In his opinion, the competition for small profits is like a carnage, which makes it easier to work in another country.

 

It is believed that the lack of success of Singaporean companies in the region is due to the Western model of the economy in the country. Singaporean entrepreneurs do not understand the specifics and real needs of the markets of neighboring countries, where the level of social well-being is several times lower.

 

The city-state attracts investors from all over the world. Political and economic stability ensures the flow of capital to banks and real business. Now there is even a movement of investors from Europe, where the banking system is going through hard times, to a quieter Singapore. Investors' rights are clearly protected by the authorities, including intellectual property rights.

 

Over the past few years, there has been an unspoken struggle between Hong Kong and Singapore for the title of the Asian financial capital. In terms of investment, VC is ahead, although some conditions are better in Hong Kong.

 

Investments from 2 million SGD in sectors indicated by the government give the right to obtain citizenship.

 

The assets placed in the country are so large that in 2015 Switzerland is expected to outstrip this indicator.

 

Singapore is the financial capital of Southeast Asia, as investments in the banking sector are in the first place. Here are the largest Asian banks, branches of the world's leading institutions, as well as numerous investment funds.

 

In second place is the securities market.

 

Investing in local real estate is less popular due to its high cost.

 

In Singapore, both starting a business and investing in existing businesses are allowed. The main prospects are related to the IT sector. First of all, this is the development of mobile applications.

 

In addition, Singapore is the 4th largest oil futures exchange in the world. The local newspaper The Straits Times publishes trading results daily.

 

The largest companies in Singapore, according to Forbes, are dominated by financial companies.

 

Each startup project that has passed the initial screening is supported by investors and expects commercial success in the near future.

 

Internet companies are also not deprived of the attention of investors. Many of them receive strong external funding.

 

There is a strong demand for electronics, so significant resources are being invested in the industry.

 

The gaming industry is booming. Considering the highest mobile penetration, this is a tidbit for investors.

 

The prospects for investment in the country look good so far. Despite the fact that China is taking steps to stay ahead of Singapore and reduce its competitive advantages.

Summary

Singapore’s excellent geographic location, neighboring countries with a multi-million population, and a mild climate give all the reasons for the recognition of Singapore as the best place for business.

 

This attracts thousands of investors and expatriate workers to the country: foreigners make up 20% of the population. Companies from Singapore are among the world leaders in the financial sector, electronics, shipbuilding.

 

A fly in the ointment - the lack of pensions, which is a constant topic of complaints from the local population. However, the state is working on the investment education of citizens: officials advise where to invest for a comfortable old age.

 

Nevertheless, Singapore is great for companies from developed countries to do business comfortably. Investors must be prepared for high costs, including staff costs. Less wealthy companies may not be able to pull them, even with tax breaks from the state.

 

The local IT market is overflowing with offers. Plus, the country's internet audience is limited. Therefore, it is worth considering Singapore as a convenient business location, and with sales to enter the neighboring markets of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and China.

 

Despite state-of-the-art technologies, universal “mobilization,” and high purchasing power of the population, the B2C market is too small and difficult to enter. The expected profit is not high enough.

 

In B2B, newcomers face the toughest competition from local and foreign companies. This is costly and takes a long time to pay off the project.

 

Thus, Singapore is only promising for large, financially stable companies with long-term interests in Southeast Asia.

 

So, for those wanting to enter this developing marketplace, Ideamotive offers its services. 

 

Why not build an overwhelming business plan with highly experienced strategists, or take some advice from top-notch funding consultants?

 

Want to get to know more? Then follow our blog for the daily dose of motivation and fresh news and tips in the IT-sphere!

Michał Rejman

Michał is a digital marketing veteran with a growth hacking mindset and 10+ years of experience. His goal is building high-quality technological content, with particular emphasis on React and Ruby on Rails. Traveler, climber, remote work advocate.

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