Top 3 reasons why UK businesses should shift sights to Singapore

Singapore in particular has leapt up the Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking, moving up seven places to enter the Top 10 this year (Startup For start-ups looking to scale globally, Singapore is definitely one to take note of when it comes to the level of funding, tech talent and skills available, as well as organic support from seasoned mentors and business leaders.

In the last few months, the UK is also sitting up and taking note of the wealth of opportunities that are available in Southeast Asia. The recent visit by Prime Minister David Cameron to the region looked to open doors for future trade deals worth over £750 million, with the potential to pump an additional £3 billion into the UK economy annually (UK Govt). More specifically, talks were held with the Singaporean government to agree upon a series of key Singapore-UK initiatives that present various exciting business opportunities for UK enterprises.

So what can UK start-ups and businesses look to gain from this growing interest in Southeast Asia and Singapore and what can the region offer ambitious entrepreneurs? Steve Leonard, Executive Deputy Chairman of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore and Chairman of Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd, reveals the top three reasons why UK businesses should shift their sights to Singapore.

Singapore offers the most strategic gateway to the Southeast Asian region

UK start-ups and entrepreneurs could have the potential to tap into a huge market in the ASEAN region. Following his trip, David Cameron stated that “over the next 20 years, 90 percent of global growth is expected to come from outside Europe and Britain must be poised to take advantage.” Southeast Asia is expected to be the fourth-largest market in the world by 2030 (Forecasts by IHS), and is presently home to 600 million people and 227 of the world’s companies with more than US$1 billion in revenue (McKinsey Insight: Understanding ASEAN: Seven things you need to know: May 2014).

Urbanisation and consumer growth is constantly on the rise, with the ASEAN population increasingly moving online. One example of this is the rapid digitisation of Indonesia, where Jakarta sends more daily tweets than any other city in the world (UK Govt) and there are approximately 282 million mobile subscriptions at present and 100 million Internet users expected by 2016 (McKinsey Insight: Understanding ASEAN: Seven things you need to know: May 2014). In the face of this, European and UK technology companies and start-ups have a huge potential for growth and scalability.

In addition to the business opportunities that are emerging from the huge ASEAN consumer market, we should also be looking to continuously improve our existing ties. Singapore and the UK are natural partners when it comes to free trade, enterprise and innovation – and share an increasingly vibrant innovation and entrepreneurial landscape. With strong government support and investment, the world’s most tightly packed start-up ecosystem (The Economist) as well as high number of investors and corporates increasingly looking towards the technology sector, Singapore is becoming the logical choice for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to expand their business. 

Singapore is actively looking to invest in UK start-ups

UK opportunities in Singapore should not be viewed as a one sided affair, Singapore is also actively looking to woo UK start-ups into establishing a foothold on the island nation, with government support and investment. Singapore is looking to tap into the huge pool of talent in the European region. The UK technology sector has seen impressive growth, with London emerging as Europe’s largest hub for tech start-ups and home to more than 3,000 technology groups (Financial Times). Furthermore, Singapore is already offering UK start-ups the scope for expansion into the ASEAN market in a number of ways.

For example, Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd (IIPL) has extended the reach of its US$200m fund to the European market, exploring co-investment in promising tech companies. It has already invested in London-based Startupbootcamp FinTech Accelerator, which has since anchored its Asian programme in Singapore. Most recently, IIPL has also invested in UK-based “pre-team, pre-idea” talent platform, Entrepreneur First, which focuses on investing in highly technical talents to build deep tech start-ups.

With a low corporate tax and a simple Singapore company formation procedure, it is no wonder that this Asian country is an attractive location for UK businesses. ?

Along with a significant injection of capital, Singapore’s commitment to investment in the UK tech scene offers start-ups a unique opportunity to build products for the booming Southeast Asian market under the guidance of experienced professional accelerator programmes.

Singapore’s Smart Nation vision

Singapore last year launched its Smart Nation vision with the aim of bringing together forward-thinking corporates, innovative start-ups, venture capital firms and breakthrough academics and researchers to tackle important shared global challenges and improve the lives of global citizens.

Urban density and aging populations are realities facing much of the developed world. By 2050 it is estimated that 66 percent of the world’s population will live in cities (UN Report). Coupled with the fact that today’s global population have a longer life expectancy than previous generations (Global Health Observatory data), how will countries cope with the increased strain on existing infrastructure?

As part of the Smart Nation vision, UK tech start-ups setting up shop in Singapore are presented with a living laboratory environment to test out and perfect their products. The country is looking for breakthrough scalable tech solutions to everything from self-driving vehicles to tele-rehabilitation and is offering up its infrastructure as the proving grounds.

Singapore is the ideal place for UK start-ups to expand and hone their products; its unique mix of world-leading universities and research institutes, a fast-growing start-up community, high concentration of investment capital and a strong public and private sector backing is the perfect environment in which to foster a culture of experimentation and risk taking. This Smart Nation vision coupled with huge export opportunities and government investment means that the raw ingredients are all in place for high growth, innovative UK start-ups to thrive in Southeast Asia.

By Steve Leonard, Executive Deputy Chairman of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA)