More recently however, Singapore has become a hub for tech entrepreneurs and startups as a critical bridge between Asia-Pacific and Silicon Valley.
"If [Singapore] was a company, it would be one of the most remarkable entrepreneurial successes in recent history," said Danny Tan, the CEO of HipVan, in Compass' 2015 Global Startup Ecosystem Report. "I think the basic tenants of entrepreneurship such as innovation and hard work have always been part of the Singapore DNA."
Compass ranked Singapore as the 10th best place to start a company in its most recent Ecosystem Report and there's a growing relationship between it and another region known for innovation: Silicon Valley, which took the number one spot on Compass' list. Singapore has become a hub for companies and investors from Silicon Valley to help each other with finance and introductions to key players throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
"Companies want new customers and consumers want new, innovative products," says Alex Gold, co-Founder of Traction, a Silicon Valley-based marketing tech company which has started working with large brands in the region and chose Singapore as it’s first area for international expansion. "Our investors, specifically from Singapore, have been amazing at introducing us to people who we, as a company, can provide value for and enter critical new markets in Southeast Asia. They understand how startups do business."
Because it's home to the Asian-Pacific headquarters of many of the world's largest corporations, Singapore is an entry port for American entrepreneurs looking to expand throughout Southeast Asia. On top of this, because business in Singapore is done in English, there's no language barrier for American business owners to overcome.
"Singapore is an awesome place to grow a business as an entrepreneur from North America," said Lisa Crosswhite, founder of e-commerce fashion site Gnossem, based in the city-state. "The Singaporean way of life is one of achieving growth, developing, and maintaining integrity, which makes for a flourishing of entrepreneurialism."
A number VC firms such as Golden Gate Ventures and Siemer & Associates have begun centering their strategy around investing in American and Singaporean companies with a focus on Southeast Asia. They are able to offer help with expansion and introductions, things that companies of any age want support with.
"Technology [has] allowed startups...to go international a lot earlier then they've ever been able to before," said John Kim, a Managing Partner at Singapore-based VC firm Amasia, in an interview. On the other hand, he added, larger companies want investors who can provide more than just dollars and can help them expand into new markets.
“I counsel new entrepreneurs every day and provide a critical link between my experience with regional business customs and what matters for scaling startups,” said Jeanettte Tan, the organizer of Singapore’s upcoming The Box for F1. “What’s really critical is understanding how to bridge mentalities. I have been to Silicon Valley and it’s very much the same in Singapore. It’s the same 'pay it forward' mentality.”
Personal connections are critical to any thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. Ms. Tan is one of those key connectors who helps provide key introductions to press, customers, and investors. Singapore’s relatively small size of 5.5 million residents and incredibly educated workforce all make it attractive to people looking to do business in Asia.
The growing relationship between Silicon Valley and Singapore isn't just helping VC firms, but the startups receiving investment as well. Due to its massive size, it has become essential to reach the APAC market sooner and scale as fast as possible. However, this requires an especially deep understanding of the area, which Singaporeans are more than happy to offer. With all of these developments, we could be soon calling the city-state “Singapore Valley” in not too long.