The Wrong Focus

The Singapore startup ecosystem has a huge shortage of talent.

A while back, I answered a question on Quora: “What’s lacking in the startup infrastructure in Singapore?” In short,

Much like the US, the top paying and most “prestigious” jobs are in banking, law firms, and medicine. As such a large proportion of top talent aspire to and eventually join those industries. But unlike the US, Singapore has a tiny population, so the effects of this talent drain are profound.

Similarly, engineering isn’t prestigious enough, and it’s hardly a student’s first choice of a career. That’s perhaps a fundamental aspect of the problem.

The government and local universities heavily promote entrepreneurship, which is a good thing. This is done through various programs, initiatives, and easy funding. However, there hasn’t been a comparable push to encourage students to work in startups, which is starting to harm the companies.

That said, I remain optimistic that things are picking up. It wasn’t too long ago that I pitched at unconference ‘07. Back then, the predecessor to Echelon mainly occupied hallway space. Constrast that to 2012.

This year alone sees 3 major startup events, Startup Asia, DEMO and [Echelon]( Regional funds are getting stronger, which will no doubt have a huge impact locally. Throw in hacker centric events like RedDotRubyConf, and we really do have an exciting year for startups ahead.

Even with all this buzz, the problem of talent still goes unaddressed. We still don’t have enough people willingly starting or joining startups. All the pieces of the ideal “startup infrastructure” can fall into place quickly, but solving the talent problem is a much longer project.

That’s what we should be focusing on.


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Anything But Engineering

In perfect engineering-centric ecosystems like Silicon Valley, there’s a shortage of engineers. In imperfect, growing ecosystems, there’s a shortage of engineers as well. But for different reasons. Let’s look at Singapore as an example.... Continue →