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The Straits Times Forum - Response to "Top start-up attraction, but what's in it for S'poreans?"

ST Forum: Top start-up attraction, but what's in it for S'poreans?

It was reported recently that in a worldwide survey by US-based organisation Startup Genome, Singapore outperformed Silicon Valley in the United States in attracting start-up talent (S'pore No. 1 in world for start-up talent: Report; March 24).

One key reason cited was the generous government subsidies for start-ups.

There is no denying that the Government has pumped in a lot of money over the last few years to make our island the destination of choice for start-ups.

In my job, I have worked with several start-ups and I have observed that most are very small with fewer than 10 employees, of which the majority usually are foreigners, including the founders.

What this implies is that start-ups hire very few people and even when they hire, they tend to go for lower-cost, non-Singaporean software engineers.

For every cent that the Government puts in for start-ups, it has one cent less to invest in other areas that might create more jobs for Singaporeans.

There is no guarantee that when a start-up grows into a bigger company, it will continue to operate here or hire more Singaporeans.

So as the Government continues to provide substantial grants to woo start-ups here, I wonder what outcomes and benefits it expects to bring to Singaporeans from such schemes.

Are there measures and controls in place to track and assess the effectiveness of such grants, as well as ensure that foreigners are not here just for the grants?

Loh Tat Shiong

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We thank Mr Loh Tat Shiong for his letter (Top start-up attraction, but what's in it for S'poreans?; March 29).

As the national lead private-sector organisation with a mandate to represent and support start-ups in Singapore, the Action Community for Entrepreneurship would like to put forward its views on this matter.

Our regular interactions with start-ups and their founders have shown that both private- and public-sector support is essential for the success of start-ups.

The support has helped many start-ups to grow and expand their hiring capacity.

The media regularly featuressuccessful start-ups that are now at the forefront of innovation and have grown significantly.

More importantly, many of the small and medium-sized enterprises and corporate leaders were once start-ups and founders that have now gone on to contribute both from an economic and an employment standpoint.

The funding needs of a start-up vary. Start-ups that venture into new sectors with deeper technology require more support as they need a longer gestation period as well as heavier investment in research and infrastructure. Start-ups also compete in a highly competitive global environment.

We live in an age of unpredictability. Traditional industries are getting disrupted and regular businesses need to be transformed.

As the future remains uncertain, we must take big steps to grow and support the future champions of our economy.

Phan Ching Chong
Executive Director
Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE)