Friday, November 21, 2008

Global Entrepreneurship Week III

I managed to participate at 5 different events in the Week over the last 3 days, including speaking at 2 of them (the Microsoft BizSpark Launch and the BANSEA-Creative Community Singapore (CCS) Networking Event on Alternative Financing for Creative Businesses).

It is great to see Microsoft coming around to trying to work with early stage start-up companies, and I'm pleased that they have invited NUS Entrepreneurship Centre to be one of their network partners. While the free access to Microsoft software tools will certainly be very helpful, I believe one real beneifit for our Singapore-based start-ups would be to leverage their participation in BizSpark to gain regional and even global visibility. As a manifestation of Microsoft's power to draw media visibility, the event already gained coverage by Today, Channel News Asia Online, and Lianhe Zaobao, with more promised next week.

Although I have not yet invested in any "creative" businesses, this is not due to lack of interest on my part, just that I've not come across really interesting deal flows in this marketspace so far. Many entrepreneurial ventures in creative industries in Singapore have in the past tended to be run as social enterprises (depending largely on public grants/subsidies) or as lifestyle businesses that do not scale. But sensing that things may be changing, I took up the opportunity (as chairman of Business Angel Network Southeast Asia (BANSEA)) to co-organize the event with CCS as a way to get a better feel of the creative business entrepreneurial community in Singapore. I was pleasantly surprised by the high turnout -- over 100 participants -- and the level of energy during the informal networking. In my talk, I tried to highlight the need for creative business entrepreneurs to consider pursuing business models that are scaleable in order to make their businesses fundable by angel investors. I also highlighted some of the innovative financing methods that have been introduced in recent years in other countries (e.g. how a successful film production in Korea has received over 40% of its financing through micro-investments by online netizens) to encourage the creative business community to think more creatively about meeting its financing challenge. Through the event, besides meeting some very nice people, I've come to learned quite a bit about what CCS is doing to promote creative businesses in Singapore -- you can visit their website to learn more --

The Technology Commercialization Forum (TCF) organized by the Industrial Liaison Office (ILO) of NUS Enterprise also drew a very high turnout (over 300 participants). I was particularly impressed by the keynote speech by the president of the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), where he made a passionate plea for policy makers to consider the long-term societal impacts of university technology commercialization, instead of focusing narrowly on licensing revenue generation in the short term. I truly agree with him that what really motivates some of us to do what we do (promoting innovation & entrepreneurship) is to try to make the world a better place. I would like to encourage you to read the Better World Project Reports recently produced by AUTM (downloadable from which provide interesting examples of university innovations that have truly made a significant impacts on the world.


smithsan said...

CCS launched the Creative Talent Fund CTF and the Creative Business Fund CBF to nurture local creative entrepreneurs and address the needs of local creative enterprises.
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J said...

i think CCS is doing a good job putting up such grants to support the creative community, although the few projects funded weren't too ideal in terms of how a traditional VC looks at deals but it is a step in the right direction.

Marmalade said...

I would think cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit should exist at all levels, even for the business that does not scale. The guy that opens a mama store selling provisions at a little corner is just as enterprising. While there’s unemployment and the average man on the street worries about his relevance in the job market, the mama store guy has created an opportunity and livelihood for himself. For that matter, the not so polished entrepreneurs in Sim Lim Square are making a contribution to the economy and looking after themselves. Some of these small retails, or seemingly unscalable lifestyle businesses, may make it to something more substantial - remember serendipity? - perhaps a family karaoke chain even. Thing is, there must be a large enough base of enterprising spirits out there, out of which a few will make it substantially big, and we all hope, with a global presence as well. As for the small ones, they have at least made an attempt at look after their own livelihood, that itself is very respectable.

I’m not so sure about us adopting the Silicon Valley VC approach where we seemed to be focused on looking for the next big bang like Google.

AUTM is interesting. I wonder if our universities and private sector are actively leveraging on each other?

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