Sun, Mar 22, 2009
The Business Times
S'pore 'a best place for start-ups today'

By Oh Boon Ping

FINANCIAL capitalism has to make way for entrepreneurship, and Singapore is ideally placed to be an entrepreneurial hub, says the founder of one of Europe's largest incubators.

Johan Stael von Holstein, founder of incubator IQube, told BT the current economic turmoil shows the failure of finance-driven free market system, and the focus now should be on growing new companies.

He reckons this would fuel long-term growth, and that the new businesses would create jobs for those laid off in the crisis.

'Singapore may lead the world in this regard, as its government recognises the importance of entrepreneurship,' he said. 'There is so much talent here, and its diversity makes it a melting pot of different ideas. In fact, Silicon Valley and Singapore are probably two best places to set up companies today.'

IQube is one of the largest incubators in northern Europe, with about 115 companies undergoing its programme.

Mr von Holstein is in Singapore to raise funds to start incubator operations here, including a separate unit that will help IQube's Swedish incubator companies venture into regional markets.

One hurdle is that Singaporeans fear failure, he says. And the 'Asian culture where one fears to lose face has to go.'

'There aren't a lot of entrepreneurs who haven't made mistakes,' he said. 'If everyone is afraid of failure or mistakes, there wouldn't be Virgin Airlines or Microsoft.'

He thinks Singapore needs entrepreneurs like Virgin's Richard Branson to inspire other bright sparks to take the plunge and set up their own businesses.

So far, about 10 start-up firms here have expressed interest in joining a local IQube programme, but funding for a Singapore incubator remains a challenge.

Mr von Holstein said he is in talks with government bodies such as Spring Singapore and the Infocomm Development Authority to secure grants for operations, and hopes to tap their network of business angels and venture cap funds here to get external finance.

If that is not feasible, IQube may set up its springboard unit in either Shanghai or Mumbai, he said.

This article was first published in The Business Times.


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