S'pore plans big shift in entrepreneurship drive

STRAITS TIMES
2014-01-18 01:00:45
Grace Chng Senior Correspondent

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SINGAPORE'S decade-long drive to promote a greater culture of entrepreneurship here is poised for a significant shift of emphasis. Plans are afoot to install a business leader as head of the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE), set up in 2003 to spearhead the entrepreneurship push. The Government now intends to take a back-seat, supportive role in ACE, it has said. Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, said he will step down as ACE chairman. The structure and direction of the new ACE will be announced in the coming weeks, he added. Started in 2003, ACE comprises public agency officials and private sector business leaders who work to foster entrepreneurship. "With greater private sector involvement, start-ups will have more access to resources such as financing, networks and expertise which can accelerate their growth," Mr Teo said at ACE's annual gala dinner held at the Pan Pacific last night. As for his role in ACE, he told journalists that he will remain the champion for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Greater private sector involvement in ACE was a key recommendation of the Entrepreneurship Review Committee (EnRC) formed last July by Mr Teo to identify new ways of nurturing entrepreneurship in Singapore. It had finished its work last month and put forward eight recommendations. The committee gathered views from more than 100 people including angel investors, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. The relevant government agencies will respond to the report in the next few weeks. The time is right for greater private sector involvement, said Mr Teo, pointing to several milestones achieved in fostering entrepreneurs here. He said the number of active start-ups jumped 58 per cent to 39,000 in 2012 from 24,000 in 2005. More Singaporeans aspire to be entrepreneurs. The 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor found that more than 20 per cent of respondents intend to start a business within three years. And those who have tried are finding success, such as Mr Tan Min Liang, co-founder of computer gaming hardware maker Razer, whose nine-year-old firm with 400 employees worldwide has an annual revenue of hundreds of millions of dollars, Mr Teo added. Another key proposal is the creation of a start-up hub. Industry insiders hope the hub will be anchored by Block 71 in the Ayer Rajah industrial estate. In the last three years, the seven-storey former flatted factory has been home to more than 100 start-ups as well as venture-capital firms and tech incubators. It has evolved into the heart of Singapore start-ups. Founder Quek Siu Rui of digital flea market Carousell hoped that the entire Ayer Rajah industrial estate could be turned into a start-up hub. "The more start-ups there are here, the richer the community. We can network with investors and software developers, we can turn to each other for help." The start-up community also welcomed the idea of a private-sector-led ACE. Online job business JobsCentral Group's regional managing director and founder Lim Der Shing said the new ACE is a good idea but cautioned that it should not duplicate what other business organisations are doing here to support entrepreneurship. "ACE should cover major industries and not just tech or biotech start-ups. "It should promote entrepreneurship to youth and act to lobby for entrepreneurs in Singapore." chngkeg@sph.com.sg