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Singapore’s Ali Baba aspirations

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There is a flurry of activity in our start-up scene to find our very own Ali Baba – our first internet giant that will strike a chord with the international investment community. A big success would mean a massive inflow of investments into our home-grown tech sector.

Earlier this week, Minister for Communication and Information, Dr Yacob Ibrahim, said that our ecosystem is an environment that encourages cross-fertilisation of ideas and technology-driven entrepreneurship. “And the key lies in building partnerships in research and funding,” said Dr Yaacob.

“As we make progress on this front, we will benefit from a more coordinated approach among the players within the ecosystem.”

But the key question that is in the minds of most investors is: where is your market? With a population of five million, local entrepreneurs are often told to look at the larger South East Asian market.

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However, the ASEAN market poses a few challenges in terms of language, culture and levels of internet and mobile penetration. These markets are often dominated by a local player.

Developing a eco-system for funding is only part of the solution, but what we really need to do is develop better partnerships with our neighbouring countries and spend more time understanding their markets.

Given all these challenges, it is apparent that the opportunity that the minister is referring to is in fund raising and not the markets. We are a long way from achieving that.

Our very own Ali Baba aspirations are not going to materialize anytime soon.

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