For Canadian entrepreneurs looking to do business in Asia, Singapore is one of the natural hubs to consider. The island city-state’s economy has been ranked as the most open in the world and one of the most pro-business. The city has a thriving entrepreneurial culture, ranking 21st on the 2019 WE Cities Index of the 50 Best Cities for Women Entrepreneurs (where Toronto ranked 9th and Vancouver 11th).
Bloomberg Reports that more than 100 companies, including Microsoft, run incubator or accelerator programs in Singapore, and that in 2017, there were more than 4,000 startups with more than 22,000 employees (compared to 2,800 startups in 2003) .
“Asia is very diverse, and very often in Singapore we might take for granted some of the most basic conditions for women’s empowerment. “
-Minister of Singapore, Grace FU Hai Yien
According to Dell’s WE Cities Index, Singapore ranks very well as it is a connected city at the forefront of technology, with a robust internet infrastructure and the government’s ambitions to become the first ‘nation. smart ”in the world, with a number of smart city projects already underway. However, the report also cited challenges in doing business in Singapore, including a high cost of living, pay equity issues, a lack of accelerators, as well as relatively few female board members. It should be noted, however, that the Singapore government has established a Board Diversity Council to encourage the participation of women on boards.
See you this week Dell Women Entrepreneur Summit event in Singapore, entrepreneurs and local leaders spoke about Singapore’s entrepreneurial environment, doing business in Asia in general and why doing business is unique in the Western world. Local leaders highlighted demographic trends in Asia, including an aging population, as well as the gaps between Asian cities when it comes to doing business, as well as how each city is specifically favorable to women entrepreneurs. .
Although the report cites a lack of strong role models, Singapore has many prominent women entrepreneurs, including Sabrina Tan, the founder of a beauty company. Skin Inc., who mentioned his company’s reliance on Shopify in his speech; Rosaline Chow Koo, an entrepreneur raised in Los Angeles who runs soon-to-be-unicorn CXA health startup; and Ankiti Bose, the founder of unicorn online retail business Zilingo. The city is also home to a unicorn startup To catch, an Uber-like ridesharing app, which has raised $ 9 billion to date.
“Singapore does not represent Asia. Asia is very diverse, and very often in Singapore we might take for granted some of the most basic conditions for women’s empowerment, ”said Grace FU Hai Yien, Singaporean Minister of Culture, Community and Social Affairs. the youth.
While Dell’s report highlighted a lack of accelerators and a lack of female entrepreneur role models, there is a strong network of startups in the city. There is at least 150 venture capital firms in Singapore who invest not only in local entrepreneurs but in global companies. According to PitchBook data, a SaaS company that provides data on M&A investments and transactions, venture capital funding in Singapore has grown from US $ 800 million in 2012 to US $ 10.5 billion in 2018. The government Singaporean also provides grants to businesses and offers matching programs for local businesses raising capital.
Canadians in Singapore
For Canadian entrepreneurs looking to work with Singapore-based companies, this can be a user-friendly environment. English is one of the four official languages, and it is the main working language. There is also a large expat community, with over a million foreign workers living in the city. Singapore is also a hub for travel to other APAC (Asia-Pacific) hubs including Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Canada’s startup ecosystem already has ties to Singapore through a MaRS-Singapore FinTech Partnership formed in 2015.
Toronto entrepreneur Jodi Echakowitz attended this week’s Dell conference and used the event to meet with a potential client of her corporate communications firm. Boulevard PR. Echakowitz strives to help its clients market themselves in the United States and Canada, which has won over a local Singaporean company looking to grow their brand in Canada.
“We provide multinational technology companies with a local perspective on their global operations. We know the nuances of the local market, have good information on the top media and industry analysts they should approach, and it’s likely that we already have existing relationships with beat journalists or editors. commercials that match their purpose, ”Echakowitz said. “Plus, given our vast network, we can add even more value by connecting them to other local resources. “
Echakowitz said that she has always sought to have international connections for her business, as it is part of a global network of communications companies, Public relations network. The network allows him to leverage global agencies in markets like APAC without having to bring in team members in local markets. It also means that it can provide North American support to member agencies that do not have expertise in these areas.
When doing business with Singaporean or Asian companies, local business leaders have stressed the importance of understanding local nuances.
Sherry Boger, group vice president of infrastructure and platform solutions at Intel, has spent more than a decade in Singapore, Vietnam and Shanghai. She spoke about the nuances of doing business in Asia and said she found the most pronounced difference to be the importance of relationships and social frameworks in doing business. In both the Western world and Asia, having a strong network is important, but she said that in a Western context, a lot of business is done on a transactional basis.
“In an Asian context, relationships are extremely important and business is done through relationships.”
“In an Asian context, relationships are extremely important and business is done through relationships. Western affairs are transactional, Asia is much more relationship-based, ”she said, adding that when she was invited to dinner with a group of associates her reaction was to decline in order to don’t disturb them, but that was the wrong answer. .
It was noted that colleagues, partners and clients want to build a deeper relationship outside of work, but these social events are also opportunities to do business.
And while Singapore is a market to consider for evaluating expansion, investment, or finding customers, Asia has 11 cities on the WE Cities index, and Zilingo’s chief marketing officer, Marita Abraham, said. that the key to expanding into Asia is understanding the nuances that exist in each Asian market. .
“My first learning was that you can’t really paint a city or a country in a particular region with the same brush. You really have to investigate, learn and research in each region what it is, ”she said. “You also need to have an evolving playbook on the characteristics of your business and your product that are scalable and transferable across these cultures and societies. “
Abraham also advised companies moving into local Asian markets to identify, hire, and empower local leaders who are aligned with company goals, but who can also be a voice for that market.
“It’s a good balance between location and scale,” she said.
Photo by Julien de Salaberry on Unsplash