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Singapore is the Worst Place to Start a Tech Startup

Keith Tan
April 4, 2016

So you’ve got a space at the LaunchPad, a few hungry graduates you call ‘employees’, a Slack chat up and running, and you’re all set to be known as The One Behind The Next Big Start-Up

I have some bad news for you. You might have the idea of a lifetime, but starting a Tech Startup in Singapore may be something you regret in the long run.  Despite its reputation as the region’s start-up hub, the conditions here are far from ideal, especially if you’re just starting out.

Here’s why:
#1: Expensive tech talent
Key to every tech start-up is strong tech talent, and chances are, you’re not going to find that in the Little Red Dot.  Look around you — tech startups are springing up everyday, but graduates with software expertise are rare gems. 
And the ones you can find here are often expensive. The head of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce recently recounted to The Straits Times difficulties faced by Silicon Valley technopreneurs in Singapore. They found a “shortage of good IT developers” with “unrealistic remuneration expectations”.
Don’t expect stellar quality either — he goes on to say that these technopreneurs were “disappointed with the quality and quantity of output”. Ouch.

#2: Expensive, well, everything else
IT geeks aren’t the only expensive things here — everything else you could possibly need, from office rental to transport can quickly wipe out your funds. I’m not the only one saying it; property consultancy firm Knight Frank named Singapore the most expensive city in Southeast Asia for tech start-ups. Need I say more?

#3: No promiscuity
Maybe it’s our conservative Asian values, but we somehow don’t seem to realise that promiscuity pays. Racking up experience at one firm and bringing it to another start-up isn’t stealing ideas. It’s spreading valuable insights and contacts throughout the start-up ecosystem! That brings the whole sector forward. But remember, promiscuity is NOT job-hopping. That’s just not cool, man. 

PS: This is an opinion piece by Keith Tan, Group CEO of Wonderlabs. Wonderlabs is the leading service provider helping companies build and manage software development teams in Indonesia and Vietnam. Across our various shared and dedicated centers, we have over 350+ active software developers. Since our founding in 2015, we have grown rapidly through innovation and our relentless mission focus - Connecting you to success and productivity. Alumni of Wonderlabs have gone on to work at some of the biggest companies in Southeast Asia.

Why Singapore Startups should consider setting up here

"I started Wonderlabs because I experienced the problems of building and managing a distributed software development team in Indonesia from 2011 to 2015. I wanted to make it seamless and frictionless for companies to build and manage teams. On the other hand, I found that there are so many amazing software engineers in Indonesia and Vietnam and wanted to connect them to employers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Jakarta" - Ivan Chang, Executive Chairman, Wonderlabs Group

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