Singapore is a true business hub for Asia and increasingly a hub for startups and innovation so we had high expectations as we headed there with our partners Hankyu Corporation, JR West Innovations and The Yomiuri Shimbun last week. Very fortunately, Singapore is home to some of our amazing Rainmaking Innovation and Startupbootcamp colleagues who generously supported us during our visit. Upon arriving we headed straight to PIXEL, a 25,000 square foot space that provides the ICT industry and ecosystem, facilities, expertise and programs to ideate, experiment and build customer-centric experiences for the future. The space is owned and operated by IMDA (InfoComm Media Development Authority), part of the Singapore government who we were lucky enough to be supported by for this project.
Besides our group of partners from Japan, and fabulous colleagues from Rainmaking Innovation in Singapore, we had a great group discussion with local supporters including our good friends from JETRO Singapore (Japan External Trade Organisation), representatives from Singapore government organisations IMDA and ACE (Action Community for Entrepreneurship) – plus some amazing mentors with Japan experience in both business and legal areas (thanks Robert Oda and David Vignola!).
We were lucky enough to explore some of the nearby innovation hubs and were blown away by the size and growth of these hubs like Block71, which seems to have at least doubled in size in recent years. Interestingly Block71 is an initiative of NUS (National University Singapore) in collaboration with corporates and other government entities and was originally an industrial building used by the light manufacturing industry in the 70’s.
With such rich infrastructure supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, the extraordinary high level of support for the startup ecosystem from the Singapore government must be appreciated. With organisations like IMDA playing multiple roles as an industry regulator, infrastructure developer and executing the digitalization of non-digital industries, the environment for startups is certainly the envy of other ecosystems nearby. Startups in Singapore have access to grants that support PoC’s, pilots and setting up overseas – all of which are perfectly complimentary to our Osaka Startupbootcamp Scale program offering that brings funded startups and scaleups together with large Japanese corporate partners for joint projects.
We saw a great number of Singapore entrepreneurs attend our event and it was exciting to see how knowledgeable of the Japan market opportunity the startup founders were – quite a few already having first-hand experience doing business in Japan. The companies we met were diverse in both industry and stage, with Mobility, Health & Wellbeing, Tourism and Living all covered under the program theme of Smart Cities & Living.
It was great to see scaleups among the applicants who were already well-funded and had impressive client lists and were now looking to seriously invest their time and human resources into entering the world’s 3rd largest market.
Thank you to the top 10 companies we interviewed, to our partners and new friends in Singapore for a fruitful and enjoyable time – we will be back!
After our Singapore FastTrack, we headed over to China for our Shanghai & Beijing Fast Tracks.
Our Shanghai FastTrack started with a fascinating lunch with Allan Chou, a serial entrepreneur and early-stage fund manager based in Shanghai. He is the former CMO of RocketSpace China and a partner at Garage Cafe, one of the first privately operated tech incubators in Zhongguancun Beijing, the Silicon Valley of China. Over a tasty lunch of Shanghai specialties, Allan provided insights into China’s “Mass Entrepreneurship and Innovation Policy (MEIP)”, and pearls of wisdom about how to unlock the true potential of Japanese innovation.
Next we headed to Innospace, our host for our FastTrack event. We welcomed a variety of ecosystem members, including JETRO, a government-related organization that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world; Hua Fan, Director of Technology Transfer at Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute, building a unique global platform for interdisciplinary, international and industry-partnership research and education for future world leaders and entrepreneurs; David Chaoxian He, Angel Investor & former Executive President of Cosmetics at Fosun International; Amado Trejo Romero, Co-Founder and COO of Free Entrepreneurs; a Shanghai-based startup dedicated to developing networks worldwide for open innovation projects; Sarah Qin, Manager of Overseas Programs at People Squared, China’s largest co-working space with a community of 20k creators and entrepreneurs spread across 30 locations in China; and William Chen, expert in real estate & proptech.
After a brief discussion about how to better connect Shanghai & Osaka ecosystems, our members had a chance to network before we welcomed our local Shanghai startup teams to meet our attending partners from Hankyu Corporation, JR West Innovations, and Yomiuri Shimbun, and discuss their interest and fit for our program.
We then headed to Beijing, where the next morning, we were given an insightful tour of Zhongguancun (Innoway), or “Entrepreneur Street” in Beijing, one of the first MEIP driven innovation centres in China (known as the Silicon Valley of China). Established by the Beijing and Haidian government to foster entrepreneurship and to offer a platform for an open exchange between global players in the innovation ecosystem, Innoway, comprising of over 40 incubators/accelerators along a tiny 200m street, is an international platform which has successfully incubated 2900 startups, raising a total of over 9 billion RMB. We and our Japanese partners were very impressed by the sheer scale and impact of China’s approach to innovation, and very grateful to our tour guide Lidia, and our host Tim Luan, Director of Innoway.
In the afternoon we headed across town to the “World Financial Center” to meet our gracious event hosts at King & Wood Mallesons, Tom, Wang Sha, Karim, & Shi. Headquartered in Asia, and recognised as one of the world’s most innovative law firms, King & Wood Mallesons team of over 2000 lawyers in 27 locations around the world works with clients to help them understand local challenges, navigate through regional complexity, and to find commercial solutions that deliver a competitive advantage for their clients. In short, they are connecting Asia to the world, and the world to Asia.
We were also lucky enough to welcome various fascinating ecosystem members to our event, including JETRO Beijing; Curt Shi, Founding Partner at Follow[the]Seed, a global data-driven VC with a focus of cross-border TMT and lifestyle driven opportunities; and Jonas Wolf, APAC Director at Angelhack, Mentor at Startup Grind Beijing, and part of the WEF’s Global Shapers Community, building and empower thriving communities from slightly different angles: #coding #entrepreneurial #social #empowerment.
After a great conversation about everyone’s impressions of the Japan market, and how we can help make Kansai a more internationally recognized region, we welcomed our scaleup participants to introduce us to their intriguing technologies, and meet our Japanese partners.
At dinner afterwards, we all reflected on how impressed we were with the companies we met, the size and strength of the Chinese market & its innovation initiatives. We had a great trip and hope to welcome some of the great scaleups we met, to collaborate on PoCs with our partners in Osaka from November this year!