IBM and the National University of Singapore on Thursday announced the launch of TechSG, a new “digital platform for Singapore’s technology entrepreneurial ecosystem.” In other words, it’s a place to get an overview of local startups, events, founders, research, investors, incubators, curated news, and so on.
Rather than starting a resource portal from scratch, TechSG says that it “integrates and augments” existing information and resources from around the Web (in a card-style layout). But the launch feels much more like a beta than a finished product. More “comprehensive coverage” of Singapore’s startup ecosystem will be added by May next year, the team said, but nonetheless, it just feels unpolished at this stage. I wouldn’t call the user experience great.
It also seems to be playing catch-up with local tech media and event organizers e27 and Tech in Asia, who for years have been considered the go-to online resource hubs for the startup ecosystem in the city-state (and Southeast Asia, more broadly). And both outlets are strongly backed by government funding, so it’s not entirely clear why the university (and by extension the Singapore government) now wants to spin up a resource hub of its own.
Friendly competition is healthy, yes, so maybe that’s part of the idea behind it. At the time of writing, TechSG catalogs 628 startups, 109 investors, 727 founders, 21 incubators, and 19 other facilities. But in incubators, for example, there is a clear absence of the most notable startup accelerators in Singapore, such as Muru-D, Startupbootcamp Fintech, Inspirasia, and JFDI. When are these coming, and why aren’t they there now? They’re pretty key players in the ecosystem, I’d say.
A quick search for Muru-D, for example — an accelerator that just launched its first batch in Singapore this year backed by Australian telco Telstra — only pulls up a single card linking to a news piece on its launch. E27, by comparison, does list Muru-D.
But it’s not all bad. One of the more useful resources I came across from an initial scan is a deck of slides on the Launchpad startup community at One-North, which The Economist called “the heart of Singapore’s startup ecosystem.” It’s a cluster of startups, investors, and accelerators spread across three refurbished blocks (Block 71 being the most famous). The National University of Singapore is also located in this area. (I’ve included the deck at the end of this article, and I’d recommend checking it out.)
“TechSG is meant to be an open, collaborative platform by the start-up community for the community,” Wong Poh Kam, director of NUS Entrepreneurship Centre and lead researcher for the project, said in a release. “It will build upon the information resources of various existing ecosystem players, such as e27 and Singapore Venture Capital Association, by providing a common data architecture that enables information from different sources to be integrated and analysed to generate new insights.”
“This launch event is the first of a series of efforts to solicit inputs from the startup community, and we will experiment with some of the innovative ideas generated over the next few months. This includes new ways to crowdsource information updates in real time, and new analytical tools to benchmark the vibrancy and dynamism of Singapore’s entrepreneurial ecosystem versus those of other high-tech hubs such as New York, London, and Berlin.”
The crowdsourced updates and analytical tools have me more interested than what’s currently on the platform, which feels like a thrown-together database with a thin coat of paint. And it’s easy to talk about “innovative ideas” — let’s wait and see if they really become a widely used go-to resource in the way that e27 and Tech in Asia’s offerings have.
Out of interest, I reached out to Mohan Belani, chief executive and cofounder of e27, to get his comments on the launch. Here’s what he had to share with VentureBeat:
My view is that any platform that tries to promote startups and helps entrepreneurs is valuable, and considering how nascent the Singapore and Southeast Asia ecosystems are, the more platforms there are the better it is for the startups and the entrepreneurs. Fundamentally, it boils down to the startups and how well they take advantage of these platforms — be it e27, Tech in Asia, TechSG or any other platform that launches. There can never be too much money, there can never be too many events and there can never be too many platforms that help entrepreneurs in growing their companies.
(Editors note: The author of this article formerly worked for e27.)