Relevance in Today’s Economy and in Singapore’s Technology & Biotechnology Sectors.
By Erwin Chan
In the above-mentioned article, William Bygrave clearly outlines his understanding of the entrepreneurial age and its impact on the global economy. Several key stories, companies and take-aways are highlighted in the picture (attached). In this reading, two precautionary thoughts must be kept in mind; has the landscape of entrepreneurism changed since 2002 (when the article was written) and its appurtenance to the technology and biotechnology sectors of Singapore.
Globally, we have seen the rise of many entrepreneurs whose business models have changed the way things are done and are still contributing to the economy. There is an increase in the number of entrepreneurs seeking to capitalize on their ideas. Several of the stories and examples have unfortunately gone bust. It would be good to follow up on some of these cases studies to understand where the businesses failed to be sustainable. On the other hand, several companies like Apple are still alive and their stories have become larger than life. We have also seen the rise of more serial entrepreneurs in the world like Richard Branson, Mike Harris and Bill Townsend. They are the closest thing to show how much entrepreneurism is a science by being repeatedly successful and an art, where all the ingredients for success may be in hand but cumulate in failure. An emerging trend is the wonderful diversity of entrepreneurship that is being exhibited by young entrepreneurs. Even large corporations like Boeing have reverted to an entrepreneurial like operation. Also an increase in entrepreneurism for social good and change has arisen from both developed and developing countries. These are exciting trends in entrepreneurship that would continue to inspire and encourage upcoming entrepreneurs. In the last few years, there has also been an emphasis on the development of the entrepreneur’s soft skill-sets like “tribal” leadership (Seth Godin), success (Richard St. John) and sustainability (Peter Senge). Finally, we see a great number of success attained by teams of people rather than the lonely entrepreneur. Yes, the journey of an entrepreneur with his idea can be a lonely one, but even Dorothy could find friends along her journey in the land of Oz.
A brief understanding of the Singapore story of entrepreneurism must first be comprehended. The entrepreneurial landscape in Singapore has definitely made an impact on the growth of Singapore where trade, businesses and services flourished during pre-independence days. The entrepreneurial spirit was exhibited in the tradesmen, pirate taxis, music clubs, and even the street food vendors. It is my opinion that the entrepreneurial spirit and culture was hindered from flourishing with our nation’s independence as the government sought a more strategic and large-scale economic development of Singapore into a developed country. Changes in the education system, conventional society and sense of security in jobs with MNCs contributed to the demise of the entrepreneur in Singapore. Entrepreneurism was now relegated to the less educated and was not an acceptable job title for any child to tell his/her parents. With the withdrawal of the MNCs from Singapore, there has been a conscientious effort to excite entrepreneurism in our society today. More recently, is the push towards developing the technology and biotechnology entrepreneurs.
Whilst the technology and biotechnology start-ups require a sliver of specific knowledge, it is still the way the entrepreneur develops the idea and seeks to make a marketable product or service of the technology. Hence, the key characteristics of an entrepreneur (10 Ds) is still very relevant to help individuals understand their drive, purpose and strength. In Singapore, we have to remember that entrepreneurism is neither new idea nor an imported culture. Conversely, it has been around since the influx of immigrants to our pre-independence island-state. We should not adopt the mentality of playing “catch up” to the entrepreneurial business models of the Americans or Europeans, but develop our own entrepreneurial spirit and culture that is based on the exemplary values of our Asian roots. Lastly, another area which local entrepreneurs may forget, is that they need to enjoy and have fun being an entrepreneur. Let’s hope that as technology transfer officers, we understand how to nurture and develop these unique breed of people. This would help us develop our economy into a sustainable and supportive one for Singapore.