As US looks the other way, Singapore wants more foreign startups to set base

As the Donald Trump-led US administration works to curb H-1B visas, and directly-indirectly discourage foreign startups, Singapore is working to attract the world’s best talent to make the island nation the next Silicon Valley. The rising global protectionist sentiments that emerged in 2016 present us with the opportunity to position Singapore as an attractive startup location for talent. Foreign entrepreneurs have the capacity to add to the vibrancy of our startup scene,” AsiaOne quoted Koh Poh Koon, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Singapore, as saying in the Parliament, on Friday. The number of startups in Singapore has more than doubled from 22,000 in 2003 to 48,000 in 2015, the Minister noted. He noted that foreign startups employed over 19,000 workers as of 2015. “They complement local startups through the cross-fertilization of ideas, catalyze new partnerships and create good jobs for our people,” he said.

Paid-up capital of at least S$50,000 removed

Singapore will ease the eligibility criteria for the EntrePass scheme, aimed at foreign entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Singapore. According to AsiaOne, currently, to qualify for an EntrePass, applicants have to register a private limited company, and inject at least S$50,000 in paid-up capital. They also have to hold at least 30% of the shares in the company, and fulfil one of four innovation criteria. The requirement for applicants to have a paid-up capital of at least S$50,000 in their startups will now be removed. Singapore Business Review, quoted Mr Koh as elaborating, “We will extend the validity of each EntrePass from the current one year to two years, after the first renewal at Year 2. In other words, if the foreign entrepreneur can demonstrate progress at the end of the first year, the EntrePass will be extended for another year. Thereafter, subsequent EntrePass renewals will be valid for two years.” However, the government will ensure that applicants coming to Singapore have an established track record.

Enhancing co-investment support

Singapore will lay much emphasis on deep-tech areas, such as medical technology, clean technology and advanced manufacturing. To encourage the domain, the city-state will double the investment cap for its co-investment portion for deep-tech startups from S$2 million to S$4 million, enabling tiered funding support. It will also increase the proportion of its co-investment funding support for supported investments, from 50% to 70%.

Schemes to be unified under Startup SG umbrella

Singapore will establish ‘Startup SG’ — an umbrella branding to club all support schemes for startups, the minister noted. “With the unified branding, it will be easier for budding entrepreneurs to identify the relevant schemes for their unique situations and needs. Over time, we will work with other stakeholders to further strengthen this Startup SG brand,” Channel NewsAsia quoted Dr Koh as saying. Currently, there are five schemes under the brand, which include Startup SG Founder to support first-time entrepreneurs, Startup SG Talent to support talent development for startups, and Startup SG Equity to incentivize equity co-investment for startups.

250 firms on MOM watchlist

Meanwhile, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has put 250 watchlist for not doing enough to hire and groom Singaporeans, Lim Swee Say, Minister, Manpower, Singapore, told the Parliament today. Much of these firms are from the information and communication technology, professional services, and financial and insurance activities industries. The Fair Consideration Framework, implemented in August 2014, ensures that companies give preference to local talent before they scout for foreign workers. Being placed on the watchlist means that the MOM will scrutinize these firms’ Employment Pass applications for foreign workers more closely. He mentioned that over 500 applications for Employment Pass from 50 of the firms on the watchlist. These 50 firms, he said “have not been receptive or cooperative.” “We will continue to curtail their work pass privileges until they improve.” the Manpower Minister said.

Abhinav Mohapatra

An author who has a keen interest for the ‘off-beat’ <!--more-->An author who has a keen interest for the ‘off-beat’, he has covered and explored multiple facets of the marketing, advertising

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