As Singapore shapes up to become an entrepreneurial hub in the digital age, the Action Community for Entrepreneurship Singapore (ACE.SG) is stepping up to help startups navigate their business journeys (Image: ACE.SG)
The pandemic, if anything, brought about as much chaos as opportunities for entrepreneurs. The quick and desperate shift to the work-from-home model most certainly opened the eyes of the masses, and many have been awakened to the reality of the true power of the internet: with a computer and an internet connection, anyone can instantly start building a product and launch a new business.
And now alongside the long slew of artificial intelligence-powered large language models like ChatGPT, even marketing efforts are simplified. These tools can easily come up with engaging social media captions, plan meticulous schedules and comb through specific tests to optimise your landing page.
This is just the beginning of a new era, with endless opportunities for the boldest of entrepreneurs.
How ACE.SG is helping to develop a thriving startup ecosystem in Singapore
Singapore today is home to over 4,600 tech startups who have collectively raised US$516 million in the first quarter of 2023. Widely known as a startup hub in Southeast Asia, Singapore has a wide network of research institutions, accelerators and incubators, venture capital investors – and most importantly the startup communities.
The innovation culture is also growing in the city-state with around 7 per cent of the population engaging in some form of entrepreneurial activity according to Enterprise Singapore.
Startup founders engaged in sharing and discussions during an ACE.SG workshop (Image: ACE.SG)
To support this growth, the Action Community for Entrepreneurship Singapore (ACE.SG), the key trade association representing the interests of startups in Singapore, has stepped up and implemented different steps to guide local businesses through their business journeys, by tackling three strategic priorities – connectivity, capability and capacity building, and overseas market access. ACE.SG aims to pave the way for local startups by collaborating with corporates to give startups opportunities to access intellectual property and distribution channels, driving curated deal-making to help startups tap on risk capital and representing startup founders and being their voice to shape startup-friendly policies. ACE.SG also partners with education institutions and Institutes of Higher Learning to cultivate youths’ interest in entrepreneurship.
ACE.SG organises learning journeys with the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) and Republic Polytechnic (Image: ACE.SG)
From fine-tuning business proposals to strategic pitching to investors, and eventually scaling your ventures internationally, ACE.SG creates a step-by-step infrastructure to guide local entrepreneurs through each phase of their business journey.
Providing early-stage entrepreneur support with BACECAMP
The most difficult phase of the entrepreneur’s journey is starting the business. The jump from zero to one is a steep learning curve, and while you may have an innovative idea, not everyone knows where they can start to apply these ideas to a practical business model.
After 15 iterations, ACE.SG recently launched a new BACECAMP model with the prestigious Wharton Business School. This is a four-week structured learning and mentoring hybrid programme that embeds the latest tools to empower founders for their early-stage business venture. Mentorship is also highly regarded with experienced entrepreneurs, industry experts, and investors coming down to share their insights on the various aspects of business development.
BACECAMP is an accelerator programme that helps budding entrepreneurs navigate the startup ecosystem (Image: ACE.SG)
In addition, ACE & Warton BACECAMP 1 also offers networking opportunities, allowing entrepreneurs to connect with peers, potential collaborators and resources such as co-working spaces, legal and financial advice, and access to investor networks.
For instance, co-founder and CEO of tech startup Inplex, Ng Soon Guan, recently attended the BACECAMP programme. Ng kickstarted his company by leveraging his family’s background and knowledge in the construction industry to build technology-based solutions for the construction industry. Having attended the recent BACECAMP programme, he found that having practitioners and entrepreneurs who understood the challenges and techniques involved in navigating the startup journey was useful, as participants were given more clarity on key ways to improve their pitch decks.
“I found the syllabus on the Venture Capital landscape and pitching to investors to be highly relevant, and BACECAMP also encouraged us to set more audacious goals as entrepreneurs,” said Ng.
BACECAMP has also hosted budding startups like Qubit Dynamics and Fabrica AI, helping them refine their business models, secure funding and accelerate their growth trajectory. Cao Liang, the founder of Qubit Dynamics, even noted that BACECAMP is crucial in getting first-time founders the necessary information to start their entrepreneurship journeys.
Founder of Qubit Dynamics Founder shared in a video his experience of receiving mentorship and guidance under the BACECAMP programme (Video Screenshot from Ace.SG LinkedIn)
Furthermore, ACE.SG will continue supporting their alumni after BACECAMP, as the startup community, mentors and global partner networks continue to guide and support their alumni entrepreneurs going forward.
Entrepreneurs interested in gaining access to corporate innovators, ecosystem partners, venture capitalists and government support can sign up for BACECAMP on ACE.SG’s website.
Building a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem
Connections are not only key to building one’s business, but they are also crucial to nurturing a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Singapore. Whether it’s introducing products to new consumers and investors, or searching for mentorship and guidance in your startup journey, it is important to expose yourself to different social circles to find the right people to work with.
To facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing, ACE.SG organises corporate events that bring together entrepreneurs and established companies. This provides win-win opportunities for both large corporations that are looking to innovate and budding startups with their unique solutions. For instance, tech companies such as BIGO and Naver Cloud attended recent corporate events organised by ACE.SG, and shared perspectives on different markets.
Apart from industrial expertise, ACE.SG also helps to facilitate learning opportunities for startups through discussions on leadership and trends such as sustainability in growing their businesses. For instance, ACE.SG recently worked with JTC Corporation and Carousell Group on a joint event for the startup community where Advisor to Carousell Group, Colin Bryar, shared his experiences, insights and practical trips for startups. Through these events, entrepreneurs can showcase their products to attract potential strategic partnerships or investments, and also gain valuable insights into industry trends, best practices, and emerging technologies.
Expanding businesses to the international stage
You’ve taken the plunge and your business is on the right track. It’s time to elevate your business by expanding it into international markets.
There are, however, many different nuances to how businesses are conducted and consumer patterns in different regions. Before entrepreneurs can take the next step, they need to understand the intricacies of the international markets to make better decisions and have more tailored strategies.
To assist entrepreneurs in this endeavour, ACE.SG conducts information sessions focusing on specific markets, including insights on the markets in Vietnam, Canada, China and Australia. These sessions explore topics from tax subsidies and opportunities across Australia to Vietnam’s high-quality tech talents and digitally savvy consumers, as well as China’s new infrastructure and focus on areas like 5G, artificial intelligence, big data, and the industrial internet.
This is often one of the first touch points for local entrepreneurs as they expand abroad. These sessions provide a basic overview of new markets and serve as an access point to the many accelerators and incubators who can help them soft land in other markets.
Bridging the gap between startups and the Government
As the national voice for startups in Singapore, ACE.SG recognises the vital role the government plays, especially when it comes to regulatory barriers and funding for the startup ecosystem. By connecting different government agencies like the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Enterprise Singapore, ACE.SG acts as a catalyst for local businesses, enabling them to thrive in a vibrant and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Through Minister Dialogues and Monthly Roundtables, ACE.SG facilitates dialogue and collaboration between entrepreneurs and government officials, providing a platform for startups to engage directly with government bodies.
ACE.SG organised a dialogue session with the Minister of Education Chan Chun Sing in March 2023, where the Minister shared his views on how Singapore’s startup ecosystem can partner with the Ministry of Education to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs (Image: ACE.SG)
During these sessions, startups have the opportunity to voice their concerns, share their experience, and provide feedback on the regulatory barriers and challenges they face. In turn, government officials gain valuable insights into the needs and perspectives of the startup community, which enables them to develop policies and initiatives that better support the needs of entrepreneurs. By fostering open and constructive dialogue, ACE.SG aims to develop an enabling ecosystem to help startups grow.
Government Technology Agency (GovTech) is ACE.SG’s newest partner. By collaborating with GovTech, ACE.SG hopes to help more startups discover GoBusiness, which is a one-stop government platform that provides businesses in Singapore with simplified and personalised access to government digital services such as business registration, licence and grant applications.
ACE.SG and GoBusiness hosted a discussion with over 30 business leaders and founders in the AgriTech industry. (Image: ACE.SG)
The partnership will also enable startups in ACE.SG’s network to participate in the development journey of GoBusiness through industry research, feedback and user testing sessions, to help GovTech build digital tools on GoBusiness that address the challenges of startups.
Beyond Singapore, ACE.SG also works with government agencies in North Asia and Southeast Asia to drive the development of startup ecosystems.
By working closely with relevant government agencies, ACE.SG creates a supportive environment for startups, and is able to help them to navigate the complexities of the fast-changing business landscape.
Connect with ACE.SG to get first dibs on ACE.SG initiatives, networking opportunities and resources that can support your business growth.
This article is accurate as at 22 Jun 2023