A Case of Money No Enough, or Ideas No Good Enough?
It probably came as a shock to agencies like Spring Singapore, Economic Development Board (EDB) and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore that, according to the recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) study of 42 countries, total entrepreneurship activity in Singapore fell from 7.2 per cent in 2005 to 4.9 per cent last year.
There’s probably a lot of soul-searching going on now, but I have my own theory on why this may have been so.
I reckon most Singaporeans lack the desire to start businesses. And many of those who do have no clue how to do so anyway.
I remember a certain incident that happened at the recent IDM Jamboree organised by the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA). I was engrossed in a conversation with one of the panelists after the conclusion of one of the plenary sessions when we were rudely interrupted by another member of the audience. The petite middle-aged lady began telling the panelist from MDA about her dreams of starting something to help disadvantaged children in Southeast Asia who may not have access to a proper education.
I didn’t quite mind the interruption at first, but as the conversation wore on it became pretty obvious that the interloper did not have a clue on how she wanted to proceed on her idea. This was also apparent to the panelist, and hence the conversation became increasingly uncomfortable for the both of us. I had obviously already tuned out of the conversation, and it was only then that I noticed more about our interloper. She was obviously passionate about the things that mattered to her – to the point she has neglected the things that mattered to others. She was quite unkempt, her clothes ill-fitting and her breath stank. No wonder the panelist was cringing.
If you’re reading this, dear Miss Entrepreneur-Wannabe, I have a few tips for you:
1. Brush up on your Social Etiquette and EQ (Emotional Quotient) – Interjecting yourself into a conversation the way you did is considered poor form. Manners aside, assess the image that you project to others. One of the things that I believe venture capitalists and business angels look into in a business, other than the idea, is the core team that drives the business. Suffice to say they wouldn’t have been impressed in your approach or the fact you pay little or no attention to your personal hygiene. The children of the world need help, but so do you.
2. Have a Business Plan – In fact, have a business idea. Your desire to help the disadvantaged is noble and admirable. However, you really have nothing concrete at all. Accosting someone and presenting your ideals without a plan of action is a waste of time.
3. Focus and Targeting – Why did you even bother to regale the MDA panelist with your story (I wouldn’t even call it an idea)? She’s a policymaker who obviously wouldn’t have been able to help you, yet you totally bypassed two of the other panelists who could – one of whom was a venture capitalist and the other a successful entrepreneur. Or did you despise the entrepreneur because he was only 21 years-old? I thought his e-learning educational online software was fantastic, and would have been a great vehicle to drive your idea. But maybe it wasn’t apparent to you.
Aspiring entrepreneurs here complain about the difficulty of securing sufficient setup capital for starting or growing their businesses. Venture capitalists, on the other hand, lament the dearth of good business ideas which are worth putting money behind.
So perhaps the venture capitalists were right after all. We need people with ideas, and we need them bad. Otherwise 2007 may be an even worse year for entrepreneurship in Singapore.
Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.