Shanghai Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Ever since I came back from Shanghai from the NOC programme, I have been actively involved in a few events outside school. Some of the events that I went to were the Founders Drinks organized by e27, which I currently write for, Barcamp Singapore7 at Blk71, and I also went to check out the NTU startup scene by signing up for one of their Entreprize workshops. NCSH taught me how to step out of my comfort zone and to meet with people, to have the courage to speak up.

Because at the end of the day, “Its who you know, its not what you know”

If you compare Shanghai to Singapore, Shanghai is not lacking in all these tech related or entrepreneurial events. In fact, there are barcamps in Shanghai, which was organized by Techyizu, who also organized the demo day pitch, which I happen to have the opportunity to go to. For those of you who don’t know, Barcamps are informal peer learning meetups which feature discussions on various topics, and demo day is a pitching session where they have a panel of heavyweight judges, selecting the best and most promising startup for VC investment.

There is a common misconception that the China NOC Program is for non tech startups where you go there to “experience their culture and how business are carried out there”. Of course, the way Chinese do their business is really unique and one must be there to truly experience it, but really, Shanghai is not lacking in terms of tech related startups or exposure. In fact companies from the West are flocking over to China and expand their operations there. Shanghai is also not lacking in the number of aspiring entrepreneurs or even those that have already succeeded. The startup ecosystem in Shanghai is also picking up where there are many young people trying to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, or even striving to emulate Jack Ma, Steve Jobs of the east.

One thing about the entrepreneurs in Shanghai is that, there are more willing to take risks, as compared to most Singaporean who dispel the idea of entrepreneurship or startup because the risk is too high (as opposed to living the Singapore dream – get a good education, get a stable job, get married). For the Chinese, since some of them are not that affluent and that there is a high competition for jobs, many has resorted to creating their own jobs and settling for startups. The Chinese has lesser to lose and having brought up in a relatively harsher situation, the spirit to do something different with their life is stronger among the Chinese. I’ve met someone who borrows money from friends and family just to run a coffee shop because education was too expensive for them, at the age of 19.

For Singapore where the human resource is the only resource it has, the government has allocated a lot of resources to develop its human talent and shape it to best sustain the economy. The Singapore government has been grooming business managers, top notch engineers as well as brilliant researchers through its education system, and although recently it is focusing more on building the local entrepreneurial ecosystem (by giving various generous grants and providing mentorship and support), many Singaporeans still opt for the safer way – getting a good and stable job. It doesn’t help when huge firms and investment banks are also engaged in the battle for the best talent in what is already lacking in the local talent pool. Personally, I feel that although Singapore has a better infrastructure in place for budding entrepreneurs, we are still lacking in terms of entrepreneurial spirit, as compared to the Chinese.

Singapore is looked upon as a country to model upon, but I think a lot of us can learn and benefit from interacting with the Chinese in China, especially those that really work hard to earn a living, and those that wants to make a difference in their life. These are the people that motivate me, even today when I’m back here in Singapore.

NCSH was a good choice, although the company list needs serious polishing.

About Jacky: Jacky was from the NOC Shanghai batch 14 and currently writes for e27. You can follow him on his twitter @jackyyapp


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