Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. A very good evening. I am excited to be part of the EP!TOME Entrepreneurship Conference.
2. First of all, I would like to thank Open Circles and the National Youth Council (NYC) for organising this event and bringing together some of our most outstanding young entrepreneurs in Singapore.
a. EP!TOME’s commitment to maintain engagement with its audience via an in-person conference, despite COVID-19’s challenges, is reflective of entrepreneurial grit and perseverance to transform ideas into reality.
b. I am glad that we have this platform to engage and inspire our youth in entrepreneurship, help them take actionable steps to achieve their aspirations, and contribute to economic growth and jobs in Singapore.
c. Importantly, this event also aims to foster a tight-knit community through the spirit of entrepreneurship so that we can support each other during difficult times.
3. EP!TOME is the third instalment of a four-part project known as “EP!C”, which stands for Entrepreneurship, Personal Development and Innovation Community. Each aspect of this project is designed to help young entrepreneurs navigate the early stages of their journey.
a. Part 1 was a series of podcasts that help shed light on the challenges of young entrepreneurs, especially in the ideation and seed stages.
b. Part 2 was the EP!C Digital Summit, which helped educate aspiring entrepreneurs turn their ideas into well-structured businesses.
c. Part 3 is called “The Hustle”, which is a competition for ideation and seed stage entrepreneurs, helping young founders fundraise and scale.
d. Part 4 is where we are today: the EP!TOME Conference! We have seed stage and pre-series A entrepreneurs here to share their knowledge and experience that will help bring your startups to the next level. They will share more about how to manage bigger teams, attract investors and expand into larger markets.
Startups are Seizing Opportunities and Creating a more Innovative Future
4. Despite the pandemic, many startups and entrepreneurs in the region continue to make great strides at tackling issues, such as sustainable development and the digital economy.
5. There are many local examples of our young entrepreneurs and startups stepping up to seize opportunities, even during the pandemic.
a. Audrey Chew of “You Tiao Man” launched an e-commerce platform to sell her products directly to consumers when her revenue plunged by as much as 50%, due to weaker demand from hotels. She modified her frozen youtiao (or dough fritters) to make them compatible with common household appliances like air fryers. Her red-and-white beetroot youtiao and otah charcoal youtiao are some of her most popular items!
b. Amidst the pandemic, Varun Chatterji of Seventh Sense put other projects on hold to focus on creating an automatic temperature screening solution. The technology eliminates manual temperature taking as it quickly scans visitors’ temperatures via a tablet. Seventh Sense collaborated with one of Singapore’s largest mobile network operators, and is currently rolling out the solution to businesses and retailers.
c. Within the *SCAPE Entrepreneurship community, local startups like Ourglass Robotics have helped our SMEs in the F&B and retail industry transform and diversify into new revenue streams. For example, Ourglass’ autonomous service robots help restaurant owners and retailers reduce their workload by taking over mundane tasks and enabling a contactless customer experience.
6. The wide range of experiences from others in the community underscore the importance of our event today, which aims to promote the exchange of ideas and growth through the various engagements lined up.
Singapore has a Vibrant Ecosystem to Support the Growth of Startups
7. Singapore is a globally recognised and leading innovation and startup node in Asia. We are well-positioned to remain a relevant node for startups and entrepreneurship internationally, given our competitive startup ecosystem.
a. Last year, the Global Innovation Index ranked Singapore as the world’s 8th most-innovative economy in the world, and 1st in Asia.
b. More recently, we ranked 2nd in the 2021 Bloomberg Innovation Index.
8. Today, Singapore’s robust startup scene has about 3,700 startups, more than 180 accelerators, and over 220 venture capitalists and angel networks. Singapore is also home to unicorns like Grab, Lazada, Sea Group and Razer.
9. We have devoted substantial efforts to grow Singapore’s startup and innovation ecosystem over the years.
a. In 2017, we created Startup SG to showcase Singapore’s vibrant startup ecosystem both locally and overseas. Startup SG unifies efforts to support the ecosystem under its various initiatives and programmes. It supports many needs, such as finding talent, providing advice on venture building and bringing technology solutions like proprietary programming softwares to the market.
b. In August last year, Enterprise Singapore also set aside S$150 million to enhance the Startup SG Founder programme. The programme provides mentorship and startup capital grant of up to S$30,000 for first-time entrepreneurs for their ideas. A three-month Venture Building programme was also introduced to groom aspiring entrepreneurs with no business experience, and build and scale innovative start-ups.
c. The National Youth Council, in collaboration with the Citi Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) via their Youth Co:Lab initiative, and *SCAPE, came together to support the Youth Action Challenge (YAC). The programme helps our youth build and scale their ideas via additional funding, access to prototyping facilities, mentorship from experts and access to networks like investors and industry partners.
10. Youth entrepreneurs can also leverage EP!TOME’s Ecosystem Partner, *SCAPE in their journey.
a. At *SCAPE, aspiring entrepreneurs can pilot their business ideas in a co-working space and connect with the like-minded in the community. The *SCAPE Entrepreneurship Programme develops the next generation of youth entrepreneurs’ developmental programmes such as business pitches, workshops and networking sessions.
b. In addition, *SCAPE works closely with key regional partners to offer our youth many enriching opportunities such as the Global Entrepreneurship Week, K-Startup Grand Challenge and Startup Wheel with Vietnam, among others.
11. I urge all aspiring youth entrepreneurs and founders to take advantage of the Government schemes and community support available to grow and commercialise your ideas into successful startups and businesses.
a. There is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to benefit from Singapore’s conducive ecosystem and strong position in the region, which is poised to nurture and grow the next generation of unicorn startups.
b. We remain committed to supporting a new generation of entrepreneurs to grow and commercialise their ideas locally, in the region and beyond.
Navigating the Startup Journey and Keeping the Entrepreneurial Mindset
12. To navigate the startup journey, we need to recognise that entrepreneurship is not just about starting a business. It is also very much a mindset.
a. Besides having clear ambitions and ideas, the entrepreneurial mindset involves a constant desire to improve skills, to learn from mistakes and to consider new and innovative solutions.
b. I encourage our aspiring entrepreneurs here to remain confident about your ideas and press on with your efforts, even during the challenging circumstances brought about by the pandemic.
c. I am also sure that the gumption and desire from our youth to make the most of our situation and seize opportunities, will allow us to rise above the COVID-19 obstacles. Our collective strength and resolve will pull us out to build a better future.
13. The journey will not always be smooth, and chances are that you will face uncertainty and hardship along the way. Nevertheless, I hope you find comfort in the support, knowledge and guidance available in the network to tide through the difficult times.
a. In partnership with the National Youth Council, platforms like EP!TOME provide our youth with opportunities to thrive amid the pandemic and beyond. This includes support in terms of jobs, skills, mental well-being, and social issues.
14. If we are steadfast in our commitment and values, I am hopeful that our efforts will help our youth grow promising startups and emerge stronger from this pandemic.
15. To sum up, I am glad that we have this platform to share our ideas. I am confident that this conference will inspire, motivate and educate our young entrepreneurs, and groom the next generation of unicorns.
16. As a community of young entrepreneurs, do remember that you are not alone in this journey. I encourage you to boldly go and do great things, to build a better future for Singapore.
17. I wish everyone a fruitful and enjoyable conference. Thank you.