Jun Liang, President, University Conference (UNICON) 2023
Mr Wan Kwong Weng, Group Chief Corporate Officer, Mapletree Investments Pte Ltd,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good afternoon.
a. Happy New Year!
b. Excited to be part of this year’s UNICON. I spoke at UNICON virtually two years ago, and “Dare(d) you to Dream”.
c. Thanks NUS Entrepreneurship Society (NES) for organising and contributing to our vibrant entrepreneurship scene.
Inspiring youth entrepreneurs of tomorrow
2. UNICON aims to be Asia’s largest & craziest student-led entrepreneurship and tech conference.
a. It is a platform to unite local and international student entrepreneurs, local startups, angel investors, and venture capitalists.
b. Over these two days, we will see about 500 participants, 10 finalists from TigerLaunch pitching competition, and more than 20 speakers from leading companies such as Grab, YouTrip, and Vertex Ventures.
3. The majority of you are students passionate about tech and entrepreneurship. It is energising to be among you because your ideas and actions today will shape our future tomorrow.
4. This year’s theme is “The New Frontier”. It is a great theme.
a. It captures the ambition of a higher level of entrepreneurial achievement in a time when we embrace a new normal and emerge from the depths of the pandemic.
5. At the last UNICON in 2021, I spoke about Unicorn startups. This year, I want to share 3 things about the unicorn creature that might capture what “The New Frontier” entails for us all. The unicorn creature represents 3 things:
6. Let me begin with “innovation”. The unicorn creature is an invented idea. It represents novel, unheard-of ideas that eventually come into fruition.
a. In the same way, innovation is critical in enabling us to think out of the box, so we can seize new opportunities in an ever-evolving world.
b. This is especially relevant in Singapore’s context, given our physical and natural resource constraints.
7. Since 2010, we have set aside about S$60 billion under our Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) plans, to deepen our research base and strengthen innovation capabilities of our enterprises across strategic domains such as advanced manufacturing, health and human potential, sustainability, and the digital economy.
8. We are committed to research and innovation which deepens Singapore positioning as a Global-Asia Node of Technology, Innovation, and Enterprise.
a. According to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2022, Singapore moved up a spot to become the 7th most innovative nation in the world.
9. Platforms like UNICON will inspire our youths in innovation and entrepreneurship, and allow you to take actionable steps to achieve your aspirations.
a. Sharing by leading industry leaders and startup founders on disruptive innovation, such as the future of green financing and utility of blockchain technologies, will be useful.
b. I encourage you to attend these panel discussions and fireside chats, and participate actively.
10. I haven’t quite met a unicorn, but based on the cartoon My Little Pony, I’d like to think that unicorns are friendly creatures that love community and networks.
a. Similarly, businesses thrive when they are able to tap on strong networks to build mindshare and gather new ideas. Establishing good networks is essential to enhancing access to major innovation hubs and key demand markets.
b. We need to continually widen our interactions, seek opportunities, adapt to the dynamic environment and stay future-proof.
11. On the international front, our government agencies will expand and deepen our interactions further, as well as facilitate connections and networks between Singapore enterprises and foreign companies.
a. An example is the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) programmes, which have 17 active nodes worldwide, including nodes in Southeast Asia, China, India, Middle East, Europe and the US. The latest nodes are Abu Dhabi and Seoul, which were added last year.
12. Unicorns are a product of someone’s imagination, and they embody the spirit of creativity. Likewise, entrepreneurship is not just about starting a business –it is also a mindset. To have an entrepreneurial spirit is to be:
a. Creative – to have the flair to create novel solutions, and to be
b. Highly motivated to succeed, yet open to risk and failure – constant desire to improve skills and to learn from mistakes.
13. The journey will not always be smooth, and chances are that you will face uncertainties and difficulties along the way.
a. This is something I learnt from my days in the tech sector.
b. Despite that, you must remain confident about your ideas, press on with your efforts, take advantage of the available schemes and support in the networks to push through challenging times.
14. We have much to learn from the unicorn. But since this is the year of the rabbit, there are also 3 things to learn from the rabbit.
15. Rabbits are:
a. Agile (can hop)
b. Adaptable (can move)
c. Abundant (can multiply)
16. Like the rabbit, I hope that our startups will:
a. Be agile. Rabbits are known for their quick reaction time, and can hop away from danger. I hope you will also be able to respond quickly to the challenges ahead.
b. Be adaptable. Rabbits acclimatise quickly to shifting environmental factors due to their strong immunity. They do not just react fast, they also react well. I hope you remain resilient and flexible working in the exciting yet demanding startup environment.
c. Become abundant. Rabbits are known to multiply rapidly and populate their ecosystems. This is also our dream for you. We hope that our startups will also multiply, in Singapore, and beyond.
17. With your fresh perspective and energy, the possibilities of positive action and change to create a better future for Singapore are tremendous. So go forth and keep this entrepreneurial spirit alive.
18. I wish everyone a fruitful and enjoyable UNICON 2023. Thank you.