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Singapore’s Flourishing Startup Scene & What Helped Build It

Singapore’s Flourishing Startup Scene & What Helped Build It

Nighttime aerial view of Singapore

Since gaining its independence just over 50 years ago, the city-state of Singapore has quickly developed into a hub for startups. Just look at the cumulative venture capital raised by companies headquartered within its boundaries over the last 5 years: ~$5 billion. By that measure, Singapore ranks among the world’s top 10, next to locales that have had a much longer head start, like Germany, France, and the UK. So what’s their secret? After speaking with over a dozen founders of Singapore-based startups, a few themes emerged.

A Founder-friendly Government

Perhaps more so than for other types of companies, startups see time as money. Getting your business set up and scaling as quickly as possible can make or break an early-stage company. This fact is not lost on the Singaporean government, which has taken steps to save much of this precious resource for its startups by cutting down the time needed to get up-and-running.

Rob Roach, CTO and Co-founder of Perx, a SaaS startup that offers a platform for both loyalty and channel marketing management, points to this time savings as a main benefit for early-stage companies that call Singapore home. “Overall, it’s a very business-friendly city, so it’s quick and easy to get things started,” he says. In other words, you can count how long it takes to set-up a company in days, versus weeks.

Similarly, Roach argues the speediness of getting approval from the government for foreign employees is a huge help. Time from submission to approval is typically less than 4 weeks, per Roach. When compared with the nightmare scenarios seen in many other countries’ immigration policies, it’s no wonder founders increasingly look to Singapore.

This thoughtful approach is also exemplified by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), which acts as the central bank and financial regulatory authority for the city-state. Stemming from its position as a finance and trade powerhouse, many Singaporean startups find themselves looking to innovate within those industries, which means oversight from MAS—not necessary a bad thing in Singapore.

“MAS has done a tremendous amount of groundwork on regulatory frameworks to show us how best to work with them, what to do, and what not to do,” says Aananth Solaiyappan, CTO and Co-founder of WeInvest, a provider of robo-advisory tech.

That said, it’s not always entirely easy to meet the high bar set by MAS for operating. It can still be confusing at points, but in those cases many companies turn to AWS for help. Acknowledging that the process can be opaque at times, AWS has written a free guide to help startups navigate working with MAS, which can be found here.

The guide has been leveraged by companies including CCR Manager, which is building a digital platform for managing the behind-the-scenes work needed for international shipping. Per the startup’s CTO and Co-founder Andre Siregar, “The point-by-point guide provided by AWS was very useful, helping us work with MAS to scale to the 91+ financial institutions currently on our platform.”

So, what’s one way to attract founders and startups to your city? Do the upfront work to save them time and play to your strengths.

A Diverse Mix of People

“…if you’re looking for pound-for-pound the most food, best food, and most diverse selection of food maybe anywhere on the planet, you are most definitely talking about Singapore.” -the late Anthony Bourdain

Replace the word “food” with “entrepreneurs,” and the same would apply. The city-state’s unique mix of people is often cited as a unique advantage for its companies. Just as the melting pot of cultures creates new flavor profiles and dishes, the combination also is a boon for startups, a theme that Ronnie Tan, Managing Director at gaming company gumi Asia, identifies.

“For the people of Singapore, you grow up many different races. This multiculturalism makes it really easy to work alongside people from different countries,” he says. “With talent coming from all over the globe, it’s a great advantage.”

And while Singapore has historically been very multicultural, the aforementioned government support for bringing in a solid talent pool has played a large role in maintaining that spirit into the new digital age.

Robert Ross, CTO at Singapore Life, a digital insurance startup, exemplifies just that, both with his background and his company. Hailing from Illinois, Ross found himself in Singapore for the past three years after spending time in New York and Hong Kong.

For Ross, Singapore’s intrinsic diversity enables him to focus on attracting and developing the best talent, with a unique mix of people and backgrounds coming naturally with that process. And for his startup, this means they get a variety of perspectives on how to solve the many problems faced with early-stage companies.

Looking back, it’s no wonder that during our recent trip to the southeast asian city we talked with founders from over seven countries, including Finland, France, India, Indonesia, Poland, and Japan, all now living in Singapore.

What’s Next?

Although Singapore has found a groove as a hub for startups in Southeast Asia, there is still work to be done to take it to the next level. A topic mentioned throughout our interviews were the lack of lighthouse wins for the community, which many would argue is the most important indicator of success. All the venture capital invested must lead to outsized outcomes for the model to work, after all.

That said, exits take time and the Singapore startup scene is developing. While the huge acquisitions and IPOs have yet to start rolling in, the earlier stages are ripe with activity, led by the likes of the aforementioned companies: Perx, Singapore Life, WeInvest, and CCRManager.

And while Singapore can serve as a great example for how to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem similar to the one seen half a world away in Silicon Valley, it’s perhaps better looked at as an example that there is more than one way to do so. Just look at Singapore’s signature strength, diversity, something that is by no means an area where companies in the Bay Area excel.

So, for cities or countries looking to emulate the magic in Northern California, perhaps it’s best to look within to see what your part of the world is uniquely positioned to offer. There’s more than one way to build a community.

from AWS Startups Blog

Bambu’s B2B Robo-advising Platform Democratizes Financial Planning

Bambu’s B2B Robo-advising Platform Democratizes Financial Planning

Historically, financial planning was considered an option only for the white-collar crowd—those with lots of money would find a personal financial advisor to help them decide how much of their wealth to disburse to which asset classes.

That being said, over the past decade, a host of fintech startups have popped up around the world, looking to both capitalize on existing business and bring investing ability to new markets. Bambu, a Singapore-based company that built a robo-advising platform, is focused on the latter.

Founded in 2016 by Ned Phillips and Aki Ranin, Bambu is on a mission to apply the latest technology to financial advisory, thereby lowering the cost of such services and making them available to people who previously would’ve dismissed them as exclusively for the rich and powerful.

But while other global leaders in the robo-advising industry have found success going directly to the consumer (think Betterment or Wealthfront), Bambu is taking a different route by targeting established financial institutions.

Why? It’s really a product of where and how the company started, per Ranin.

“If you look at the places robo-advising took off, it’s large domestic markets: the USA, Europe, and some in China. At the center of this is the ease of moving through regulations and getting approval. For example, in Europe they have pan-European licensing processes that make it easy to get regulated in one country but do business across many. Asia, on the other hand, is fragmented, making the independent model a lot more difficult.”

This fragmentation led to Bambu working directly with banks on platform adoption, as the banks already have the necessary regulatory approvals. They then use the startup’s robo-advisory services to better serve their customers.

Using that model, Bambu was able to be the first robo-advisor to launch in its home of Singapore, relying heavily on AWS from the get-go, both from a technical perspective and a partnership perspective to help navigate the regulatory barriers surrounding financial services.

While today it seems like a given that most companies work on the cloud in some capacity, it wasn’t always the case, especially in emerging markets. Ranin describes how as recently as three years ago when Bambu started, the environment was less than welcoming, if not entirely skeptical.

“At the time, it wasn’t clear path for companies to launch utilizing cloud services, especially in highly regulated industries like ours. AWS and its local team in Singapore were hugely helpful not only in getting us ramped up, but also in understanding regulations, and making a case for why using the cloud actually increases security. Once that’s established there really isn’t any downside.”

With a solid stance in Singapore and activity underway in other Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia, Bambu has its sights set on geographic expansion. The platform was initially built for Asian countries, but it has since garnered much interest from the global community, a development that surprised Ranin and his team.

“We’ve seen inquiries come in from places all over the world, such as the U.S., South America, Europe, and the Middle East. Moving forward, Bambu will put more focus on building the platform for scale, making it easily launchable wherever the customer may be.”

Once completed, the startup’s next iteration will further the company’s goal of bringing financial advisory services to the masses, not only on home soil, but also for people around the world.

from AWS Startups Blog

Announcing latest release of AWS Thinkbox Deadline 10.0.27 with Resource Tracker

Announcing latest release of AWS Thinkbox Deadline 10.0.27 with Resource Tracker

We are pleased to announce the general availability for the latest release of AWS Thinkbox Deadline 10.0.27. This release adds support for Autodesk 3ds Max 2020 and Eddy for Nuke 2.3.0, and includes a new AWS feature, Resource Tracker, in addition to many improvements and bug fixes.  

from Recent Announcements

Amazon CloudWatch Events Now Supports Amazon CloudWatch Logs as a Target and Tagging of CloudWatch Events Rules

Amazon CloudWatch Events Now Supports Amazon CloudWatch Logs as a Target and Tagging of CloudWatch Events Rules

You can now use CloudWatch Logs to store, monitor, and analyze CloudWatch Events that are triggered in your environment.  

from Recent Announcements

AWS License Manager is now available in AWS China (Beijing) region operated by Sinnet and AWS China (Ningxia) region operated by NWCD

AWS License Manager is now available in AWS China (Beijing) region operated by Sinnet and AWS China (Ningxia) region operated by NWCD

AWS License Manager is now available in AWS China (Beijing) region, operated by Sinnet, and AWS China (Ningxia) region, operated by NWCD. AWS License Manager is offered at no additional charges. To learn more about this service, visit the product documentation, and FAQ page.

from Recent Announcements

RINGS.TV’s ‘Loops’ Connects Arabs Through Its Live Social Platform

RINGS.TV’s ‘Loops’ Connects Arabs Through Its Live Social Platform

For Bryan Loh and the team at RINGS.TV, jumping at the opportunity to build a social live streaming platform specifically for Arabian people seemed like a no brainer. The success of various similar products around the world — Periscope and Facebook Live, for example — clearly showed that people were ready and waiting for this type of service. What those platforms lacked, however, was knowledge of the Arabian market, something that Loh and his team had in spades.

Bryan Loh, Cofounder of and LoopsPrior to beginning the work on what would eventually become his current company, Loh spent years as a manager at MOZAT, a mobile-development company that’s been serving the Middle Eastern market for over a decade. During his time there, Loh and the team kicked off the development of a live streaming platform, eventually spinning it out of the parent company in 2016 after receiving interest for investors.

Since then, RINGS.TV’s platform, dubbed Loops, has exploded in popularity, much of which Loh attributes to the company’s focus on building specifically for the Arabian market and their unique needs.

Demonstrating this focus are culturally informed features that Loops currently has to facilitate interaction. Loh points out, “When you observe gatherings in Arab countries, games are a frequent activity. We looked to capture that same experience, but put it online.” This observation led the company to integrate the five games it now offers to its users, which include chess and Baloot, a popular card game.

The idea to build a live streaming platform specifically for the Arabian market seems to have fueled massive growth, too. After spinning out just 3 years ago, RINGS.TV’s Loops platform is at nearly 6 million users, a feat of scale that AWS was critical in achieving.

Per Loh, “A main benefit we’ve seen from partnering with AWS is the ability to scale-up quickly. Since launching, we’ve increased our usage to roughly 130 virtual machines, and we’re leveraging the CDN offering as well. Also, historically we’d operated using the Singapore availability zone, but are very excited to leverage the newly launched Dubai AZ to better serve our customers.”

As for what’s next for the growing startup? For Loh, doubling down on what’s working is front-of-mind.

“Our platform currently supports nine people virtually hanging out,” says Loh, “but we have plans to further expand that. We’re also looking to increase the number of games we offer from five to ten by the end of 2019.”

from AWS Startups Blog

New in AWS Deep Learning Containers: Support for Amazon SageMaker and MXNet 1.4.1 with CUDA 10.0

New in AWS Deep Learning Containers: Support for Amazon SageMaker and MXNet 1.4.1 with CUDA 10.0

AWS Deep Learning (DL) Containers now come with libraries and packages required for model training and inference in Amazon SageMaker. Amazon SageMaker is a fully managed service that enables you to build, train, and deploy machine learning models at scale. You can now use DL Containers seamlessly across Amazon SageMaker, Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (Amazon EKS), self-managed Kubernetes on Amazon EC2, and Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS). This release of DL Containers also updates Apache MXNet images to 1.4.1 with support for CUDA 10.0.  

from Recent Announcements