Now that our GoGlobal Mission to Singapore is over, it’s time to collect some comments. Was the mission useful for the 15 startups that participated? What did they learn? What are the results? “I collected over 20 hot leads to follow up, that’s a lot for a ‘non sales’-mission.
Can you make it as a Belgian start-up in Southeast Asia? Yes, you can! The sky is the limit for entrepreneurs that are entering the market(s) early with a product that can make money.
The Southeast Asian region not only accounts for one billion consumers; English is the language of choice and the market is less saturated than in the US and the EU.
Meanwhile Singapore has become the epicenter of it all. Increasingly, the city-state is considered as one of the world's most interesting tech hubs. This is no coincidence, because the government is doing everything to create an attractive environment for digital entrepreneurs, and the number of Western startups that set up shop in Singapore is growing exponentially.
In the beginning of May, Startups.be organized a week-long mission to Singapore with fifteen Belgian startups, and with the support of Pulse Foundation, EY, Flanders Investment & Trade, Brussels Invest & Export and Awex. We asked for some comments from our participants, and it certainly looks like they spent their time very well!!
“We really enjoyed the mission to Singapore”, says ceo Walter Van Uytven of Awingu. “It has given us good insights in the country, the culture and more specifically the business aspects and the huge potential. Since we are opening our Asian activities out of Singapore it was more than worthwhile!”
“For me it was one of the most fruitful missions I've attended”, adds cfo Ron Schuermans of Playpass. “The quality was to be found in the great mixture of contacts which included VCs, journalists, connected Belgians leading to potential partners, people from the startup scene who served as a real source of inspiration, consultants and companies that can help us to set up our business fast. I collected over 20 hot leads to follow up, that’s a lot for a 'non sales'-mission.”
Founding partner of IOT Factory Luc F. Jacobs was flabbergasted by the dynamics, not only of the Singaporean start-up scene, but of the whole Southeast Asian region. “I am convinced that some of the new unicorns will be given birth there and it's definitely a place where we need to be."
"As a young Belgian start-up, it is so important to be part of this booming ecosystem that is still at human size. We were able to connect with a number of potential partners and lay the first steps toward a long term economic presence in the region"
Digital in Asia
All the Belgian companies that participated in the week-long mission to Singapore, got a booth-for-a-day during the prestigious Innovfest Unbound conference, and no less than three of them made it to Digital In Asia’s Innovfest top 6!
“It’s great to be featured by Digital in Asia”, smiles program director Els Meyvaert of SettleMint. “I do believe that Belgian companies have loads of opportunities in South East Asia and in Singapore. Entrepreneurship is hard, but in Singapore everything goes smoother, because of the entrepreneurial mindset of the government.”
“I’ll always remember the quote of Ned Philips, the ceo of Bambu we met in Singapore: ‘Eat breakfast, or be breakfast’. That’s certainly the right mindset if you want to accomplish something in Asia.”
Some of our start-ups were so impressed by Singapore that they already made plans to return to the city state. "Market research is best done in person, on location with the locals”, acknowledges co-founder Tom Pennings of Silicon Valley/Hasselt based startup Onsophic.
“The Go Global mission therefore proved to be the perfect introduction to a unique country that's proving to be a pioneer in the South East Asian market and a global innovation player for the future. Being exposed to all stakeholders, from investors, innovation centers, to prospects, and even talent was an excellent exercise in accelerated prospecting and business development. Business is done at the speed of light, and we'll be back there before the end of the year."
"Business is done at the speed of light, and we'll be back there before the end of the year"
"This mission to Singapore exceeded my expectations”, adds ceo Jorik Rombouts of Rombit. “We officially opened our satellite office, sponsored by the City of Antwerp. Discussing our smart city, smart safety and smart security solutions with the lead government agencies, I experienced first-hand the tech-oriented climate and the willingness to work with international startups. I’ll head back to worlds’ Smartest Nation in a couple of days, to ensure a smooth follow-up of earlier discussions."
“We participated in quite a few trade missions before, but the mission organized by Startups.be was unique”, finishes Tom Lauwerys of Audience Advantage. “The balanced and carefully prepared agenda-mix made sure both our goals for this venture were nicely covered throughout the week.”
“The information we needed about the market was presented to us by different, local players giving a precise image of what an adventure would mean in this specific market in terms of investment, risks, pitfalls and opportunities. The network sessions in various set-ups and venues were exactly what we were looking for to get to know better the different participants as well as local businesses.”