Sunday, April 1, 2007

Tell Me It Isn’t So!

I have recently been seeking angel investment for a newly-developed business portal, and a comment by a potential investor has stopped me in my tracks.

He advised that positioning my new business as a Singapore-based dot-com might be a disadvantage and suggested that we might get greater awareness and support from local Singaporeans if we were to launch our portal overseas. .

Please tell me this is not true!

In my career, I have worked in many countries and chose to return to Singapore to realise my vision, believing that we Singaporeans would support fellow entrepreneurs, judging achievements on their own merits and not devalue them just because they are home grown.

We have the support of the Economic Development Board under the Innovation Commercialisation Scheme for the development of our proof-of-concept. We have recently launched our portal and are hoping to gain support from fellow Singaporean business professionals. Are we going to be disappointed?

Our mission is to help small businesses, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to be more efficient in their marketing and business development efforts through online capabilities. We aim to empower them by making technology accessible and easy to use. To further show our commitment and support, we make most of our services free of charge.

Although I truly believe we will be successful, I want and need to know that I will get the support from my homeland. Deep down, I want to do us all proud.

Please tell me that the advice I heard from the investor is not true!

Jesse Ting

Founder, IconnectE.com

5 comments:

It's ME said...

Well, maybe he has a point there but you need to look at which country he was talking about. Some coutries may not be as lucrative as Singapore now. But then again, Singapore is advancing too fast and in no time, it will be over-crowding with companie and sooner or later, it will lose that niche market. Then that's when investors will start looking elsewhere. I hate to say this but I am positively sure that Singapore will no longer be a place for investors once it gets saturated regardless of which market. Remember the government is trying to grow our population to 6.5 million with majority who will be foreigners.

Rennie the Soh said...

Hi Jesse,

This is most unfortunate, but definitely true. It's the mindest of Singaporeans because we've grown up on a staple of MTV and Hong Kong TVB serials, and have thus been brainwashed into believing that anything from the within domestic market is always second to foreign imports.

This problem plagues not only the business world but is evident in many levels of Singapore society. Take for example Corrine May. A local girl who went to LA and made it big. So why did she suddenly start to make waves here? Because her second (or third, I'm not sure) album was beginning to pick up airplay in the States!

I could quote many more examples, but it saddens me to think that Singaporeans do not give their compatriates enough credit when it comes to creativity. Kudos to the government for taking the initiative to try and change things, but I reckon this mindset will take a very long time to undo.

The Maverick said...

Well... Really....

I am quite flabbergasted by this as I have ALWAYS (well maybe not always, but certainly in the last two decades) thought that "Singapore-made" equates to a PREMIUM.

I am frankly disappointed that your ïnvestor"and some webizens feel that way.

I for one, am very happy to support local entrepreneuers, and certainly think "BRand Singapore"means something.

Ritesh said...

Hi Jesse,

It is difficult to comment on your company's positioning unless we know which customer segment you are targeting since positioning can be different to different set of customers.

I tend to disagree with the comment that anything Singaporean is not liked by Singaporeans. Plus you are not targeting Singaporeans as a whole. You are probably targeting the working professionals who take more informed decisions. There are a bunch of homegrown websites that are very popular among the local professionals.

If your target is overseas market, then I guess being a Singaporean company is a big advantage in lot of markets in Asia as well as some markets in Europe.

So it all depends on whom you are targeting - which geographies, what kind of customer profiles etc. If I was you, I would ignore the comment of the investor and move ahead.

Best luck.

Cheers,
Ritesh

dismissive said...

there is no simple answer to the question you pose - as the comments above point out, there isn't enough information.

but in broad strokes, permit my brief attempt at generalisation.

1. for singaporeans (even the really proud singaporeans), brand singapore is just... uncool, lah.

2. national pride is weakest among the nations youth (i put this at 16-26), ironically, because (and not in spite) of poorly conceived national education campaigns.

3. cultural imperialism in the mass media, complicated by poor national pride and the growing (and possibly unwarranted) emphasis on "importing foreign talent" has diluted what little value remains in singapore as a local brand.

4. the villification of singapore's domestic policy (and i've heard this from both locals and expats on seperate occasions) fuels negative perceptions among audiences within and without.

but the most important generalisation, and the one that has most bearing on iconnecte is this.

5. if you have the backing of the singapore government, then definitely, definitely, definitely position yourself as a "singapore portal".

because as much as singaporeans and foreigners might view singapore inc with disdain, investors know that a seal of approval from our highest offices means hell and high water (and all the reserves of good sense) will have no bearing whatsoever on the commercial success of this venture.

but that's a generalisation.