Innovation and culture in startups


What role does innovation play in tech startups in Malaysia and Singapore? How is the culture right in the respective countries when it comes to supporting risk taking?

Mohan Belani, director at, a tech portal that focuses on the startup scene in Singapore and Southeast Asia, and Chris Leong, who has a blog and is intimately involved in the startup scene in Malaysia, shared their opinions with Business Circle.


How important is innovation for start-ups?

Mohan: I actually feel that understanding what your market wants and delivering a product or service that people are willing to pay for is much more important than innovation.

Leong: Innovation is important to startups, as it can create a barrier against competition and help to create value for the company. Innovation can also be in the form of technological innovation or business innovation. Either form of innovation is important to a startup as it allows the startup to be different


What elements do you feel are missing from the cultural element of the tech ecosystem?

Mohan: Singapore has a fairly robust tech ecosystem with events both business and developer related, funding opportunities and schemes. More people want to start companies, which is a good chance from before. I wish I could see more people joining startups instead and working together, as opposed to always wanting to do things on their own or build their own companies.

Leong: While this is changing, I believe that startups in Malaysia should be more open about sharing their ideas. Entrepreneurs improve by working and sharing their ideas with each other.

According to Mohan, understanding what your market wants and delivering a product or service that people are willing to pay for is much more important than innovation

Is there any policy/regulation in place that though well meaning, is not conducive to supporting startups?

Mohan: The most recent issues revolve around immigration and the tightening of the influx of foreign talent. The government has been tackling this issue for a while and the recent reaction, which was to heavily tighten the number of employment passes and increase the minimum wage of new holders of employment passes, has caused a stir among startups. Hiring and talent has always been a tricky issue, regardless of where a startup is based.

Leong: Different policies and initiatives were introduced for different purposes. Sometimes, these policies might not be perfect for everyone but most policies that the government has put in place had been carefully considered to best serve the need of all stakeholders.


How well do your entrepreneurs feel the government has done to encourage startups?

Mohan: Generally, Singapore-based (not necessarily born in Singapore) entrepreneurs are impressed by the government’s efforts in building and supporting the startup ecosystem. While the schemes don’t benefit all startups directly, most of them help in one way or another. As the government progresses and fine tunes its schemes, it helps startups in other ways, not just funding. And I believe that this is something startups really appreciate

Leong: The government has continuously introduced many policies and initiatives to support and assist entrepreneurs. The prototype development and commercialisation grants under the Cradle Investment Programme and the Coach & Grow Programme, both of which are managed by Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd are some initiatives that support entrepreneurs. In the recent Budget 2013 announcement, several initiatives were introduced such as the Angel Tax Incentive, soft loans to encourage more startups. Our entrepreneurs feel the government is doing its best to cultivate entrepreneurship and provide a conducive ecosystem so that startups can thrive.


 Photo credit: Flickr user BANCO DE IMAGENS INVENTTA

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