The Entrepreneurship Review Committee (EnRC) recently held a discussion on how hard it is to motivate Singaporeans into becoming entrepreneurs or working for start-up companies.
The 30 entrepreneurs who took part in the session raised some very interesting concerns on nurturing an enterprising spirit. As Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Teo Ser Luck, said: “We have to go beyond grants, and government intervention should not be too extensive to stifle the growth of the community and the development of the entrepreneur.”
Fostering a local programming talent, for instance, was mentioned as the perfect example of an industry (software development) which is currently reliant on foreigners and which could be kept within Singapore if only more people decided to try their luck in that area.
But how can such a spirit be truly fostered in Singapore if most of us are pretty attached to our comfortable lifestyles?
I wonder if it could be that most of us in Singapore are just not cut out for entrepreneurship. Or is it that our education system and academic structures stifle creativity and risk-taking?
If that’s the case, then how come it takes most Singaporeans less than 10 years to become a millionaire? And how come we have so many examples of very successful Singaporean entrepreneurs?
Nicholas Chan, for instance, is the founder and executive director of Azione Capital — a venture capitalist fund that invests in promising start-ups — despite being a polytechnic graduate in Film, Sound and Video!
Chan started working when he was 12 and did a great variety of jobs to which he attributes most of his learning: “experience gives you so much depth of understanding and wisdom that cannot be fully grasped by simple frameworks and thought processes.”
His venture capitalist firm has invested in 27 companies so far, an achievement he attributes to the inspiration he received from the former chief executive officer of Sim Lim Co. Pte Ltd, Soon Choo Teck: “My mentor helped give me a leg up in registering my first business partnership when I was 16 and inspired me to be like him. Being a mentor is the least I can do to help the next generation…and it will really help shape the next generation (of entrepreneurs).”
How’s that for an entrepreneurial spirit?
So why do people like him succeed in such unlikely circumstances while others don’t step out of their comfort zone?
I’d say it’s because we’re too afraid to fail. We’ve always been taught to avoid failing above all else, and some of us have become so good at it that we won’t even try something if we’re likely to fail…
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty of this as the next person: for a long time I wallowed in depression and self-pity because I preferred the security and stability of my job rather than face the risk of launching my own business.
As Chan himself puts it: “entrepreneurs are forged through pain and suffering… you have to be called to be able to say, ‘I can take the suffering and I truly know that I can help society with the products and services that I offer, and the jobs that I create’.”
Yet all it took to snap me out the cycle of fear was to see some of my friends succeed as freelancers or as start-up founders.
Who knows, maybe as you’re reading this article you’re also on the verge of taking the leap of faith?
If so, read these inspiring stories to get priceless advice and invaluable motivation!
See you on the other side!