This post might piss you off, especially some of the Singaporeans. And yes, for the record, I’m a Singaporean too. This post also contains some strong language, which I find necessary to drive the message across. My editors will hate me, but oh well…
I have been an entrepreneur since the age of 19, and I can confidently say that I have matured a lot from then to now. Back then, I was young, arrogant, and probably ignorant. I ran an educational center — not the coolest business to be in but it taught me a lot of things about life and business. My partner and I grew it from a two-man team to a 30+ hardworking-but-fun, mahjong-party group and it was recently sold at a low price.
We bootstrapped our way up and the journey has taught us to do what it takes in crunchtime. From nothing to something – the journey isn’t an easy one. We usually have to lower our made-in-Singapore arrogance to get things done. Arrogance usually clouds your judgement as an entrepreneur. It also kills opportunities. I’m not here to tell you my boring story as an entrepreneur. It is not at all colorful. Instead I’m asking all entrepreneurs to drop your arrogance and look out for opportunities.
Things just get better for me. I picked up blogging in 2009 and that was when I started to realize how arrogance could be a real hindrance towards any enterprise advancement. As a journoblogger, I have the opportunity to meet start-up founders and successful people in China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Each country has its own unique culture and different set of thinking. And Singaporeans particularly stand out, in a negative way, thanks to their ego and arrogance.
Let me put this straight and if you’re reading this, you should know if you fit into this category – Singaporeans tend to dismiss tech companies/startup founders from other Asian countries. To most Singaporeans, only Silicon Valley is cool… tech companies in China, India, Indonesia are not. Perhaps this “I want to go to the Valley” or “Made in the USA” syndrome happens everywhere. But with Asia rising up fast, shouldn’t we take a closer look at our markets? How many people bother to understand what’s happening in Asia?
Many start-ups I speak to aim for Silicon Valley but I often ask myself if that is really necessary. Going to the valley as a foreigner is as good as bringing cash there to burn. If you have grown up in Asia, chances are, you know the people and region pretty well. That itself is already a huge advantage. Don’t cry saying that we don’t have a market – Indonesia, India, China, Taiwan, Malaysia —- all are out there, up for grabs. In fact, more and more Asian folks in the U.S are moving back to Asia to exploit the opportunities here.
Sadly, I’m also hearing that some investors are avoiding Singapore because most of us are oozing of arrogance. And as you know, investors are usually more concerned about the team (people) than the product. Several of them are here to set up their shops but their main aim is very much our neighbor – Indonesia. Singapore has a fair share of successes but I’m worried that our increasing arrogance which leads to ignorance could blind us from opportunities surrounding us.
From time to time, we see people retweeting our stuff, and that’s nice and I sincerely thank our readers for that. But, we also get some unnecessary comments tagging along with the tweet, especially when it is about China. We see moronic words like “Cheena” (a Singaporean way of mocking China) and “Lame” in the tweets. Again, these are signs of arrogance, blinding opportunities.
China is huge and it will just get bigger, to the point where most of us will have no choice but to start learning what’s happening over there. It’s the same for Indonesia and India – where both markets have many consumers waiting for the next big thing.