(Australian Associated Press)
Entrepreneurs may be applauding the federal government’s new found love of innovation, but a growing number of local tech companies see Singapore as the key to their future.
Aussie startups and established tech companies are heading to the city-state to find funding, business partners and customers in a region where the government has invested years into becoming South-East Asia’s Silicon Valley.
The founder of Sydney-based Gemstar Technology, Gemma Manning, says some Australian companies can find it easier to expand by tapping into Singapore, where the government has dedicated $US1.3 billion ($A1.72 billion) to innovation.
On offer are government financing and incentives to entrepreneurs looking to set up in Singapore, which ranked seventh in 2015’s Global Innovation Index. Australia was 17th.
Ms Manning, whose company is taking six Aussie firms on a trade mission to Singapore this week, hopes the Australian government will choose the city-state as one of five global Landing Pads that formed part of last December’s $1.1 billion innovation package.
Tel Aviv and San Francisco were the first two cities named as Landing Pads, which give Aussie startups access to mentors, investors and innovation hubs.
“I feel positive and more inspired by what we are doing now as a nation in terms of innovation. But, we have a long way to go and I think countries like Singapore can’t be ignored when we are looking at policy and how to create these ecosystems,” Ms Manning told AAP.
“The funding environment is very attractive, as is the drive for public-private partnerships. They want to commercialise technology to help drive their future income.”
The six Aussie companies Gemstar is taking to Singapore range from tech startups looking for funding through to established companies ready to expand.
The group includes Melbourne tech firm Parent Paperwork, which automates forms schools send home to parents, and a startup whose app encourages kids to exercise more.
“The point is we’re not taking business away from Australia,” Ms Manning said. “We want to fast-track them and help them grow.”
Progressclaim.com founder Lincoln Easton is in Singapore with Gemstar. He founded his company, which offers a cloud-based billing solution for building firms and their contractors, on a blank sheet of paper in 2011.
He’s hoping to find business partners and clients in Singapore to help him expand in South-East Asia, where the construction market is almost as big as in the US.
Mr Easton, whose clients include Mirvac, says that while Australia’s R&D incentives are good, there is often too much bureaucracy involved. Australia also has a risk-adverse culture when it comes to investing in startups.
“We are not saying we want to move out of Australia,” he said.
“What Malcolm Turnbull’s government is doing with new incentives to invest in startups is really exciting but in our case it has probably come a bit late.
“It’s aimed at quite early-stage companies. They shouldn’t discount people who are a bit further down the line.”