Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship considered to be of critical importance for Singapore and East Asian economies. In the lecture organised by Singapore Management University, Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Dr. Vincent Yip shared his vision and experience on the factors that make the innovation-centric environment of California's Silicon Valley to be the “Holy Grail” of technology innovation.
Dr. Vincent Yip and Arcot Desai Narasimhalu, Director of the SMU’s Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Dr. Vincent Yip was born in Singapore and worked in America since 1991. In the last four decades Dr. Yip has served as consultant for the World Bank, UNDP, Asian Development Bank as well as multinational companies and as advisor for start-ups and incubator companies in the Silicon Valley, taught business/technology courses at Northwestern University, University of Southern California and Stanford University. Dr. Yip received his PhD (Materials Science) from the USC in 1973 and then an MBA (International Business) in 1976. For 13 years Dr. Yip worked with Economic Development Board of Singapore, being Executive Director and Administrator of the Singapore Science Park between 1982 and 1989. He was assigned as Singapore’s Deputy Ambassador to the EU and the Vatican in 1989-1991 and worked as a General Manager of an environmental technology start-up and later as a trainer/consultant in project management in China in 1994-2001. Since 2001 Dr. Yip lives in the Bay Area, taught MBA courses at University of San Francisco and since 2008 teaches three courses at Stanford Continuing Studies program. He has written three books on China.
Silicon Valley has the highest concentration of entrepreneurial activity of high-tech companies, giving rise to what is now called an Entrepreneurial Cluster.
Stanford is ranked number 4 among top universities, top business schools, research centres not only by name, but by people, passion, environment, mentality. More and more successful and rich people are sending their children to Stanford. In a 2-3 year, (maybe in biased lecturer’s opinion), will become number two - after Harvard.
The Nobel Prize Winners give a good indication of the success of a research school. Stanford is home for 19 living Nobel Prize laureates.
In 2012 Stanford had 2: visiting professors Alvin Roth and Brian Kobilka received the prize and were offered position at Stanford. Stanford is “stealing” the best and “stole” a lot of best scientists before. Why? Is it just weather and environment? What makes Silicon Valley “tick”:
- Geography (coastal)
- Climate (pleasant)
- Near Metropolis
- International (English-speaking)
- Diverse Population
- Convenient by air, land and sea.
- Wired with high speed internet
- Good schools.
- Plenty of recreational activities.
- Affordable housing and pleasant surroundings
3. Supporting Services
- Availability of Venture Capital
- Good banking & accounting services
- Established stock/financial markets
- Established military and industrial complex
4. Government Support
- Ample tax incentives.
- R &D loans and awards.
- Low red tape.
- Accessible & helpful civil servants.
- Special attention to technology and R&D
5. Research Talent and Manpower
- Top technical universities & research institutions
- Large quantity of quality engineers and scientists
- Availability of technicians & craftsmen
- Multinational Corporation R&D centres
- Presence of incubators and accelerators
6. Risk-Taking Culture
- Ready acceptance of failure
- Highly skilled and motivated professionals
- Classless and highly mobile society
- Flat organizational structures and meritocracy
- Avant-garde and liberal atmosphere
7. Personal Passion & Teamwork
- Supportive family and communities
- Tradition of cooperative teamwork
- Network of ethnic professional societies (TIE, HYSTA, CIE, CINA, Monte Jade etc)
- Personal sacrifices for dreams and passion
- Famous successful role models (H/P, Grove, Gates, Yang, Dell, Jobs, Ellison, etc)
Stanford has the energy and does not lose any money or talents; The T-shaped Campus invites creativity and supports the free flow of “Chi”. There is a lot of passion; one can feel it in the tone of the voice of entrepreneurs, see in their eyes. They truly believe in what they are doing, staking their houses, money, reputation.
There are many interdisciplinary centres – good product requires thinking out of the box. IPhone was created by artists first, not by engineers and that was what made it so beautiful in the use. Bio Engineering, Chemistry, Nanotechnology, Viral Engineering require invention and creativity
Very important aspect is the culture of cooperation and the power of associations. TiE ((The Indus Entrepreneurs) sponsors nearly every venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley has Taiwanese, Chinese associations and they are really connected to technology, business and universities, conducting seminars and forming joint ventures.
Technology transfer from research to industry is helped by the partnership established between industrial giants and universities
Small Sunny Vale Drive at Route 280 is Venture “Wall Street” of the World, one of the richest, multiple billions of dollars of venture money – Apple, Facebook, etc
Palo Alto, is a small place, only 70,000 people, has the highest percentage of masters and PhDs in the entire Unites States. Recently taught class on the project management had 8 PhDs among the students
Many nationalities are good at innovations: French, British, and Americans. What makes America special is the ability of innovators to go from a single unit to mass
Actual case study: 8 successful innovative American companies:
• FEDEX - innovation was is in hub-and-spoke business organisation - the closest business path appears to be is not a straight line and the win was based on the optimal placement of hubs
• GENENTECH – the company, started in 1896 by Robert Swanson and Dr. Herbert Boyer pioneered genetic engineering, was the first to produce synthetic “human” insulin; supplementary growth hormone; treatment for metastatic breast cancer and other products
• DROPBOX – based on the “never forget your USB stick again” personal risk management idea, reached 100M users in 2012
• AIRBNB – online service providing platform for individuals to rent spare rooms and offer short term lodging in 192 counties; in 2011 the company raised $120 Million in venture funding and more in undisclosed amount
• TESLA – gained attention by the first fully electric $62,000 sports car Tesla Roadster and a luxury sedan; creation of network of charging stations and became a symbol of Silicon Valley – it is “cool” to drive a Tesla Roadster not a Rolls Royce
• ZIPCAR – started from idea is renting cars by the hour; in 2013 became the world’ leading car sharing network
• 3-D PRINTING – revolutionising the manufacturing process; current market size of 1.3 million and is set to explode to 3.1 million in 3 years and
• BLOOM ENERGY – cheap fuel cell , a solid oxide fuel cell claimed to be made from “beach sand”, can withstand temperature of up to 980C, single cell generates 25 watt
Challenges and Opportunities in China: A few words about Hanhai Investment – largest Multi-Tech US-China Research park in Silicon Valley. Hanhai Investment established its first high-tech Silicon Valley incubator (Hanhai Z-Park) in 2012
Some of Hanhai venture projects under consideration for venture funding
• AAA: Mobile Solution for small landlords to manage properties anywhere anytime;
• Zentera: Cloud management platform that virtual network, cloud firewall, and data protection;
• CCC: Online tutoring for Cambridge O and A level courses in Asia, with sight on the vast China market;
• Lemoncrate: A Dropbox/Craigslist for exchange or sale of clothes, electronics, auto parts, tools, jewellery, cosmetics etc.
• DDD: LED light strips to replace florescent lighting in commercial use
• ReinCloud: Next generation TV Media
• FFF: Sustainable micro farming
Saucepot: Connect restaurants with customers through cloud base web platform (Marketing, discount, ranking, advertisement
What are the most important factors specific to Singapore?
NTU and SMU are very Strong Universities with the high international ranking. Does Singapore have enough technology transfer from research into business into technology into creativity to industry?
Passion is important. Is there a passion in Singapore for innovation? Is Ecosystem good enough? – are people listening to entrepreneurs, are they giving money, are they helping you? Are people soliciting?
There is no lack of venture capital in Singapore but the linkage between research and industry is important. Singapore has a number of partnerships, if there a problem with money, there is a way to create incentives for companies like HP or IBM to create partnerships and provide contribution in exchange for connecting research with their headquarters, offer internship. Exchange will be mutually beneficial
• Singapore is soon to be the country with the highest per capita GDP;
• NUS and NTU are very high in international ranking of colleges;
• Singaporean students top scorers in TIMMS contests for years;
• Singapore one of the most wired nations on earth;
• Government has ample incentives and heavy promotion of technology/R&D;
• Relation of GERD to GDP are that of an Advanced Country;
• Population conversant in English and international and diverse;
• Possesses excellent infrastructure and supporting services;
What is needed for Singapore to become a country famous for creativity and innovations?
The summary the comparison of the entrepreneur ecosystems of Science parks in USA, China and Singapore was demonstrated in the lecture and is provided below.
Table suggests that the ability to accept failure is one of the most important factors.
It is becoming a cliché to speak about the problem of Singapore being one mistake society. Let us hope that this changing. If you make a mistake, will be you getting a second chance? Or you have to emigrate. In US politicians sometimes shamed but they have second or third chance, running for office again. Society should be giving second chance.
Singapore entrepreneurs enjoy one of the best government supports for technology innovations in the world. The acceptance of failure as the experience rather than a disaster and a passion for the achievement that comes from the risk taking appetite may be the answer.
Considering all the factors mentioned in the lecture are important for successful in the entrepreneurship ecosystem of Singapore. While cultural and historical background leading to the risk taking propensity level cannot be changed easily, they should be accounted in the business strategy. We recommend focusing on the benefits provided by the Government support programs, high level of education, developed network of universities, and infrastructure, utilization of industrial horizontal connections, benefits of geographical location and the ease of social networking in Singapore