"Building" Entrepreneurs In Singapore

This post is from CNBC analyst Paul Kedrosky:

The National University of Singapore (NUS) sneaks up on you. One minute you're winding through Singapore streets, and the next minute you're in the middle of its collection of old-ish institutional buildings and treed streets.

Down one street, however, you don't want to miss a small collection of buildings housing the university's Enterprise Incubator. The idea of incubation—accelerating the transition from idea to entrepreneurial venture—is not new, but NUS has a reputation for having done an adept job of integrating incubation into the university's activities via its Entrepreneurship Center.

To find out, during Global Entrepreneurship Week I spent some time with the Center's Deputy Director Sydney Yee. She walked me through the Center's operations, and then (a highlight) set me up to hear presentations from some of the young entrepreneurs for whom the incubator was home.

National University of Singapore
National University of Singapore

I'll confess straight away that I almost always come away from such discussions highly enthused, and this one was no different. It was partly the energy and the ideas, but what was particularly impressive about these young Singapore entrepreneurs was their maturity, which was well beyond their years. They knew what they needed to do to test their ideas in the market, from educational tools to messaging platforms, and they were doing it.

We wrapped up the conversation with an impromptu roundtable about the role of entrepreneurs in Singapore today. What were the obstacles? What were the advantages? What societal/financial/legal issues did they face?

Everyone agreed that the Singapore government has been remarkably enlightened about its support for entrepreneurship, both direct and indirect, from visas to capital to university programs. At the same time, living in a society built on tangible limits, land, resources, etc., builds in its residents an appreciate for the merits of doing more with less, which could be the credo of the successful entrepreneur.

On the other hand, Singapore is also still a society where parents generally want their children to grow up to be doctors and lawyers (professionals!) and not entrepreneurs. While that is changing, it also makes entrepreneurship among young people in Singapore more difficult than an outside observer might expect.

Nevertheless, it was a great visit, and a super capstone of my visit to Singapore during Global Entrepreneurship Week. Next up: Johannesburg, South Africa, and then New York.

Dr. Paul Kedrosky is an analyst for CNBC television; a columnist for TheStreet/RealMoney; the editor of Infectious Greed, one of the best-known business blogs on the Internet; and he is frequently quoted in major publications around the world. Kedrosky is a Senior Fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, where he is focused on entrepreneurship, innovation, and the future of risk capital.