Block 71: Singapore’s innovation secret

Famous Block 71 in SingaporeThis post is for all of those who haven’t embraced Singapore‘s entrepreneurial ambition. Block 71, across the street from INSEAD, has a charm that is difficult to parallel in Singapore. For the first 4 months in Singapore, I overlooked the modest building every time I passed by it. I was probably not the only one. An interesting discussion with Patrick Turner, Professor of Entrepreneurship at INSEAD, turned out to be an eye opener about Block 71. Here’s the scoop. When most of the buildings in the West end of Singapore were bulldozed to pave way for the modern vision of Singapore, this former industrial building became one of the very few survivors for no apparent reason.

Partial list of companies at Blk 71, Singapore

After several decades of quasi non occupancy and insights from Singaporean visionaries, it is now a buzzing building full of start ups and investors waiting for the next big opportunity. Who would have known? For example, JFDI, the Singtel Innov8 sponsored Joyful Frog Digital Incubator led by Hugh Mason and Meng Wong, has helped a new crop of high-tech entrepreneurs in Singapore get off the ground. I personally had the chance to spend time with the founders of Tribehired and Flocations, Devan Singaram and Tudor Coman,and I have to say that they have been well prepared for the challenges ahead. Here’s a picture of the JFDI offices after hours:

Singapore, block 71, JFDI, innovation, entrepreneurs, high-tech

Offices of JFDI in Blk 71, Singapore. Sponsored by Singtel Innov8.

I truly believe that Singapore has the ingredients to build a healthy start-up ecosystem, similarly to what Israel has built in the last few decades. The government is involved in creating an environment that will attract the bright and ambitious to come here. The temperature is incredible, the low taxes are hard to denigrate and life is easy. Plus the region is growing at an unprecedented rate and Singapore is at the center of it.

Singapore will be challenged as it strives to change its culture to adapt to its entrepreneurial ambition. At the same time, the move of Eduardo Saverin may be the start of a new wave.

7 Comments

  1. Bryan Lee

    Totally spot on! If you are building a startup in SG, this is the place to be!

    • Hi Bryan, this is great. I believe that Singapore has a great future ahead. How would you address a common concern among many entrepreneurs that Singapore needs to breed more technical talent, talent who may be more attracted to a career in government or finance?

      • Hi, I myself was just one of this guys.

        I graduated with an engineering diploma but eventually went to pursue a Business Degree with NUS hoping that I would get a job in a Bank earning big money.

        But during my stay in NUS, I got to know about startups, I mixed with people who are crazy about tech, who are passionate about using technology to change life. This change my thinking, which turns me to what I am doing today. I venture into the startup space dreaming that my product would one day be use all around Singapore or even the world 😀

        So I think to solve this problem, education plays a main role. 😀

  2. Good insight. We’re still at B71 and it is now an open working space where JFDI used to be. Lots of interesting startups here working here. They kept the plants luckily enough 🙂 For anyone interested, you should drop by and see where people are hanging out.

  3. Hello guys! Glad that Plug-In@blk71 is mentioned here! Managed by NUS Enterprise, Plug-In@blk71 is full of exciting events, awesome startups and great environment to be in 🙂 drop by our place, visit our startups and learn more about blk71 from the NUS team! You will not regret! 😀

  4. Superb! haven’t been officially back on the NUS premise for years.

    Fast internet, food available 24hrs a day, coupled with the exciting air of startups.

    We gonna come sneakily crashing in mid Feb next month 😛

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