[Editor’s Note: Today’s special article is about Next X Asia, an exciting new movement that Connectome World is a proud media partner of. Here, we expound on some ideas of how and why we are so excited to be part of the next-generation ecosystem, drawing from the lessons learnt in Singapore and Japan. Enjoy the feature!]
Silicon Valley – The home of Google, Amazon and Apple. Mention the Valley, and we think of the companies that call it their home instead of the geographical location. Around the world, the confluence of genius, geography and luck is constantly imitated but never successfully replicated. Yet, while imitation is the greatest form of flattery, success comes not from replication but rather, diversity.
In developing their eco-systems, Singapore and Japan are two pioneers who have decided to take a markedly different route from countries that aim only to find success through copying the Silicon Valley model.
Like Silicon Valley, both Japan and Singapore have access to a highly-trained workforce, capital investments and geographical advantages. Unlike Silicon Valley, instead of copying the model, Singapore and Japan attempt to find their own success by learning from what works and adapting it to fit their needs.
Asia: Of Wealth And Innovation
Asia is such a massive continent that there is no one Asia. Within one continent, we have a spectrum of countries from the Asian Tigers to the (B)RICS developing countries.
What history has shown is that the benefit of being behind the curve is that, in many cases, those who are learning can leapfrog over those who were leading. That is the biggest lesson learned when we look at what is happening in Asia. This lesson is one which Singapore has embraced wholeheartedly and makes it different from Japan.
Wealth is one part of the reason that Silicon Valley is such a success. Wealth is also something that is flowing into Singapore. Yet, unfettered wealth can be just as harmful as a lack of investment.
In Singapore, a key part of making sure that the ecosystem in emerging technology can grow is due to the intervention of the Singapore Government. Combined, Singapore’s two Sovereign Wealth Funds hold more capital than the entire US Venture Capital industry.
Government bodies like IMDA and EDB help to encourage innovation by creating the infrastructure necessary in the modern world.
Next X Asia: Learning From Singapore’s Pragmatic Strategy
Where countries like Japan rushed to slow down the money pouring into FinTech, especially cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings, through regulations, Singapore took a different approach by allowing regulatory bodies to offer guidance and create new digital strategies that took advantage of the realities of the new technology.
Through such methods, Singapore has allowed the organic development of an ecosystem that has allowed emerging technology to flourish. It’s no surprise that Singapore is currently the number one country for FinTech companies.
Furthermore, instead of dictating the areas of innovation that companies must follow, Singapore takes the view that while the Government can encourage innovation and development, the free market still must decide the usefulness of any new technology.
This hybrid approach contrasts starkly with the Japanese model of bottom-up innovation. Bottom-up may not be the official line taken by the Japanese, but in innovation, like in life, sometimes rebelling against the system is the proper road to success.
Next X Asia: Inspired By The Japanese Spirit
Bureaucratic Japan tried to set the direction. Japanese start-ups, instead, decided on a different approach in how to build its ecosystem. Instead of allowing rigid regulators to decide how Japanese startups will develop, startups in Japan decided to take things into their own hands. Instead of waiting for funding from the Government like in Singapore, the Japanese model is to take advantage of the private sector. Toyota, Nomura Holdings and NTT Docomo are some of the companies that have set up venture capital units to invest in the Japanese ecosystem.
The Japanese are often criticised for being slow in adopting new technology. Yet, as the Japanese model show, the biggest advantage of being slow is that relationships between emerging technology startups and their investors are built upon trust and long-lasting relationships. The biggest strength of this is that collaboration is encouraged, and resources are shared.
Furthermore, by leveraging the expertise and experience that big Japanese companies have, companies in Japan that focus on developing new technologies can focus their energies and resources on the more niche technologies.
Take Couger for example, instead of taking the traditional route of focusing on creating a solution to an existing problem. With the backing of Honda, Couger focuses on trying to integrate Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Reality and Blockchain technology together to create futuristic versions of human-like artificial intelligence.
The advantage that the Japanese model has over the Singapore model is that the Japanese can focus on pushing the boundaries in technology while Singaporeans focus more on working within the boundaries towards commercial viability.
Next X Asia: Assimilating The Best of The Best From Japanese And Singaporean Ecosystems
Yet, despite the differences, there are similarities in terms of how both countries encourage the development of their ecosystems. Singapore plays up its geographical advantage as the gateway to Asia. Japan plays up its historical ties with the West.
- Both countries embrace government intervention with Japan and the Third Arrow of Abenomics and Block 71 in Singapore.
- Both countries have stable political systems and both countries possess a critical mass of new companies and old established behemoths that learn from each other.
- Both countries are actively encouraging ambitious individuals to turn their ideas into reality.
Top-down approaches favoured these two countries by are generally viewed with disdain and as ways to kill innovation–But both Singapore and Japan have found a way to make it work.
“Nature is Good at Connectivity. Nature has no problems with Coherence. Ecosystems React with their Own Logic.”– Jonas Gahr Store
The success of both Singapore and Japan in encouraging the development of new technologies are a testament to the ability of entrepreneurs in both countries to take what works and adapt them to their local conditions.
Ask any business student how to define what an ecosystem is, and they will say that ecosystems are dynamic and co-evolving communities of diverse actors who create and capture new value through both collaboration and competition.
By definition, that is what has been created in Singapore and Japan. There aren’t any Googles or Apples yet, but don’t bet against one appearing soon…
…Which is precisely why we are doing Next X Asia. Tickets are running out fast: Sign up NOW for the inaugural Next X Asia meetup in Singapore on 21st of March 2019, 7pm-9.30pm.
See you there!