News Details | 30-Apr-2013

NTU study ranks Singapore No. 2 among world’s top countries to start a business

More people are setting up businesses in Singapore than in many other parts of the developed world, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Singapore Report, a study carried out by Nanyang Technological University (NTU).  In fact, Singapore ranks second, just behind the United States, in having the highest level of total entrepreneurial activity among 25 selected economies globally.

In terms of financial support and government policies, Singapore also had the highest scores compared to the other 24 economies. 

This Singapore report was conducted by a multidisciplinary team of eight researchers from NTU. The report is part of the annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), a worldwide study by a consortium of universities in 69 countries. Conducted since 1999, GEM is a leading international indicator of entrepreneurial activity, providing valuable insights into the state of entrepreneurship within and across developed and developing economies.

This is the second year that NTU had led the GEM survey in Singapore. About 2,000 Singapore residents and 37 experts, including entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and government officials participated in the national survey.

“Our 2012 report on entrepreneurship in Singapore shows that Singaporeans are increasingly looking to business ownership as a viable option for earning a living,” said Associate Professor Olexander Chernyshenko, who specialises in psychological assessment at NTU’s Nanyang Business School.

“Compared to 24 other innovation-driven economies that participated in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor in 2012, Singapore had the second highest percentage of early-stage entrepreneurs, only behind the United States. For the two-year moving average, Singapore was ranked third, behind the US and the Netherlands. There is no doubt that people here are becoming more confident in Singapore’s economy and optimistic about their future as entrepreneurs,” he added.

The study found that 11.6 per cent of Singapore residents either had set up a business in the past 3.5 years or were in the process of starting a new venture. This is higher than that in 2011 (6.6 per cent) and 2006 (4.9 per cent). Interestingly, one in five respondents (21.4 per cent) indicated that they were planning to start a business within the next three years. This is a significant increase compared to 15.3 per cent in 2011 and 11.8 per cent in 2006. 
Local start-ups are early adopters of technology and focused on moving beyond domestic market

The NTU report found that Singapore ranked fourth among countries for early-stage businesses that have employed the latest or new technology in their services or products.  About 15.4 per cent of Singapore's early-stage businesses utilised technologies that were only available last year, while another 28.5 per cent employed technologies available in the last one to five years. This places Singapore ahead of other developed countries such as Germany, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.

Early-stage businesses here are also turning to overseas markets to reach new customers. Among the 25 selected economies, Singapore ranks second, behind Slovenia, with more than 16 per cent of local start-ups having more than 75 per cent to 100 per cent of their customers based overseas.  Over one quarter of local new businesses (26.8 per cent) had between 25 and 75 per cent of customers based overseas, placing Singapore ahead of the other 24 comparison economies. 
Singapore’s early-stage businesses are highly globalised given the limited size of the domestic Singapore market, the report said. These businesses also lead the rest of the world in terms of business collaborations. Almost three out of four (74.9 per cent) Singapore new businesses worked with external partners to produce their goods and services, while 83.9 per cent procured supplies from external sources. 

NTU report highlights areas for improvement 

While Singapore is ranked among the top few nations with the highest level of start-up rates, there is still more room for growth. The survey reveals that local experts are most concerned about access to professional services, deemed crucial for early-stage entrepreneurship.

Assistant Professor David Gomulya who specialises in start-up firms and teaches at the University’s Nanyang Technopreneurship Center (NTC) said, “Singapore did not rank as well as other countries in commercial and professional infrastructure. So we may need to keep track and monitor the start-up services industry that offers start-ups the knowledge and expertise they need in order to thrive, innovate and grow.”

The survey also found that fewer people in Singapore are confident of their entrepreneurial knowledge and skills to start a business.  Only about a quarter of Singapore respondents (26.6 per cent) felt they had the knowledge, skill and experience to start a business.  Also, less than a quarter (22.5 per cent) said there were good opportunities to start a business within the next six months. In comparison, 55.9 per cent of the respondents in the United States felt they have the required knowledge and skills while 43.5 per cent believed there would be good business opportunities within the next six months.

“To further grow the number of local entrepreneurs, Singapore could look at introducing more education and training programmes to raise the level of entrepreneurial skills and knowledge among its people,” suggested Assistant Professor Marilyn Uy, another entrepreneurship expert who teaches at NTC.

NTU a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs: 68 student start-up companies nurtured

At NTU, for instance, students currently have the option to pursue a Minor in Entrepreneurship. The course equips students with the fundamentals in entrepreneurship competency, business acumen and the stamina to build and grow businesses. Other NTU programmes that promote entrepreneurship include the Master of Science in Technopreneurship & Innovation Programme and the Kauffman Global Scholars Programme, run in collaboration with the US-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Dr Uy added, “Our preliminary observations from introductory classes in entrepreneurship also suggest that even such entrepreneurship courses can significantly increase how capable or competent students perceive themselves in performing various entrepreneurial tasks”.

“NTU is unique in combining entrepreneurship education, mentoring and access to funding to help prospective start-ups grow their businesses. We assist students when they apply for some start-up grants from the government. And we also ensure that our young entrepreneurs are plugged into the wider entrepreneurship scene by linking them up with seasoned entrepreneurs, experienced professionals and potential investors,” said Dr Lim Jui, Chief Executive Officer, Nanyang Innovation and Enterprise Office.

NTU Provost, Professor Freddy Boey, a serial inventor with 25 global patents and five start-ups to his name, said, “At NTU, we believe there is research and yet-to-be-applied research. We encourage our students and professors to actualise their research into innovations.”

Through its Incubation and Mentoring programme, aspiring entrepreneurs at NTU are provided the necessary infrastructure and environment that includes space on campus, shared resources, and a mentorship programme that offers advisory services, networks and partnerships with industry experts who can help these young entrepreneurs commercialise their new products and services, and engage market players.

As a result of the supportive ecosystem with infrastructure and entrepreneurship programmes at NTU, the university has helped to nurture and develop 68 student start-up companies.

One of them is SMOOV, a mobile platform provider started by three friends – Steve Wah and Low Guanghao, who met at NTU while pursuing the Master of Science in Technopreneurship and Innovation Programme, and Zave Huang.  With an initial capital of $60,000 and incubated at NTU, the company assists advertisers in designing and deploying their own SMS marketing campaigns without the need to be technically savvy, and removes the hassle of service setup and deployment. Advertisers are guided step by step from design to campaign delivery. The pivotal point came when Smoov clinched its first contract with iCELL Network, putting the Smoov platform on Wireless@SG network, giving them access across the whole of Singapore. Since then, Smoov’s product offering has grown from just “publishing mobile content across all mobile phones” to harnessing the mobile platform for precision marketing.

An integral part of the NTU’s entrepreneurship ecosystem is the annual Career Aspirations Survey, which assesses and identifies students interested in entrepreneurial careers.  The NTU survey, which began in 2010, is a university-wide initiative that monitors the levels of nascent entrepreneurial activities among undergraduate and post-graduate students.
“In today’s vibrant world with vast opportunities, it is both a need and an incentive for students to think about their future careers along the entrepreneurial path, in addition to the traditional ones in the professional and leadership fields. Through the Career Aspirations Survey, we hope to create awareness of such diverse career options among the students and assess their development towards each of them. At the same time, the survey enables the university to identify the training and development gaps in the education programmes,” explained Associate Professor Chan Kim Yin, who specialises in and teaches leadership in Nanyang Business School.

The GEM Singapore report is available online at:


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Media contact:

Feisal Abdul Rahman
Senior Assistant Director (Media Relations)
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: (65) 6790 6687

About Nanyang Technological University

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, and Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences. It has a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).

A fast-growing university with an international outlook, NTU is putting its global stamp on Five Peaks of Excellence: Sustainable Earth, Future Healthcare, New Media, New Silk Road, and Innovation Asia.

Besides the main Yunnan Garden campus, NTU also has a satellite campus in Singapore’s science and tech hub, one-north, and a third campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.
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