After an exciting few days in Silicon Valley off we went on a 19h transpacific flight to Singapore, the mandate for this leg: to find out how Singapore went from an underdeveloped island to a booming city-state in 50 years.
Day one – The Past
Day one started with a quick morning debrief on our agenda and after that we went to the National Museum of Singapore. The Museum tells the history of Singapore in its various phases, as a small trading port in the 14th century, to british colony through 19th century, as battleground in WWII, the brief merge with Malaysia in the 60’s to finaly becoming the independent city-state as we know it. Through all of this, one thing became very apparent: Singapore is a product of its leaders. Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of the modern Singapore, emphasis on economic growth and support for entrepreneurship shaped deeply the policies that are in effect today.
The afternoon saw us move to Collison 8, a co-working space designed to foster innovation and a Community. There we had the opportunity of listening to Joe Tusin, founder of Chynge on his fintech startup and the Startup ecosystem in Singapore.
The day ended with drinks at Smoke & Mirror with the amazing view of the Marina Bay.
Day two – Only Fun and Games
Day two was a day to relax, recover from jetlag and do some sightseeing – not necessarily in this order!
Day three – The Present
Day three of our visit was all about the present of Singapore, and one cannot talk about this without knowing the DBS journey. So we started the day at DAX, DBS’s innovation program, where we saw the case we had studied in class a few months ago come to life through David Gledhill (Chief Information Officer). David kindly shared with us the behind the scenes of taking DBS into digital, of creating Digibank, DAX and corporate transformation.
In the afternoon we went to Level 3 to learn about Unilever Foundry and Padang&Co. Level 3 is co-working space that brings together startups and corporate, functioning as a platform for smaller business.
Day four – The Future
And, as foreseen, day four was all about the future: Singapore as a Smart Nation.
The day started with a presentation on AI Singapore and its mission on developing talents and fostering the use and adoption of deep learning through different industries in the country.
The afternoon took us to BASH, where we heard of SGInnovate, ACE and Govtech. These three entities act as fostering innovation in their own ways. SGInnovate for example invests and coaches deep tech initial startups that have the hunger for addressing real needs. ACE on the other hand helps startups get access to the international market. Govtech tough is its own kind of animal, an accelerator built into the the Singaporean government with the objective of bringing to fruition the Smart Nation plan.
After all these days Singapore is still a bit of a mystery to me, a country that went from underdeveloped island to boasting the 5th highest HDI. It is very clear that the government and it’s consistency in economic policy plays a major role in what Singapore has become and will be, but that seems like too much simplification…