Time to turn off the Out of Office. I have just returned from a Trade Mission to Singapore with Enterprise Nation and the DTI. What a busy and crazy few days it has been, so I thought I would share with you a bit of the experience.
The mission left London on Thursday morning, sponsorship for the trip included Singapore Airlines who greeted us in their Business Class Lounge at Terminal 2. The level of service for which the airline is known became apparent immediately with a welcome breakfast and even a glass of bubbly to kick us off. Completing a meet and greet of the delegates we were ushered on board for the 13-hour flight to Singapore.
The group were a mix of Digital and Tech companies exploring the idea of starting a business in Singapore or learning how to do business in ASEAN. Led by Emma from enterprise Nation the trip ran smoother than anything I have experienced. By 11 am we were meeting the team from MURU D, Entrepreneur in Residence Craig Dixon giving us the lowdown on startup incubators in Asia. Swiftly followed by KPMG and HSBC these presentations opened the lid on how fast technology is moving. Enterprise companies that straddle the planet are all offering cash to the next big thing. It is a matter of survival to be on top of the next stage of comms in particular. The next disrupter tech could be the end of your global leader.
Surrounded by spectacular buildings, most of our meetings took place above the 20th floor of the city. Combining this with the opportunity to eat at street level in the famous hawker pavillions the contrast is undeniable. What looks like a compact series of skyscrapers from above is a serene experience down below. Singapore has made a conscious effort to embrace the greenery of the original island. Roads are lined with giant rain trees that help the state achieve their goal of self-sufficient water supply. The pavements are pristene, something to do with the illegality of chewing gum and a 0% unemployment rate.
The evening saw us entertained by the British Chamber of Commerce at Harry’s Bar in the shadows of Unilever and HSBC HQ’s. Followed by a return to the hotel to finally hit our pillows for a catch-up slumber 36 hours after leaving Heathrow. It also gave us the chance to meet delegates from two other trade missions in the country at the same time.
Day two started early with a visit to Block 71 home to over 100 startups funded by Singtel. Using their $200 million start-up fund they help transform startups into serious players. With over 640 million customers, Singtel need to stay ahead of the curve in tech and combined with other hubs around the world this helps them take a stake in whatever is coming.fds
Lead by Emma and her team we continued on to Unilever HQ and had a talk and tour of the Co-working space there. Good to see our team had a sense of humour as we passed the blow-up unicorn and ball pit synonymous with these establishments. In jumped the head of Monochrome much to the bemusement of the nearest five-year-old. A twenty-minute lunch break in the centre of town gave us a chance to take a breather before we jumped into our next hosts Iris. A leading digital agency who welcomed us with open arms, telling their story and inviting us to help them with some of their latest projects.
As part of the Smart City initiative by Singapore state, the group split into groups of 3/4 to find out more about Singapore and some of its well-known brands. Needless to say, I jumped on the Marina Bay Sands option and we popped over to the strangest looking hotel in the world with our Iris guide in tow. The aim of the exercise was to garner information on the hotel and how people saw it reflecting on the ideas of a smart city. Having hit the proverbial corporate wall with the staff we thought it best to take in the sites from the top deck 57 stories up. By far the highest we had yet ventured and by far the best beer of the trip. After a few cold sips we headed back to deliver our presentation to the group. With some quick thinking, Adrian saved our blushes by creating some 3D modelling of the hotel that went down very well with the group. As you can see from the picture below it even had a pool modelled on the top.
Final event od the second day was a networking event hosted by RHTLaw Taylor Wessing in the centre of downtown Singapore. The first person I was greeted by turned out to be the CEO of the firm. Only number 6 company in size in Singapore. Within seconds of discovering what I did, he proudly showed me their own video studio next door. As he explained, whenever the law changes, the relevant lawyer is invited in to give their quick opinion. Customers are also invited to use the video room, enabling everyone in their ecosystem to use the facilities and engage with customers on Facebook etc.
Day three was hosted by the team at Adelphi Digital Consultancy. A panel of 4 had kindly agreed to give up their Saturday morning to give us the low down on living and working in Singapore. It was a real eye-opener and possibly the best part of the trip. The group included entrepeneurs who have lived int he city for over ten years, they explained the difference between an ex pat and a comitment to the Asian way of life. How a short stint would make you no friends, whereas immersing yourself in the culture was a sure fire way to success.
The afternoon was a chance to visit the sites of the city before returning to the UK just 2.5 days after leaving. in summary all I can say is what a valuable trip that was. As important as the presentations and networking in Singapore, spending 3 days with like minded business owners is fantastic way to learn and embrace new ideas. Thank you to everyone involved and i hope to see you on the next one soon.