2014 Fund Raising Night


VIP Message from Dr. Lily Neo, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC

(This speech was given during the Singapore’s Outstanding Enterprise 2014 Gala Dinner on 19th December 2014)

SRA CEO, Mr. Leslie Cheng
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to join you for this 2014 Singapore’s Outstanding Enterprise Award. I would like to congratulate the 131 nominated outstanding SMEs tonight, as we celebrate their achievements and success of their organizations through the ethos of hard work and resilience. These are important areas to focus on, as business cycles shorten and competition heats up. In Singapore, our SMEs also face a tightening labour market. Thus SMEs need to find ways to reduce reliance on labour, and become more innovative and productive.

I would like to commend SRA for its regard for the well being of the society, by contributing to the society through annual gala fund-raising event like this. In 2012 and 2013, SRA donated respectively to Singapore’s Children Society and Metta Welfare Association and this year it will be to Hospice Care Association.

I have been told on the three key characteristics for successful organisations to sustain a competitive edge, which I am sure many of you are familiar with.

First, they are intensely focused on creating value for customers and stakeholders, and constantly develop new products and services that seek to anticipate customer needs and exceed customer expectations.

Second, they value their people and their partners. They invest in their people and in technology, to help them do their work more effectively to increase productivity.

Third, they have visionary leaders who articulate desired outcomes and set directions and strategies to achieve them. Such leaders rally all their stakeholders, whether shareholders and customers, employees and partners, to move together, in pursuit of excellence.

Professor Howard Stevenson of the Harvard Business School described entrepreneurship as “the pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources you currently control”. With this definition, majority of you here tonight are entrepreneurs, practicing entrepreneurship. While many people think of entrepreneurship mainly in terms of economic returns, entrepreneurship in the broader sense is really about seeing and seizing opportunities to make things better. It is a powerful force not just for wealth creation, but also the betterment of society. The economic case for entrepreneurship is clear. In developing economies, entrepreneurs are an important part of job creation, and therefore play a key role in alleviating poverty.

Like many countries, Singapore recognises the importance of entrepreneurship and has identified entrepreneurship and innovation as key drivers of future growth. We formed the Action Community for Entrepreneurship, or ACE, in 2003 as a private-public movement to foster entrepreneurship in Singapore.

For the last 11 years, ACE has worked closely with government and partners to create a more entrepreneurial Singapore by facilitating networking and learning, building a pro-enterprise environment, and building an entrepreneurial culture.

ACE has always been a voice for simplicity and simplification for the government. ACE has been an advocate of mechanisms for on-going review and streamlining of business regulations to reduce regulatory burden and compliance costs for small businesses and start-ups. The World Bank has just re-affirmed Singapore, for the 9th year running, as the World’s easiest place to do business.

Beyond stimulating economic growth, entrepreneurship can have wider social impact. ACE also looks at nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs. This year, ACE piloted a programme for nine secondary and tertiary schools, which were “adopted” by dynamic business starters. This programme, called ACE Schools, is a novel approach where learning takes place through direct interaction between the students and entrepreneurs. There are also numerous opportunities for these students to showcase their winning ideas and products each year.

At the university level, all our three universities run their versions of incubators in addition to academic programmes on entrepreneurship. After 11 years of seeding and concerted efforts, we have a much stronger entrepreneurship ecosystem today. There are some 30 incubators here which nurture promising start-ups. There is more private capital available from angel investors and venture capital firms. In addition, the government has put in place several programs to help start-ups, including funding for first-time entrepreneurs, and mentorship networks.

The number of start-ups has also grown. In 2005, we had 24,000 active start-ups employing 167,000 people. At the end of 2012, this had grown to 39,000 active start-ups employing about 300,000 people. More people are becoming entrepreneurs as well – Singapore’s total early-stage entrepreneurship rate in 2012 was 11.6%, an increase from 6.6% in 2011 and 4.9% in 2006.

To many individuals, entrepreneurship means empowerment, realising their dreams. To Singapore, entrepreneurship means creativity and innovation in the economy, it means adding an edge to a competitive economy. By gathering top entrepreneurial minds at this event tonight, we have a better chance to figure out the best ways to harness the power of entrepreneurship for a better and richer society.

I would like to end by quoting Mr Winston Churchill: “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”, and another quote from Mr Donald Trump: “As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.”

Thank you and may you all have an enjoyable evening.

Dr. Lily Neo