Steve Leonard, deputy executive chairman of IDA Singapore joined us in an interesting conversation on the SMART Nation initiative in Singapore & his thoughts on the startup ecosystem. Our discussion began with his reflections from an illustrious career in enterprise technology to a government role, and subsequently, we discuss why the Singapore government has embarked on the SMART Nation initiative to collaborate with the various stakeholders from public to private corporations, start-ups and also citizens. Steve also shared his thoughts on how far the startup ecosystem has evolved.

Here are the interesting notes and links to the discussion (with timestamps included):

    • How did he get started in technology? [1:00]
    • Why has he decided to come to live and work in Asia? [1:25]
    • With an illustrious career in the IT enterprise space from companies such as EMC and Symantec, how do those experiences help to shape his thoughts in his current role? [2:12]
    • How has the enterprise market evolved in Asia for the past 20 years? [3:13]
    • What is his current role and responsibilities in IDA as the deputy executive chairman? [4:14]
      • The role of IDA Singapore: regulator of the telecommunications & postal industry, chief information officer for the Singapore government and builder of the technology ecosystem with public and private sector and startups ecosystem with Infocomm Investments (IIPL)
    • Based on the Smart Nation article in Forbes, part of the initiative’s goals are to tackle certain global challenges such as urban density, aging population, healthcare, mobility and sustainability. In IDA’s perspective, what’s the mission and goal for SMART Nation? [5:35] 
    • How does SMART Nation as a platform work for different stakeholders: (i) government, (ii) public and private corporations and (iii) citizens? How do overseas companies who plan to expand to Asia get involved with SMART Nation? [7:33]
    • How are different initiatives arranged under the banner of SMART Nation?
    • Smarter communications and transport [8:30]
      • How does the government work with private corporations and developers to facilitate better data availability for communication in transport for example, taxi data? [9:57]
    • Smart Living 
      • How does the government bring technologies into public housing estates? [10:50]  
    • How are cyber infrastructure and security parked within the SMART Nation Initiative given their importance in the ICT industry? [12:53]
  • Startup Ecosystem from Singapore to Asia Pacific
    • Interesting numbers: from 2004 to 2015, we see a growth from 24K to 42K startups, with a lot of new focus areas such as IoT and FinTech. 
    • What are the major challenges for the startups in the Singapore ecosystem? [14:35]
    • What are his perspectives to the talent challenge in this market? [15:30]
    • His thoughts on how entrepreneurs have also evolved in the ecosystem [16:30]
    • How has IDA been helping to evolve and foster the nascent startup ecosystem? For example, Infocomm Investments (IIPL) from IDA has been working with private corporations to start accelerators, most notably (a) SPH Plug and Play or (b) Launching the new BASH (Build Amazing Startups Here) in the Blk 71, 73, and 79 areas?  [17:32]
    • How does SMART Nation come into play for the startup ecosystem? What are the initiatives pertaining to startups? How do they get access to them? [18:58]
    • Given that Singapore is such a small market, they have to expand globally quickly. By expanding to another country, it means that the entrepreneur has to start over again. Hence is it better for entrepreneurs to tackle markets with scale such as US, China and India instead of smaller markets such as Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan? [20:00]
    • How does he see how Singapore establish its own unique position with the nascent startup ecosystem instead of trying to mimic Silicon Valley?  [22:30]
    • What keeps Steve Leonard awake at night i.e. the challenges that they have to solve for the Singapore ecosystem? [25:50]

Podcast Information:

The show is hosted by Bernard Leong (@bleongcw) and are sponsored by Ideal Workspace (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) and Linkcious (and check out their other product, Chiibi). Also check out Ideal Workspace’s new standing desk, Aspirus and sign up for their mailing list.

Subscribe to

Analyse Asia with Bernard Leong

Or subscribe with your favorite app by using the address below