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On Monday afternoon (18 July), Maybank Singapore launched the Young Entrepreneur Scheme (YES) Programme as an extra incentive to help the entrepreneurial millennial generation. 

New and young business owners face many challenges when starting their businesses: financial resources, the lack of valuation and fundraising opportunities, appropriate business management tools or relevant experience in running a business, as well as a business network to find peer and mentor support.  

Maybank’s YES programme seeks to help bridge the gap between the millennial’s dreams of launching a business and turning it into a reality, whilst simultaneously answering the nation’s call to promote an entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

The programme is designed to address gaps faced by micro, and small and medium enterprise (SME) business owners.

New clients operating registered businesses that are incorporated in Singapore for less than two years, with at least one local director or co-founder under 40 years old, and a minimum of 30 percent local shareholding by Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents are eligible for YES.

A need for an entrepreneurial ecosystem

The launch of YES was in conjunction with a seminar event titled “The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship”. 

The panel consisted of Dr John Lee, Country Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and CEO of Maybank Singapore; Ian Gan, founder of SEED Ventures; Marc Leong, Head of SME Banking at Maybank Singapore; Dr Lee Oi Kum, Chairperson of BBX Holdings Pte Ltd; and Inderjit Singh, former member of parliament and author of “The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship”. 

maybank singapore entrepreneurship
Left to right: Dr John Lee, Mr Ian Gan, Mr Marc Leong, Dr Lee Oi Kum, Mr Inderjit Singh / Image Credit: Maybank Singapore

The rise in startups and entrepreneurial ventures stems mainly from the millennial generation. Dr John mentions how there is a renewed spirit of entrepreneurship and a growing trend with young individuals who no longer want to work for large organisations.

Entrepreneurship started probably in our grandparents’ generation, the start of the Industrial Revolution. Everyone had opportunities and wanted to do their own thing. Then, my generation wanted to work for more corporate organisations. So what has changed? It’s digitalisation.

The millennial and younger generation realise now that they can go back to being entrepreneurs, they don’t have to work for large corporations. To some extent, our generation has built a safety net for some of this risk taking.

– Dr John Lee, Country CEO and CEO of Maybank Singapore

He also emphasised the need for the revived world of entrepreneurship and an environment in which entrepreneurs can find an opportunity to succeed the most.

Creating something meaningful for the future

Serial entrepreneur, Inderjit, defined the world of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship as an art and a science. 

The art of entrepreneurship lies in the way they think, their traits, and how they execute their ideas. Such factors aren’t viewed in the form of a formula; they are abstract. It balances out the science of entrepreneurship — churning out an idea, transforming it into a business model, and finally turning it into a business plan. 

Drawing from his experience in engineering and policy-making in parliament, Inderjit reiterated how an idea alone does not make a business. It is more how it transitions from idea to a startup that works. 

He cited his successful project ‘Silicon Salvage’ as an example.

Mr Inderjit Singh, Former Member of Parliament and Author of “Art and Science of Entrepreneurship” /Image Credit: Maybank Singapore

My company was losing money, and we were all thinking about cost reduction. We used to have global meetings on how to be more efficient. I came up with the idea of creating new revenue from rejects we used to throw away. When I presented this idea to my global management, two-thirds of the room laughed at me.

It’s something that as entrepreneurs, you will face when you come up with an idea — whether it will work, especially in a big company when you want to do something different. I ended up creating a US$230 million business at a 90 per cent profit margin. Why 90 percent? Because we were throwing the scrap away.

– Inderjit Singh, former MP and author of “The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship”

To him, the entrepreneurial journey is not about predicting the future, but more so creating it.

“What I think entrepreneurship should be defined as: one who identifies a problem, uses a different way to solve it, creates a new opportunity using limited resources to create something meaningful and valuable to society,” he adds.

Leveraging off the right tools

Ian, founder of SEED Ventures, also explained how his company’s entrepreneurship clientele consists mainly of tertiary students.

Founder of SEED Ventures, Ian Gan, speaking about pitching / Image Credit: Maybank Singapore

SEED Ventures — short for Smaths Entrepreneurship Education and Development — is heavily involved with Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs): polytechnics, Institute of Technical Education (ITEs), and university’s research think tanks.

The pre-seed company started in 2013, and its check sizes are five to six digits, making it one of the first financial investors startups will pitch to.

To date, SEED Ventures handles accounts of approximately 300 SMEs. He acknowledges that due to the pandemic, at least 20 per cent of these SMEs have already gone under, with 30 per cent more to come.

However, Ian says there are many tools available now in comparison to back then.

It is all about the tool. For example, a digital current account or credit card are tools to make swimming across the river easier. Entrepreneurship is like trying to cross a river. Not everyone has to do it, but if you want to have a better life on the other side, you take that risk.

– Ian Gan, founder of SEED Ventures

In the venture capital (VC) world, Ian observes how schools are promoting entrepreneurship. Some days, SEED Ventures disperses S$20,000 in IHLs to open a bank account, and encourages students to sign up for pitching contests.

“In some schools, they allow you to pitch twice a year and each time, you can receive S$20,000. For instance, a year one polytechnic student can pitch in semester one, and obtain funding in semester two, and again consecutively, six times.” 

Initiatives such as these are the kickstarters in the fundraising scene in Singapore. IHLs are introducing an entrepreneurial mindset, incubators, which weren’t present before. 

Inderjit went on to add how the right tools can propel startups to further heights.

“Today, you have the lean startup methodology, you have a value proposition canvas. So there are a number of tools that entrepreneurs should go and look up. These will help you transform the idea, step by step, and help create the product market fit.”

Entrepreneurship is not a dream, it’s hard work

However, despite all the tools available to leverage on, entrepreneurs should also factor in the success of their pitch.

Very often, we hear only an idea with no proof. There’s nothing with the exception of a Powerpoint deck. They have no sales, and when asked about a product, the answer is ‘I’ll build it with your money’.

– Ian Gan, founder of SEED Ventures

He adds that a good pitch needs to at least have a prototype, some users, some revenue with a multiple. Especially since less than one per cent of pitches are actually funded, a complete pitch for funding is key. 

john lee maybank
Dr John Lee on why millennials avoid stuffy organisations / Image Credit: Maybank Singapore

The whole idea of a startup has been romanticised. There has to be realism. Joining a network is not just about making friends, it is an opportunity. It is a gateway. When you’re down and out, all you need is someone to give you a chance to rise, or give you the oxygen you need so that you stay afloat for a while. Pitching is hard work.

– Ian Gan, founder of SEED Ventures

Entrepreneurship can sometimes be viewed simplistically as a way of making money. However, as Inderjit mentioned, if a budding entrepreneur has that simplistic mindset, there will never be a future conversation.

Instead, entrepreneurship is more than a way of wealth creation. It is also about achieving social justice; creating jobs, and helping people make society better.

An entrepreneur can be made, as long as the right ingredients are present to create a conducive environment for an entrepreneurial economy.

Featured Image Credit: Maybank Singapore

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)