Located at a strategic crossroads between South and East Asia, Singapore is a leading global hub of business, technology, and innovation.
The Lion City is a highly competitive economy – ranking second in the world for ease of doing business. Singapore also ranks second place globally on the Bloomberg Innovation Index. As such, it’s an attractive place for German startups considering an international expansion.
Here are five reasons why German entrepreneurs and founders should consider expanding to Singapore:
1. A Gateway to Asia and Springboard to Southeast Asia
Given its location along the Straits of Malacca and its deep economic and cultural ties with the rest of Asia, Singapore is a key business gateway to the Indo-Pacific region. In fact, 50% of the world’s population is accessible within a seven-hour flight of Singapore. German startups looking east for expansion opportunities can use Singapore as springboard to the entire region.
In addition to its geographic proximity, the Republic of Singapore also maintains friendly diplomatic relations with every major country in Asia, including China, Japan, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Australia, and others. There’s a reason why 46% of multinational corporations have their Asia Regional headquarters based in Singapore.
Singapore also offers startups easy access to major growth markets across Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In fact, Southeast Asia should be part of any startup’s international expansion plans.
Singapore holds a unique advantage as an entry point – and as a springboard – to these Southeast Asian markets. That’s because an entry into Southeast Asia via Singapore allows you to break your expansion strategy into several smaller pieces. These narrower segments often don’t have the same level of competition as huge, single markets like the EU or U.S. At the same time, Singapore is comparable to these other regions in terms of talent and regulatory stability.
2. An English-Speaking Talent Pool in Asia
One of the biggest challenges German startups face in expanding to Asia is the language barrier.
With English being the official language of government and business in Singapore, it makes it easy for German startup founders to set up an office, hire local employees, procure investment funding, and connect with regional partners. Shared English-language skills also ensure your Singaporean team efficiently communicates with other offices around the globe.
Singapore’s English-speaking talent pool enables German startups to find the skillsets they need and match them with growth opportunities in the region. With a literacy rate of almost 98% and over 60% of residents (aged 25 years and over) with post-secondary qualification, Singapore is also home to two globally-ranked universities: National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), which contribute to the growing pool of high-tech talent in the Garden City.
3. Robust Government Support for Startups
The government of Singapore works hard to maintain a business-friendly environment in the Lion City. In contrast to other states in the region, Singapore offers reliable local infrastructure, political stability, zero tolerance for corruption, a competitive tax regime, and ease of financing.
In addition, the government offers a number of robust supports to the flourishing startup ecosystem in the Garden City. The Economic Development Board (EDB) serves to enhance Singapore’s position as a global center for business, innovation, and talent. Either through or in coordination with the EDB, startups in Singapore have access to all of the following resources and supports:
Funding & Investment
Matchmaking & PoC/PoV Opportunities
Research & Incubation
Acceleration & Commercialization
- German Accelerator
- Startup SG
- NUS Enterprise
- SUTD Venture, Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VIE)
Given all of the above options, German founders and entrepreneurs can certainly tap into the many avenues of government support in Singapore.
4. A Connected Logistics & Infobahn Hub
Singapore is one of the most well-connected countries in the world – both logistically and digitally. German startups that need to ship goods, or ship software, will find that Singapore is a perfect nexus for global expansion.
In terms of logistics and supply chain management, the Lion City holds the global crown. Singapore is the world’s busiest container transhipment port and has been ranked as Asia’s top logistics hub for 10 years in a row, according to the World Bank. And out of 160 countries, Singapore was rated first place for efficiency of customs clearance.
“Singapore holds the top spot for Attractiveness & Competitiveness while also scooping the Maritime Technology title based on a consistent strategy focusing on innovation, startups, and digital investments,” said Dr Shahrin Osman, Regional Head of Maritime Advisory at DNV.
Singapore also dominates in terms of digital infrastructure as well as information and communications technology (ICT). The Garden City has one of the fastest broadband internet speeds internationally. Likewise, Singapore is the world’s most digitally connected country, according to the World Economic Forum. For the third year running, Singapore has ranked as the “World’s Smartest City” for their use of smart city technology to improve urban life.
Whether your startup moves and manufactures physical goods, or you deliver digital service offerings such as SaaS, Singapore is your logical next step for an international expansion.
5. An Island of Industry Growth Opportunities
Singapore’s innovation ecosystem abounds with potential for German startups, especially for those in the following industries and sectors:
Fintech & Cybersecurity: As one of Asia’s principal financial hubs, Singapore is a natural fit for innovators in the financial technology and cybersecurity sectors. The nation’s growing diversity of fintech business models and solutions offer German startups a number of chances to grow in this exciting sector. The government also has a supportive regulatory framework that encourages growth and innovation within the finance industry. Finally, Singapore leads Southeast Asia in big data and therefore lends itself naturally to growth within the cybersecurity sector.
Food tech & Agritech: Another industry that’s exploding with potential in Singapore is agricultural technology. Given its maritime location, Singapore is at the forefront of innovation in aquaculture with robust support from the Singapore Food Agency (SFA). And in other areas of food tech, the Singaporean government offers similar supports, attracting startups from as far afield as the U.S. and Germany.
Healthcare & MedTech: Singapore offers exponential opportunities for healthcare & MedTech startups from Germany. The Asia-Pacific medical technology market is expected to hit US$137 billion (S$188 billion) by 2023 to become the second-largest MedTech market in the world, according to McKinsey. Over 60 multinational MedTech companies and 8 of the top 10 pharmaceutical firms already have offices in Singapore. In addition, the Lion City is home to over 220 local MedTech startups and SMEs.
More and more German businesses – both small and large – are looking east, and they’re finding that the best way to expand to Asia is through Singapore. If your startup decides to make the leap to the Lion City, or is even exploring the possibility, keep these 5 culture tips in mind while doing business in Singapore.
As a German entrepreneur or startup founder considering the next step in your international expansion journey, Singapore should definitely be on your short list.
Learn more and apply now to the Asia Market Access Program – including Singapore and others – offered by German Accelerator.