The tech investment community in Singapore has been in a near frenzy since news broke that Japanese billionaire Taizo Son was moving to the little red dot.
The fever reached, well, fever pitch, when he revealed he was going to invest $100m of his own money into start-ups in Southeast Asia, his own personal mission being to make the world a better place.
So what difference can one man make to the industry in Singapore and beyond? In more ways than you think. The key one being a mindset shift.
Taizo Son has openly stated that he is looking for crazy ideas that change the world. He’s been quoted multiple times saying that he is less interested in a business plan and projections and more tuned into the idea and the level of emotional buy-in from the founder.
This is more of a Silicon Valley mentality, where VCs have made an art of investing in leftfield ideas that are still at the idea stage. The logic being that outliers are more likely to change the world than well thought out, but previously executed business models.
If Taizo Son’s investment philosophy starts to take hold in “conservative and safe” Southeast Asia, we could finally start to kiss goodbye to the image of being a risk averse region in which investors only invest in proven business models that follow a predictable curve. With more people really racking their creative brains, perhaps the next five years could see some genuinely interesting start-ups break through.
By setting up shop in Singapore, he’s also sending a message to the world that Singapore and Southeast Asia are places where things are really going to happen in the next decade or so. That in itself might attract more risk-taking Valley funds to come here and fund out-of-the-box ideas.
The ultimately endgame for that means more funding, better quality start-ups and more attention to real problem solving (meaning some of the more interesting socially-focused companies in delevoping markets might get some time in the sun).
All that leads into the one thing Taizo Son is passionate about – building an ecosystem.
For a long time, the likes of Singapore have waxed lyrical about the desire to build a Smart Nation and to create ecosystems for fintech and other start-ups. But it’s been slow going so far. The building blocks are in place, but accelerators have come and gone with varying success. The machine chewed up and spat a lot of funds, spaces and start-ups out.
Now the machine has a technician. Someone who truly believes in building an end-to-end support network and who has the track record to back it up. His Mistletoe company has become well oiled in taking great ideas, supporting the founders on their journey – with money, advice and a physical support network – and helping them to realize their dreams.
In Singapore this is where he could make the biggest difference. In a sea of accelerators and real-estate play co-working spaces, there could be the first shoots of a real ecosystem forming. One where the parts exist to help each other and real innovation gets the chance to breathe.
That could be the biggest gift he could give to Southeast Asia.
Also, read all about why the much-maligned Generation Z should be the target for any new entrepreneur.
Adam Flinter is managing partner at Golden Equator Consulting, a company which helps start-ups, SMEs and mid-stage businesses with their strategy and growth.
Image source: Akio Kon/Bloomberg