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Singapore’s startup ecosystem ranking

This content is 2 years old and may not reflect reality today nor the author’s current opinion. Please keep its age in mind as you read it.

Singapore still has the opportunity to replicate the success of Ireland during the “Celtic Tiger” (boom years between 1995 and 2007, which I caught the last few years of in Dublin) — especially with Hong Kong having effectively opted out of the race — but the window to do so is closing fast and the COVID response (which saw 1-in-10 expats depart) and ongoing tightening of immigration policies are hurting more than helping.

Anecdotally, many of the entrepreneurs who started their Singapore startup journeys at the same time as I did have already left the country or are making plans to do so (including Pedro URIA-RECIO who I thank for drawing my attention to this hot-off-the-press report), and many others have clambered back onto the corporate treadmill, often more out of necessity than choice — while still far too difficult, it is easier to acquire and renew an Employment Pass than an EntrePass.

In the latest Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking 2022 report (#GSER2022), Singapore is the only country in continual decline, dropping from 12th to 18th position over the past half-decade. Only Berlin fared worse (with a partial recovery after dropping a dozen spots on the leaderboard), while Paris and Chicago dropped 4 and 5 spots respectively. Tel Aviv, and Toronto are also down, and Los Angeles and Washington DC have flatlined after recent jumps. London (equal 2nd with New York), Boston (4th), and Seattle have made minor improvements, and while it looks like San Diego is picking up refugees from San Francisco (which maintains top spot), Austin is conspicuous in its absence — though it’s great to see Sydney making an appearance at the bottom of the ladder (watch this space).

Elsewhere in Asia, Seoul is smashing it out of the park (going from zero to top-10 hero in two pandemic years, though it will be interesting to see if the crypto crash knocks it off its perch), Shanghai is holding its own at 8th, and Beijing & Tokyo are up and down. Hopefully Singapore can stem the tide and make its way back towards the top of the rankings, but it may yet get worse before it gets better.