Startups in Singapore – Most Important Financial Center in Southeast Asia

Singapore has become probably the most important financial center in Southeast Asia. Superlative forms are very often used with reference to Singapore: the best country for doing business, the most stable economy in the region, the most reliable political system, the highest standards of life, and so on. Many business-minded people from other countries of the world relocate to Singapore with the intention to make full use of all the business opportunities available there. The country is very small but it is so inviting for people with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Why Singapore?

Historically, Singapore has been part of the British Empire, part of Japan, and part of Malaysia. When it gained independence in 1965, Singapore was in a really poor state. It was a poverty-stricken and corruption-ridden village with a population of half a million people. Even sand and drinking water had to be imported to the country. However, under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore turned into a financial and trade center in Southeast Asia within mere 30 years. Corruption had been part of Singaporean culture but eventually it was totally eradicated. The Government supported promising investors. American transnational corporations paved the way for the development of high-tech industry on the island.

Singapore ranks second on the Doing Business rating that rates 189 countries for the ease of doing business there. Singapore has been at the top of the list for many years in a row! It is the best country for business in the world along the following lines:

  • Ease of acquiring construction permits;
  • Support for small-scale investors;
  • Contract fulfillment.

According to experts, the most qualified specialists work in Singapore. The country gathers top professionals from different parts of the world.

If you want to start a business company in Singapore, you will need 1 to 2 days for that. In some other countries in Asia and Oceania, the process can span over a full month. The taxation system in Singapore is also very attractive: the corporate profit tax on the first 300,000 Singaporean dollars (approximately US$ 222,300) is only 9%. When the profit exceeds this amount, the tax rate is 17%.

There are numerous startup opportunities in Singapore. Several thousand startup companies are registered in Singapore every year. This fact is impressive indeed, because the population of Singapore is less than 5.5 million people. As far as financing of startups is concerned, they receive billions of dollars in investments.

Singaporean-registered companies are most often financed from within the country but this does not necessarily have to be the case. For example, Nitrous IO, a developer of cloud applications, has received financial support from several international investors including Eduardo Saverin, a co-founder of Facebook.

Startups in Singapore: what to do


Changi Airport in Singapore is the best airport in the world. It is a pleasure to arrive there and departing from there is highly comfortable. Fifteen million tourists visiting Singapore every year can confirm this. Tourism is one of the most promising business areas in the country. With the number of tourists exceeding the number of residents threefold, the hotel business is flourishing in Singapore. Opening a small café or a bar could also be a good idea as well as a small boutique as many foreigners go shopping when they are in Singapore.

Transportation services is one more business niche for a startup. The taxi service GrabTaxi has collected a few hundred million dollars already and iCarsClub, a platform for renting cars without intermediaries, is closing on a hundred million.

Such giant corporations as Apple, Google, and Microsoft, could not ignore Singapore, of course, and they opened branch offices there. The country is keeping up with the times and software development, online applications, social networks, website design, etc. are new business areas ripe with opportunities. For example, Migme social network has acquired almost 40 million dollars in investments and now it has nearly 70 million users all over the world.

Such pharmaceutical giants as Pfizer, Novartis, and GlaxoSmithKline have subsidiary companies in Singapore too. Biotechnologies are one of the leading trends in business today. And investors in the area are quite generous. For instance, the Aslan company specializing in oncological, respiratory, and inflammatory diseases has been able to raise $111 million.

At the same time, the most popular form of business for a startup in Singapore is an online shop. All sorts of goods from furniture and electronics to fashionable clothes and garden tools sell online bringing millions to the shop owners.

Visa to Singapore

In 2004, a new type of visa to Singapore became available to foreign investors and entrepreneurs with innovative ideas. Entrepreneur Pass or EntrePass for short is issued for 1 year. If the business is successful and it meets the Government’s requirements, the visa can be extended when the validity term expires. The visa holder can bring his/ her family to Singapore too. The family member are eligible:

  • To live in Singapore;
  • To work in Singapore;
  • To attend a Singaporean school if they are the visa holder’s children.

The conditions for acquiring an EntrePass are as follows:

  • The applicant has to be above 21, have education or practical experience in business, and have an intention to relocate to Singapore and launch a business venture there.
  • The business idea has to have an innovative character and it also has to create jobs.
  • A private limited company has to be registered in Singapore to implement the idea.
  • When arriving in Singapore, the applicant has a month to start a company or to join an existing company as a co-founder. In the latter case, the company has to be not more than 6 months old.
  • The applicant has to have at least 30% of the company ownership eventually.
  • The charter capital has to be at least US$ 50,000
  • A Singaporean-registered company has to act as the applicant’s sponsor. Otherwise, the applicant can bring a guarantee from a Singapore bank in the amount of US$ 3,000.

In addition, one of the following alternative conditions has to be fulfilled:

  • The startup receives financing of at least US$ 100,000 from a venture company or a ‘business angel’ authorized by the Government of Singapore.
  • The company owns intellectual property rights registered in Singapore.
  • The company carries out joint research projects in association with the Science, Technology, and Research Agency in Singapore or a Singaporean university.
  • The company is a member of a startup incubator in Singapore.

Business incubators accept applications from foreign entrepreneurs. What you have to do to apply is acquire a two-month visa to legally enter Singapore. If you do, the incubator will help you get an EntrePass.

If you feel that you are able to meet the requirements for a startup company in Singapore, you should definitely consider moving to the country. In addition to business incubators, there are multiple business accelerators in Singapore that will give you both financial and informational support. Each accelerator specializes in a certain business area so you can find the one that suits your purposes best of all.

Ricardo is a freelance writer specialized in politics. He is with from the beginning and helps it grow. Email: richardorland4[at]