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Grace Sai On Coworking, Community And Startups In Singapore


Impact Hub builds communities of entrepreneurs wherever they go, guiding start-ups to maturity.


When we first read Grace Sai’s article on helping a community of entrepreneurs make a bigger impact, we were giving the team virtual applause.

Nothing excites us at Connected Women more than hearing ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘community’ in one sentence.

From the announcement sharing their new partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs, Grace Sai, CEO and Co-Founder of Impact Hub Singapore, stated a fact that stirred us up.

In her article, Grace said “In Singapore, the number of startups has grown from 350 to more than 3,500 in half a decade. Singapore, dubbed the “Sand Hill Road” of Southeast Asia, has the largest amount of venture capital available for startups. In a short span of time, this island nation consistently ranks among the top 10 countries in the world for startups, and  ranks first in the world for startup talent.”

We knew she would have valuable input not only on community building but why Singapore has seen so much growth over such a short period of time. Here’s what she had to say:

Singapore’s Bottom-Up Driver

There are two drivers to this – first, it is the idea that Singaporeans and those who have been attracted to call Singapore ‘home’ are defining multiple paths to success for themselves.

Traditionally, in our culture, you’re only successful if you’re a doctor, lawyer or banker. Today, people are more courageous and determined to create alternative futures for themselves. That’s essentially what entrepreneurship is about – being part of the solution to create a better reality for whatever problem you want to solve, rather than sitting in the inaction of the problem. In return, the society is celebrating the entrepreneurial dream much more! This to me is the bottom-up driver.

Singapore’s Top-Down Driver

Secondly, the top-down effect of the Singapore government’s focus in creating more home-grown entrepreneurial successes. Support from creating regulatory sandboxes, to anchoring VC funds and accelerators, to providing accessible co-working spaces and educational events – all of these have led to a successful local startup landscape in many ways.

In addition to the government’s support, there are many intermediaries such as angel investing networks, venture capital firms, startup incubators and accelerator programmes that assist entrepreneurs in starting and raising capital in Singapore, which contributes directly in the nation’s growth and success.

The Truth About Success

Every ‘overnight’ success takes years. Trying to change a system or a generational mindset probably takes 10-40 years. It is common to feel impatient (rightly so!), so try to form ways to receive feedback in shorter time spans and find ways to develop personally.

If you do it to achieve fame, wealth or glory, I’d say pick another job; but if you do it as a commitment to a personal calling, it can be a rewarding journey.

Remembering Your ‘Why’

Meeting and dealing with people all the time can sometimes be overwhelming. While trying to build the ecosystem in Singapore, I am also responsible to build the Hub community and the Hub team and business. These multiple hats require a frequent amount of context-shifting which I’m sure a lot of the readers here can resonate with to be tiring.

However, I am still as passionate about what the Hub is as when we first started simply because I see the impact it creates for our community. They feel supported, less lonely, and when they have the right connections or conversations, their eyes light up and their business progresses. Everyone needs meaning in life and this is mine – it has been for the last five years.

Coworking Is Powerful

Having a strong and collaborative community of co-workers enables one to have access to different ‘team members’ with a diverse pool of networks, skill and knowledge. Achieving success is not guaranteed, and getting there fast enough (before money or time runs out) means it is probably wiser to place yourself in an environment and network that wants to help you! As a result, you would half the time and double the fun in your entrepreneurial journey! Our community of Hubbers is that supportive community.

About Impact Hub Singapore

Impact Hub Singapore is Singapore’s largest coworking community of techies, entrepreneurs, and creatives, with two locations in Singapore.

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Gina Romero

Gina Romero is a community builder who harnesses technology to drive the success of women entrepreneurs. Working with corporate partners, local organisations and government agencies, Gina creates initiatives that strengthen the regional startup and SME ecosystem. She is the Founder of Connected Women.

Read Gina's recent interview on Forbes.com 'How One Woman Is Bringing Opportunity To More Women In Southeast Asia'.

Edited by: Amber Valencia
This interview was last updated 25 October 2017

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