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How collaborations open new frontiers for startups

By Adrian Tan

· startup,collaboration,expansion

Fuelled partly by positive regulatory environments and a highly educated population, Singapore has established itself as a startup hub. Across sectors, record new businesses are launching – but too many of these startups aren’t also getting to the finish line.

A survey of Singapore startups, found that more than half of all new companies survive for more than five years, compared to a 42% survival rate in the UK. However, the same study also found that whilst many tech companies stay in business, they create little growth or employment.

According to the study by National University of Singapore’s Entrepreneurship Centre, 530 tech sector startups employed fewer than five people and generated annual sales of $200,000. Only 8% of tech start-ups clocked annual sales of $4m. This is alarming, given that small and medium-sized businesses—the types of businesses startups become as they scale—contribute 48% of the nation’s GDP and employ about 65% of the workforce.

Bridging relationships
In today’s fast-paced and competitive marketplace, it takes more than a good product and idea for a company to move from startup to scale-up. Often, this means forging mutually beneficial partnerships to accelerate innovation and success.

Singapore is one of the easiest places to start a business and benefits from access to high-growth markets in Southeast Asia—so there is a huge existing opportunity to support this already thriving ecosystem by connecting local entrepreneurs and startups with the rest of the world. This includes connecting with and leveraging relationships with local incubators, accelerators, and large corporates to help early-stage businesses achieve their goals.

Startup collaborations can take many different forms, from short-term, transactional commitments to long-term, evolving relationships. Beyond the more common equity-based collaborations, there are many advantages to simply being part of a collaborative environment.

For one, you meet like-minded people including co-founders, advisers, investors, and employees much more easily than if you are to go at it alone. All this helps to understand diverse and different business thinking and gives business owners the opportunity to bounce ideas off and compare notes with their peers.

Less tangibly—and more specific to Southeast Asia—collaboration helps startups navigate the many cultural differences, nuances in consumer behaviors, and dizzying pace of change in the region.

Finding the right fit
Having said that, collaboration is not an easy task. Startups often struggle to find the right people and organisations to partner with, which is why many startups require curated programming, in-house resources, and robust mentorship programs.

This is why we have seen great traction with WeWork Labs, our global platform for early-stage start-ups. To date, we’ve been able to provide some 4,600 members with flexible and collaborative workspaces, programming, mentorship, access and a community to grow and succeed.

WeWork Labs members have also collectively raised $125m in funding to-date. Some of these enterprises span across industries like aerospace, technology, food and beverage and education amongst others. In China, WeWork Labs partnered with Alibaba’s cloud computing arm, Alibaba Cloud, to launch a series of co-branded incubating programs across major cities in China. In Singapore, we are partnering with all five polytechnics on the Global Entrepreneurship Initiative (GEI) program to advance the students with a better and more robust understanding of the SEA landscape through mentorships, training, and internships.

Today, building a successful business is so much about support and looking outward. We live in a connected world where collaboration is no longer a nice-to-have strategy: it is a necessity for businesses to survive and succeed. In the words of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, “Pooling together ideas and resources will strengthen a fourth wave of industrial revolution to bring tangible benefits to the region’s economies and people.”