Since it’s mention by The Economist magazine as the “world’s most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem”, Singapore’s Block 71, run by the JTC Corporation, is often used to highlight how governments can foster and consolidate a startup ecosystem in a single location.
Housing about 250 startups, accelerators, incubators and VC firms, its latest expansion, dubbed Launchpad, doubles its current capacity to 500 companies. This model is now being transplanted to San Francisco, which is often described as the mecca of tech startups worldwide.
Called Block 71 San Francisco, the new co-working space with 5000 sq ft of floor area is the result of a joint effort of the InfoComm Investment (IIPL), NUS Enterprise and Singtel Innov8. Designed to foster closer links between the startup ecosystems in Singapore and the US, it will enable tech companies from both sides of the Pacific to collaborate, build networks, gain insight into their respective markets and explore business opportunities.
Edgar Hardless, the CEO of SingTel Innov8, explained: “There has been a steady increase of US-based companies and venture funds looking to access the Southeast Asian market [in the past four years]. Likewise, Southeast Asia-based startups and venture funds are looking towards Silicon Valley. Block 71 San Francisco will help create synergies for the greater ecosystem.Beyond funding, SingTel Innov8’s mission is to nurture and develop a vibrant innovation ecosystem in the region. Block 71 San Francisco will help create synergies for the greater ecosystem.”
The space will be located in the South of Market area (Soma). This neighbourhood is increasingly becoming an attractive location for the technology startup community in San Francisco Bay Area, as other entrepreneurial ecosystem clusters emerge outside of Silicon Valley.
The co-working space will be managed by NUS Enterprise, with meeting rooms and a venue area for community events run by the three parties. IIPL and SingTel Innov8 also intend to staff and operate offices supporting the market entry efforts of startup ventures from Singapore.
According to available reports, 24 hot-desk spaces will be free for up to three months. However, currently there are no provisions to provide long-duration stays for startups; expecting that many will come and go, given the dynamics of the startup ecosystem.
The establishment of Block 71 San Francisco strengthens the role of IIPL as an ecosystem builder, helping Singapore tech start-ups scale up fast, according to its CEO, Dr Alex Lin. Lin added, “There is no doubt that the Bay Area houses some of the best tech talents and communities, and we want to provide the collaborative space for our local tech start-ups to churn big ideas and push the boundaries further.”
Indonesian-born serial entrepreneur Dr Himawan Gunadhi, a consulting professor for the NUS Overseas College programmes – designed to nurture entrepreneurs – said that for some start-ups, the US and particularly the Silicon Valley are ideal destinations.He noted that few places matched the concentration of talent that Silicon Valley possessed.
Patsnap, a patent search and analysis firm founded by NUS biomedical engineering graduate Jeffrey Tiong, will be operating temporarily from Block 71 in San Francisco by the end of January. He and his staff plan to hot-desk at the new facility while seeking permanent office space for their US sales and marketing team.
Tiong said: “The establishment of Block 71 comes at an ideal time for Patsnap as we are now looking at the US market, specifically for clients, partners and investors. We expanded to China with the help of the NUS incubator in Suzhou, now we hope to access the US market, again with the university’s help.I am excited. The US is a big market and San Francisco and Silicon Valley are where the action is.”