Walkabout Singapore showcases the country’s entrepreneurial spirit

30 May 2013

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Launched for the second time in the tropical island, Walkabout Singapore allows access to behind-the-scenes actions at the hottest local technology start-ups.

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Throngs of students at Blk 71 awaiting the arrival of shuttle buses

The crowd was visibly forming just as I approached Blk 71 last Friday morning, as hordes of students, professionals and expatriates began making their way towards JFDI Asia for the sponsored brunch session held as a kick off for the event.

I peered through the glass door of JFDI Asia apprehensively, wondering if I have inadvertently followed the wrong crowd to a different event.  As I began stepping my way into the cosy-lit, stylishly-designed office space, the aromatic smell of coffee soon greeted me, together with murmurs and chatters filling up the office space from the congregation of various small conversation groups inside.

Held for the second-time running, Walkabout SG is a free one-day event where the public could drop in on any participating technology start-ups to be inspired by the growing entrepreneurial culture brewing in the country.

The idea of invading working spaces is not a new one either; Organisers of the event transplanted the event from Walkabout New York City and adapted it into Singaporean context in an effort to debunk the typical stereotype that Singapore is all about its finance industry, with little capacity for creativity.

Said Kristine Lauria, one of the organisers of the event, “Globally we want to make a point that Asia has a point on the global  scene… we are not dreaming that tech will take off in Asia; we are here already.”

Indeed, the spin-off has been a resounding success this year in 2013, with a 148% increase in the number of participating companies and 92% increase in participants compared to the year before. Besides Blk 71, the central business districts of City Hall, Raffles Place, and Tanjong Pagar also took part in this island-wide event.

Crowdonomics is one such company which I had the privilege of visiting. Established as a crowdfunding platform, the start-up differentiates itself from its competitors by allowing campaigners to continue collecting funds even if targets are not met. Despite its recent inception, Crowdonomics has already been featured in prominent prints/media such as Channel NewsAsia, The Business Times, among others. The working environment is itself an epitome of creativity and ingenuity. Styled in a round-table format, co-workers are able to actively contribute to discussions, allowing ideas to collide and spark beyond traditional spheres of formal meetings.

As noon approached, I proceeded to continue my journey towards Tanjong Pagar by hopping on one of the free shuttle buses that were arranged to bring participants keen to check out companies in other areas.

My feet (and curiosity) brought me next to Gametize, a start-up that aims to revolutionize user engagement and processes by applying game dynamics and psychology into non-game contexts. As I spoke to one of the staff at the company, I was able to sense an energy of positivity and passion within the organization. There was a resolute belief that gamification could be applied to all aspects of life, allowing participants to become more motivated and engaged. True enough, the start-up has already rounded up a belt of clienteles, which includes powerhouses such as SingTel, DBS and Standard Chartered.

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Bed in an office? Now, that’s a first. (Gametize office)

It was then time for me to make my way to the Microsoft Office at Marina Boulevard, where the building commands a panoramic view of the Marina Bay Sands skyline, icon of Singapore’s newest resort development.

Microsoft is currently launching its BizSpark program, aimed at providing technology, support, visibility and community to promising technology start-ups. The giant MNC hence hopes to leverage Walkabout SG as a platform to allow participations greater understanding on what is has to offer.

Again, the diversity of participants was a notable element of the whole event. Sure, there were students (secondary to tertiary) and teachers, but many from different walks of life (think entrepreneurs, professionals and government agency personnel) were also present to allow exchange of ideas, perspectives and viewpoint among participants.

I spoke to Ms. Lorraine Neo, whom I had the pleasure of meeting during the office tour conducted by Microsoft. Lorraine, an IT teacher from Raffles Institution, had brought a group of students from the school’s Infocomm club to this Walkabout event.

She remarked, “I wanted them to have an idea on how the technology experts are putting their ideas to work by exposing them to workspaces, dynamism, and the community that we have over here in Singapore”.  To both our pleasure, the Raffles boys did look like they were enjoying themselves very much indeed.

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The swanky interiors of the Microsoft office

Other participants also had positive vibes from the event.

Tan Khai Hui, a recent graduate from Nanyang Polytechnic, felt that the event was an eye-opener. “I previously did not know that such a big infocomm entrepreneurial community exists in Singapore. It was a good chance for me to network which previously I did not have many opportunities to do so, and it was a pleasant surprise to know so that many of these companies are currently hiring!”

Khai Hui would definitely be sending out his resume soon. But before that, he had to rush off to RedDotVentures for an organised pizza party first, scheduled to start later in the afternoon.

Walkabout SG 2014? It is never too early to mark it down on your calendar now.

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