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Taiwanese school for founders helps Singapore build startup scene

Singapore, though a financial hub for Southeast Asia with English as an official language, lacks a homegrown startup scene. It is tapping a school in Taiwan for crash courses in how to create one.

The well-off city state known best overseas for its free port investment policies and advanced finance industry has yet to see a Singapore-born founder set up a landmark technology firm.

Most graduates in Singapore pursue careers in multinational corporations and the public sector. A lack of technical talent also steers young Singaporeans away from entrepreneurship.

The government has tried to foster startups, however. It offers the Start-Up Enterprise Development Scheme (SEEDS), its first awards program to promote entrepreneurship, for example.

And now it is funding startup schools to provide technical skills training for Singaporean youth.

Taiwan's first startup school Alpha Camp opened in Singapore this year with support from the government’s Infocomm Development Authority.

Alpha Camp was founded in 2014 by Yahoo! Hong Kong alumnus Bernard Chan. It offers a 10-week immersive training to help young professionals who are ready for career changes or students who are interested in building their own companies.

WHAT ALPHA CAMP WILL TEACH

Alpha Camp says it has trained more than 2,000 students and professionals.

The Singapore government is focusing now on its startup scene because a lot of founders in early-stage teams lack the right skills, Chan said.

Therefore, the government expects Alpha Camp to teach people techniques they can use in building a startup ecosystem in the country.

Course titles inclue Full Stack Web Development, iOS Mobile App Development, Digital Marketing and Product Design.

Also to help nurture Singapore’s startups, the local bank DBS is launching what it callsthe DBS HotSpot Pre-Accelerator this year. The project will work with Alpha Camp to put 29 new companies through a program over several months to develop each one’s business model.

General Assembly, a school that teaches skills to people in career transition, is further helping Singapore cultivate startups with backing from the Southeast Asian country’s government. The 5-year-old school has more than 250 instructors and about 25,000 alumni, according to its website.

Alpha Camp and General Assembly are similar but with different types of students, though both offer today’s most heavily needed skills for work in startups.

Alpha Camp already takes applicants from different countries, so the program in Singapore fits naturally with its business model.

One student is a student from Harvard University taking a semester off to join the school in Singapore. Others come from Europe.

Alpha Camp graduates have launched startups such as iLoveMilk, a platform for fresh milk delivery; mit.Jobs, a platform for job matching; MacroMicro, which does visual analytics for investors; and Yourator, a job matching platform for small firms and other startups. Another graduate started Amazing Tutor, a website to link foreign language students with teachers.

Alpha Camp may expand into South Korea next because of the number of startups is increasing there and the Korean government encourages young professionals to start their own companies.