Cities should be built for people, not cars.

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The Last Mile Transportation Problem

The next time you’re in San Francisco, try making your way to the Financial District from the Caltrain station during commute hours. It’ll cost you a 30 minute trip for just about a mile of travel — regardless of whether you took a car, rode public transport, or walked.

San Francisco isn’t unique in this respect. First and last mile problems — the challenge of moving people between transportation hubs and their final destinations — have plagued urban planners for decades.

Transit systems haven’t kept up with the pace of urbanization. A typical American is comfortable walking up to a…

Where we stand in 2016

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Ever since I first dipped my toes into Singapore startups back in 2007, I’ve always kept an eye on its development. I previously observed that the lack of software engineering talent was limiting the tech startup ecosystem.

Startup and engineering ecosystems are symbiotic. Looking back at the historical development of startup ecosystems like New York City, Israel, and Silicon Valley, we can see that they were built on a bedrock of engineering talent. However, startups can’t single handedly create a great engineering ecosystem.

A great engineering ecosystem creates great startups. And that’s where we should focus the conversation.

For the…

Skip it.

Last month, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) launched Accreditation@IDA, a scheme designed to “accredit promising and innovative Singapore-based technology product start-ups to establish credentials and position them as qualified contenders to enterprise buyers, including the Singapore Government”.

A Closer Look

While Accreditation@IDA certainly sounds promising in theory, I am skeptical about its effectiveness. As seen in its terms and guidelines:


We set up the Accreditation@IDA to help startups win real projects from government and industry buyers, where accredited companies will be considered first for various innovation-focused government projects and industry collaborations.

[The initiative aims to] build an innovative technopreneur ecosystem to…

Last year, I visited Cabo da Roca — the western most point of continental Europe. Amidst the incredible scenery, I couldn’t help but notice the irony that surrounded me. Tourists were busy scuttling around, taking photos of all possible permutations, before hopping back onto their buses.

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Are we so afraid of losing moments, that we spend those very moments taking photos?

Photos are a vital part of the human condition, and I love the warmth of looking through old albums. But I do remember the days of being constrained by the number of shots left in a film roll…

And where we are now.

Ever since mobile phones have become our de facto camera, the cost of taking a photo has plummeted. We are now taking more photos of the world around us than ever before.

Photos have become such a crucial piece in the consumer app space that companies are basing entire strategies around them. And thus far, our love of nostalgia and our need for validation have been the guiding motivations behind the current state of photo apps.


Nostalgia drives us to keep our old photos — whether in a shoebox or the cloud. We know that as our memories become…

Perceived logic vs conceptual logic

As with any review site, we had to deal with user ratings. In our case, our users rated a place between 0 (bad) to 10 (great!).

One straightforward approach to aggregate ratings is to use a simple average. But that comes with an inherent problem. The moment something new is given a 10, it shoots right to the top.

So we naively decided to use a Bayesian average based rating system instead.

To paraphrase Wikipedia:

In a calculation of an average review score of a book where only two reviews are available, both giving scores of 10…

Every opportunity has its costs. On hindsight, we celebrate the great ones and try not to regret the missed ones. How then, should we approach opportunities that come our way?

To me, it’s about understanding how we want to mold ourselves, and using that to influence our decisions accordingly.

Two years ago, I had a cushy consulting job at Pivotal Labs Singapore when I was given the opportunity to join a file sharing company called “Kicksend”. I’d have to uproot and join these two guys — whom I had just met — across the world.

Two years on, revenue is…

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He arguably fries one of the best plates of char kway teow, an intricate noodle dish constructed from the most basic of ingredients. For the past 40 years, Mr Kwee has been frying the same plate of noodles, every day.

Mr Kwee is a hawker in Singapore. Hawkers serve food out of stalls that are barely large enough to fit two people, in what can be best described as an outdoor food court. The very best earn over $10,000 a month. And there’s a good number of them who have been at it since the 1960s.

40 years on, Mr…

Fixing the lack of engineering talent in Singapore

A while back, I wrote about how the lack of home grown computer engineering talent is harming the progress of Singapore’s startup scene. I believe that there are two possible remedies to the talent problem.


Singapore’s Economic Development Board, and Infocomm Development Authority, should continue to make a concerted push to encourage top tech companies to start engineering centers in Singapore. But with a twist — they should heavily promote the fact that Singapore can draw from the wealth of talent that Southeast Asia has to offer.

The Singaporean talent pool can’t sustain engineering centers. I’ve had the privilege of…

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Lessons from Startup Roots Singapore

A week ago, Qin En — founder and director of The HUB Internship Program — wrote an engaging piece describing his discouragement over the future Singapore’s startup scene, based on his experience of running the program.

I actually do agree with his over-arching themes. Singapore’s youth could be better infused with a culture of building stuff. University initiatives should double down on the skills that truly matter to startups. And internship programs should be meaningful to both the company, and the intern.

But I disagree with his conclusion that Singapore’s youths inhibit the growth of the local startup ecosystem. Startups…

Derrick Ko

Co-Founder and CEO of Spin •

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