Singapore, where entrepreneurial dreams come true

As I walk through the startup campus, it’s not weird to see self-driving scooters making deliveries, scan my fingerprints to open Neeuro’s office door and be greeted by a mini Darth Vader holding a [fake] brain. Neeuro is a Singapore-based digital brain health platform specializing in improving cognitive functioning. It is located at the JTC launchpad @ one-north, a 6.5 hectare entrepreneurial ecosystem composed of seven apartment-style buildings, housing start-up offices, accelerators, and incubators.

Singapore has the 8th highest GDP per capita making it a booming economy not only compared to its neighbours in Southeast Asia, but globally. It is incredibly developed in many dimensions from infrastructure to technology to architecture and beyond. It is Asia’s largest foreign exchange hub, averaging US$507 billion worth of foreign currency traded in Singapore daily. The country is highly international, about 40% of the Singapore Exchange listings are foreign companies. Angel investors and VCs are on high lookout when it comes to Singaporean startups and there is significant funding from the government to promote growth. Overall, it is a fantastic place to do business and for entrepreneurial dreams to come true.

Neeuro has placed a heavy emphasis on research and development when it comes to understanding brainwaves and mental states defined by EEG results. The team has built a SenzeBand, a device which picks up brainwave signals, and applications which include games and modules designed to improve cognitive functioning. When the device and applications are used together, real-time measurements can be made of signals that indicate key mental states such as attention and relaxation. We already sell our product and services around the world and are now moving onto our next stage in funding to scale our business. The team is interdisciplinary, with members from backgrounds including electrical engineering, neuroscience, finance, marketing, programming, and additional partners in psychology and medicine.

My role as part of the uOttawa RBC Co-op Entrepreneurship Program taking place at Neeuro involves business development, specifically of the new Galini app and mindfulness branch of the organization. I am working closely with the CEO and co-founder, as well as the marketing lead to find out how to best position ourselves in the saturated mindfulness industry. How do we differentiate ourselves from the hundreds of existing mindfulness programs? How can we use our valuable knowledge of mind states and our unique measurement device to our advantage? Who may benefit most from our product and how do we approach them? These are only a few of the questions that run on repeat in my head both at the office and when I’m exploring Singapore.

No day is the same at Neeuro. While I have ongoing projects, research, and pitches to work on, my boss encourages me to understand the bigger picture of the organization. We sat down last week and he took the time to present the company to me the same way he does for potential investors so that I could truly grasp the business model and so that “I know how to do it when I have my own business” (great guy, great guy setting me up for the future like that).

I am thrilled to be going to events which reflect the true startup environment. I’ve had the chance to pitch a project to an investor over dinner, attend an event at the British Chamber of Commerce focused on businesses expanding UK-SG/SG-UK, and learn from panels of esteemed leaders at incubators. As my work relates to mindfulness, I have met with psychologists to gather information on mental health, attended sessions held by wellness centres to understand the why and how behind mindfulness, and participated in mindfulness professionals meetups at the Singapore Management University.

I am both excited and challenged by the high expectations and creative liberty this opportunity has brought to me. It’s wild that I’m already halfway through my placement because it seems that there is still so much to be done; in fact, there is so much to begin discovering both in this field, the ecosystem, and this country. I will expand more on my observations and further understandings brought about by working in a startup in Singapore in my next reflection, noticing the explicit and implicit realities of entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia. Right now, I’m feeling grateful, creative, and inspired :)