Should Singapore and the Nordics fight over fintech?

Singapore has unveiled a plan to become the world’s leading startup ecosystem within fintech, challenging similar initiatives in the Nordic countries.

Singapore has developed a lot since becoming independent in 1965. Before, the country was a central post for major banks and finance houses, but as the country looks to the future, it has shifted it’s focus towards startups.

In particular, due to the strong financial sector, Singapore is focusing on fintech.  Although the country is known for highly experienced brokers and bankers, the focus of local fintech startups ranges widely, from targeting the local unbanked population to the top 1%.

The Asian serial entrepreneur and business angel, Bernard Leong, has pointed out that because Singapore is a small country with few inhabitants, it has no choice but to invest globally.  Startups will benefit from access to global markets and more capital.  Investments in startups in Singapore tend to be at the very early stage, and startups look for international investments to really get off the ground.

Janteloven prevails in Asia

Like the Nordics, Bernard Leong points out that people in Singapore have a fear of failure.  According to him, this is an ingrained trait in Asian culture, where people are afraid of “losing face”.

Thankfully, he notes that young people show more courage and determination than previous generations to start a business, and believes more and more young people will dare to take the plunge into entrepreneurship.

Although the Nordic countries are rated highly as places to be entrepreneurs, fear of failure (in the form of the famous Janteloven) has often been cited as a reason for the proportional lack of entrepreneurs. But compared to Singapore, Nordic governments have spent the past few years focusing on innovative growth, and it can be argued they have a lead in this area.

In an interview with the Danish news DR, Bernard Leong said that Singapore is drawing inspiration from countries like Israel and Sweden, who, despite their modest size, have made an impact on the global stage.

The question is surely whether there is room for two fintech-capitals of the world. Will Singapore and the Nordics meet in the arena and fight for the title?

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