Why we should foster young entrepreneurs across the South-East Asia region

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In early April, I embarked on one of the most challenging chapters of my career so far: relocating to Singapore to launch my company Gemstar’s first ever Young Entrepreneurs’ Program in partnership with Murdoch University. I can hardly believe that I’m now here in Singapore, settled in my new home and routine with my two daughters, and working from the Gemstar Innovation Centre of Excellence.

As a serial entrepreneur, I know from firsthand experience that becoming an entrepreneur is a very risky business. I had to jump a lot of hurdles to get here, and the journey certainly hasn’t been easy. Surprisingly, one of the biggest barriers I faced was finding affordable and accessible schooling for my daughters, who are in Year 5 and Year 2.

When I first seriously considered the move to Singapore, I made several phone calls to Singaporean schools and discovered that the options were either A) a hugely expensive international school or B) my girls would have had to sit an exam conducted by the Ministry of Education, which wouldn’t even guarantee them a spot or a choice in which school they could attend. In the end, the only foreseeable option was to go down the path of homeschooling through a fantastic Surry Hills-based distance education program, SDEP (https://sdeps.net/Portal/).

Paving the way for Australia to become an Innovation Nation by 2030

While not all entrepreneurs relocating for their business have children, the reality is that there are always personal struggles to be overcome when taking innovations to market. This is especially the case for budding young talent who are just starting out. Newcomers often get swept away in the glitz and glamour of it all, not fully comprehending the huge challenges they will face.

According to recent research conducted by CB Insights, 9 out of 10 start-ups fail. This is a pretty alarming statistic, especially when you consider that the Australian Government has pledged to invest $11 billion in the National Innovation and Science Agenda (launched last year), with plans for Australia to be a leading Innovation Nation by 2030.

We still have a long way to go in achieving this goal. If we are truly to become an Innovation Nation, we need to find creative ways to unearth transformational innovations and ideas, and bring them to market not just locally, but across the South-East Asia region.

Nurturing the #YoungGems of the future in Australia and Singapore

We can learn a lot from one of our closest neighbours, Singapore, otherwise known as the “Silicon Valley of the East” – a country that’s held onto its decade-long place at the top of the World Bank’s ranking of the easiest places to do business. Singapore also ranked 6th on the 2016 Global Innovation Index, just behind the US and Finland, whereas Australia ranked 19th. In fact, Australia fell two places on the Index from 2015-16.

At Gemstar, our vision is to unearth young entrepreneurs talent in Australia and Singapore to forge exciting new business partnerships across borders and tap into international markets. Our recently-launched Young Entrepreneurs Program will guide budding ‘#YoungGems’ through key brand-building, marketing and finance strategies to support the commercialisation of their product or technology across the region.

Although the Young Entrepreneurs Program is based in Singapore, we have designed it with the Australian market in mind. My first business – Gemstar’s sister company back in Sydney, Manning & Co – is a strategic marketing consultancy that I launched in 2008. As a marketing expert, I understand the importance of a marketing-led strategy when launching a start-up.

According to research conducted by CB Insights, 42% of start-ups fail due to lack of market need. A marketing-led strategy is key to business success because it helps aspiring young entrepreneurs understand the ‘why’ of doing business.

4 top tips for young entrepreneurs to boost business success through a marketing-led approach

  1. Ensure that your idea has a validated market fit. If there’s no market demand for something, it’s doomed to fail. A common mistake that budding entrepreneurs make is prioritising the technology build over adequate market research. Strip back to the basics and ask yourself: where is the gap in the market? Does my idea have merit in the market place?
  2. Create a sound business model. Again, many entrepreneurs focus purely on the technology build and their innovative idea rather than the business proposition behind it. Ensure that you know your value proposition very clearly as well as your target audience. Understand your differentiation against the competition, so you can build more value into your value proposition and pricing.
  3. Remember that the brand is the business. Branding is the quality or essence that makes an organisation unique. The most successful brands are consistent and authentic, delivering on their promise every time. Design your business model with a marketing-led approach and a strong brand, and you will be better equipped to manage not only cash flow, but brand promotion and consumer metrics.
  4. Tell a story that’s relevant globally. To succeed in today’s globalised world, young entrepreneurs need to have a global business perspective that’s grounded in a relevant story. To do this, you need to address ‘the why’ of doing business. Why do you exist? How did your business evolve? Create a consistent and authentic story to market your idea regionally and globally.

This article was originally published in The Business Woman Media.