For more information on Tech.Pass, head to the official EDB website.
There are times when what a startup needs to unlock their next stage of growth is not another dose of capital but an industry goliath on the team whose experience can provide fresh insight and radically improve the company’s growth trajectory.
As VCs, we actively help our portfolio secure talent for these critical positions, and we’ve seen how hiring the right senior leaders to complement the founders can spell a marked improvement in how the company is run and grown.
The Tech.Pass has the potential to fill senior, expertise-specific talent gaps for Singapore tech companies. By targeting a seasoned tech talent and entrepreneurs, the Tech.Pass has the potential to grow the quality of this senior talent pool.
Need for more operators
Then from an industry perspective, the sunrise sectors in Southeast Asia post-COVID — AI and SaaS, healthtech, edtech — require a lot more specialization from leadership especially as companies in these sectors navigate regulation, manage product development, and secure big-ticket clients (for B2Bs).
Relating to the need for industry specialization, the Tech.Pass also builds on top of VC firms looking for industry-specific operators to join the ranks of venture capital professionals. The potential of having “A” talent operators or ex-founders on the boards of portfolio companies is highly sought after by VCs and startups alike, given the ripple effect it could have on attracting talent, investors, and clients down the line.
Industry, not just company, building
Compared to the regular EP, the three key differences are that the Tech.Pass no longer ties the holder to a company, there are only 500 slots, and that the standards for qualification are a lot higher and more result-driven (i.e. starting a company or building a product vs salary).
These differences spell the desire for Singapore to attract quality (vs quantity), scale (one-to-many value-add is possible), and industry talent (given the high bar of speciality) through this program.
Also, the focus on mentorship, consulting, and teaching roles signals that the Tech.Pass is not just meant to help specific companies (which is short-term), but boost the capabilities of entire industries (more long-term impact), especially in deep tech (AI, blockchain, cloud technologies, etc.) where Singapore has an headstart regionally.
The bigger picture for talent in post-pandemic Southeast Asia
Historically the competition has been fierce among tech companies over top tech talent, and we can expect this competition to be tighter in the years to come. At the same time, with initiatives like Tech.Pass, supply is strategically being brought in to match demand.
It’s important to look at the Tech.Pass not as a standalone program, but as a specialized offering that’s part of a multi-pronged approach by the EDB to develop the local talent pool and boost the capabilities of tech companies in the country.
The timing is also right for this pass, as we see a lot more tech unicorns and giants set up their HQs and Asia hubs in the city-state, and Singapore emerge as an attractive destination for talent in a post-pandemic world.
And this could set the tone for other countries in the region to follow suit with similar passes. Thailand already has a similar pass, and perhaps in the next few years Indonesia and Vietnam may follow. The Tech.Pass aligns with the greater role Southeast Asia’s innovation ecosystem plays on the world stage — a relatively open-ended, forward-looking, and “safe haven” for talent amidst a greater bifurcation between China and US tech.
For more on what it takes to hire the right talent for startups in Southeast Asia, check out our managing partner Yinglan Tan’s latest book, Navigating ASEANnovation.