The entrepreneurship wave has set its shore on Singapore- and the young are not afraid to ride it.

Dubbed the number one place in Southeast Asia for start-ups by The Straits Times, entrepreneurship has become a possible, and even desirable career choice for young Singaporeans.

Universities in Singapore are in full-gear support for the cause. The Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) pumped S$50 million into supporting entrepreneurship, while the National University of Singapore (NUS) is looking to expand their Overseas College (NOC) programme, which encourages students to enter the start-up industry.

Yet, in the midst of the hype, therein calls for Singapore’s start-up scene to be a more integrative one, especially towards older workers.

In fact, against the greying backdrop of Singapore’s aging population, weaving older workers into our colourful network of start-ups can be a very attractive idea.

“Young start-ups often lack experience and industry expertise … so these are assets that older, experienced workers can bring to the start-ups” said Larry Tchiou, 33, founder and CEO of social enterprise UNFRAMED.  

“On the other hand,” the founder elaborates, “less-skilled seniors could bring some unique insights to the start-ups looking to support the silver population such as Jaga-Me, a start-up looking into convenient home-care for the elderly.”

UNFRAMED is a social enterprise that aims to help start-ups develop and sustain their businesses. In the past 2 years, the company has supported 49 start-ups initiatives, and has trained and incubated 21 local start-ups.

In an interview last Thursday at the National Design Centre, the outspoken founder wore a maroon polo tee paired with denim distressed jeans. The dress code, though a faux pas in the corporate world, sits well with the laid-back, ‘hip’ culture of the start-up scene.

“It is important for older workers to be comfortable operating in what can sometimes seem a chaotic environment,” Tchiou said, “otherwise, if he or she fits well, I’m always up for hiring someone older.”

Indeed, age plays no part when one has the right skills and mind-set. “It’s more to do with whether or not older workers have the ‘stomach’, and tenacity to handle working in such an environment,” said Kenneth Chng, *SCAPE entrepreneurship programme’s assistant manager.

When asked if the entry of older workers would taint the otherwise youthful and vibrant start up culture, *SCAPE senior executive Ng Wei Jing disagrees. Ng encourages youths to be “more receptive to working with different people, especially so if you are an entrepreneur.”

Given the exponential increase in jobs creation through entrepreneurship, introducing older workers also provides diversity in the workplace. It is perhaps time for Singapore to look inward, and use the resources available to counter the country’s aging population.

After all, as aptly summarised by UNFRAMED’s CEO:

“Older workers are an asset, and hiring them should never be seen as good-will, or an act of charity.”






Rachel Yeo