A Case for Singapore (Where in the World is Happening Right Now?)

My friend, DCer, and all around super nice guy Tom planted the idea of home exchanges in my brain a few months back.

It’s exactly what it sounds like. You put your house up on the website for a small fee, and find other home owners who would like to trade with you for an agreed amount of time.

Because of it’s recognizable brand, homes in Bali have a lot of pull on home exchange sites. Even though our house only costs us $18,000 annually, it shouldn’t be a problem exchanging it with a European family who has a beautiful home in, say, the middle of Paris. Home exchange arbitrage!

It got us thinking– if you could exchange your house and go live somewhere new for a few months (and potentially somewhere expensive), where would you choose? 

Initially visions of the south of France, the Alps in the summertime, Paris, Los Angeles, Florence, and Tokyo all started dancing in my imagination.

But this week I’ve been thinking about two new ideas: 1) what would be best for our future business? and 2) what’s happening right now?

By happening I mean something like, what’s an interesting and relevant emerging scene that we could see first hand. You know your writer friend who went to Paris for the summer and was disappointed that young writers don’t hang out there anymore? When Ian and I spent a week in Hong Kong last year we kinda said to ourselves “if only we had millions or were here in the 90’s.”

Where’s in the world is “happening” right now? 

  • Cebu City – for moving your tax base abroad into a PEZA zone and hiring English speaking college graduates to help you build your internet start-up. Cebu and Manila are still the only two major forces of gravity for top talent in the Philippines.
  • Davao City – For the lowest cost scalable English speaking workforce you can find, and a small but growing group of entrepreneurs.
  • Chiang Mai – (haven’t been here yet) for bloggers and internet business people living a good lifestyle at a great price.
  • Shenzhen – if you want to hustle up a fortune trading goods from the world’s largest manufacturing base. From a rice paddy to a major global player in 15 years. The prototypical “go east young man” location.

Singapore will likely have growing importance for web based entrepreneurs in the coming decade.

Last week it occurred to me: Singapore is happening. For getting financing and investments in Asia. For incorporation and wealth management services for entrepreneurs. For networking with like minds in Asia. For one of the best alterative passports in the world.

I got a ton of positive praise, both publicly and in private, for my article about internet entrepreneurs setting up in Hong Kong. The runner-up to our Hong Kong decision was Singapore, which was ultimately judged by Ian and myself and a handful of DCers as “slightly more favorable than Hong Kong but more expensive.”

We opted for Hong Kong at the time because we are cheap and we go to China often. You don’t have to twist my arm to hang out in Hong Kong!

Here are some reasons that Signapore is has a ton to offer internet entrepreneurs:

  • Potentially the best all-around first offshore incorporation zone for internet start-ups (a little more expensive than HK, but more agreeable terms).
  • Vibrant start-up and university scene pulling students and talent from all over Asia.
  • Singapore is actively seeking out entrepreneurial talent form other parts of the world. 
  • Cheap flights to anywhere in Asia.
  • Friendly, easy, cheap visa.
  • Best airport in the world.
  • Great food everywhere! Relatively affordable entertainment costs.
  • We probably wouldn’t want to pay the rent if we weren’t doing a home exchange!
  • Laid back city vibe, not so oppressive and large like Bangkok, Hong Kong, NYC.
  • Fast WIFI.
  • Lots of money, entrepreneurs, and opportunity. Entrepreneurial talent from the West is in demand.
  • A crossroads of Asia. Lots of people coming through.
  • Melting pot culture, relatively easy to accept outsiders.
  • If we go there, something relevant might happen for our business. I’m not sure what…

Plenty of downsides too! It’s sorta boring. If you’ve been to both– it’s sort of a mega-rich aspirational Makati with some Las Vegas sprinkled in. It’s expensive, and probably not nearly as much fun as other locations.

If you all were going to relocate for the summer, where would you go? We might just take your advice.



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