Singapore: New Prime Minister Transition, Immigration Assimilation & Schools and CTO & Engineering Pass with Shiyan Koh- E419

· Podcast Episodes English,VC and Angels,Southeast Asia,Singapore


“For a lot of non-Singaporeans, they believe that they have to put their kids in an international school. That ends up driving up their living costs. On a startup founder's salary, it’s pretty hard to send my kid to an American school, and that's a challenging dynamic as well. This means you need to have a spouse working at an MNC or otherwise, you can't be a founder. I have pointed out that foreigners can go to local schools. It would actually be beneficial to have more foreigners in local schools. It would help their assimilation, and it would be beneficial for local kids to get more exposure to other folks.” - Shiyan Koh

"I'm going to advocate for the tech, CTO pass. The EntrePass is for people who want to be a founder, but the employment pass doesn’t properly cover technical founders who are geniuses at engineering. So why don't we just create a CTO pass, or Head of Engineering pass, which basically says you are a genius or really good at engineering or you have a senior level of engineering experience at another company in SF or Asia. The argument that I’d make is that you want to have the leadership team in Singapore. That's one. And then two is that Singapore is dealing with total factor productivity, which is how we are not productive enough on a per pax basis. And when you let in a CTO, you're not bringing one person in, you're bringing in an army of robots and AI agents under this person.” - Jeremy Au

“We've seen the benefits of various programs, like ASEAN scholars. It’s a long-time program of bringing students from our region to study in Singapore. And many ASEAN scholars have stayed. They've married Singaporeans or they've wound up running businesses that have gone regional. So one hiring hack is that you want to hire an ASEAN scholar to be the GM of your Thai entity, your Malaysian entity, or your Indonesian entity because they were educated in Singapore, but they grew up in their home country, and they speak the language. And those are the benefits of having a more integrated and diverse student population.” - Shiyan Koh

Shiyan Koh, Managing Partner of Hustle Fund, and ​​Jeremy Au talked about three main themes:

1. New Prime Minister Transition: Jeremy Au and Shiyan Koh delved into the transition of Prime Minister leadership from Lee Hsien Loong to Lawrence Wong. They discussed the potential challenges that the new Prime Minister would face such as addressing wealth inequality and evaluating the efficacy of current social programs. They also speculated on potential policy shifts that might occur under the new leadership including those related to property taxes, GDP growth focus, and social welfare enhancements. They empathized with local negative/ positive sentiments regarding the future and the dropping Total Fertility Rate (0.97 in 2024) which eventually leads to a shrinking population.

2. Immigration Assimilation & Schools: Jeremy and Shiyan discussed Singapore's distinctive "barbell" immigration strategy, which primarily attracts either high-skill individuals through initiatives like the Tech Pass and Global Investor Program or blue-collar workers, leaving a notable gap at the mid-skill level where many startups find their needs. They highlighted that startups often employ young, promising talents compensated more heavily with stock options, which are not adequately recognized in Employment Pass criteria, and lack eligibility for EDB support typically reserved for MNCs. This situation compels local founders to opt for remote hiring and training, nurturing the next wave of startup leadership in the region instead of inside Singapore. They suggested that rather than downsizing or merging Singapore’s top-tier schools in response to declining birth rates, the government should broaden and increase the ASEAN scholars program. Expanding this initiative would accommodate more immigrant children who are keen to integrate, fostering assimilation with local students who would benefit from enhanced global perspectives and networks.

3. CTO & Engineering Pass: They proposed the introduction of a "CTO/ Head of Engineering Pass" to attract highly skilled technical rising stars (rather than Tech.Pass which is for senior, mature executives). These individuals are more plugged into the next generation of tech needs (e.g. AI, biotech), hungrier to lean in and build, and leverage "robots" that can upgrade the productivity of their startups, clients and the broader SME sector - thus increasing the Total Factor Productivity of Singapore’s economy, boosting GDP and thus tax revenues for social welfare programs. They can also nurture the next generation of technical leaders in Singapore, and help Singapore stay competitive as a tech hub. In contrast, Malaysia has launched a new open-door tech talent policy to attract and poach startup founders and highly productive immigrants who cannot get to work in Singapore.

Jeremy and Shiyan also shared how they had not foreseen that USA legislation could be structured into a "collective deadline/ ticking time bomb" phasing - law to be established in principle and win political points - but 1. implemented far out enough to mitigate political repercussions for the US elections 2. give a longer preparation/ migration period for affected advertisers and consumers, 3. structure in discretionary extension periods for more negotiating power 4. given enough space for legal battles over whether it can actually be implemented. They compared this approach to Singapore's swift and China’s retroactive law enforcement for passed legislation.

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(01:29) Jeremy Au:

Morning, Shiyan.

(01:30) Shiyan Koh:

Good morning. I'm only like halfway through my first cup of coffee here.

(01:34) Jeremy Au:

Well, yeah, it's been a bit of a break for both of us on this segment, but good to hang out. So last time we caught up, we were discussing a little bit about TikTok and I made a prediction that I didn't think it was going to happen before the elections, but it turns out I was a little bit wrong. TikTok, the bill did pass. It was likely to be signed and all of that. It's really good sign, actually. And so they split the part.

(01:54) Shiyan Koh:

But nothing has to happen. Nothing has to happen until after the election. So you're kind of right.

(01:58) Jeremy Au:

The VC approach. I was always right, but in my heart of hearts, I did not expect to see the format of that, right? It was broken up into two pieces basically. So like you said, the first part of the bill is, that they have to sell in about a year plus, which is after the election or, exit. And then obviously the second part is, it turns out there's also a lot of legal stuff that can happen. So it could be another two years, maybe three years before the full divestment requirement happens.

(02:21) Shiyan Koh:

I mean, they're going to file an appeal, right? Based on the first amendment.

(02:24) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, which is interesting. I think the prior council who was leading the lobbying slash public affairs resigned. And now, they're going to push through this more proactive approach. It will be interesting to see how that turns out. I mean, obviously, it's going to be a lot of, I think it's, it's going to go all the way. So there's going to be a lot of evidence being turned around on both sides. So I think there's going to be a lot of disclosure about TikTok activities i that will be available to the public in the coming one to two years, which will be interesting. The lesser of two evils, I guess.

(02:49) Shiyan Koh:

Yeah, it will be interesting. And of course, there's always the Trump wild card, right?

(02:54) Jeremy Au:

You know what, that's also true. I guess TikTok is kind of like, eh if the election goes the other way around, maybe this whole thing gets overturned from an executive perspective as well. It will be interesting. It's so hard to predict. It's just too well, how are elections gonna happen?

(03:05) Shiyan Koh:

Stay, stay out of that. Yeah. Stay out of the predictions business.

(03:08) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, I know it's just a big fuzzy advice from a VC perspective and then claim victory four years later.

(03:13) Shiyan Koh:

I knew it all along. I'm so proud to have been part of their journey.

(03:16) Jeremy Au:

When I gave an advice to him four years ago, I set him up on the right path, even though I said, no, close bracket, but clearly I knew in him, there's always something special in him or her from that day on. Lesson learned on my side. I think it was good for me to learn from that. I think it's interesting because, for me, the key learning is that legislation can be a two-stager. You can put the legislation up and then you can enact it later, which is a form of, I don't know what's the word, ticking time bomb slash collective deadline.

(03:41) Shiyan Koh:

Ticking time bomb? That sounds so ominous.

(03:43) Jeremy Au:

Oh, okay. I don't know what's the other way of versioning. It's like you say I'm going to write my essay and you're like, yeah, I know where you're going to write it next week, but then you will definitely write it, but then you promise to your professor you had it in, in three weeks time over email. So you give yourself an artificial deadline in that sense. I think it's a two-stager. It's a commitment first and then the actual action.

(04:00) Shiyan Koh:

I guess it's giving you a little bit of wiggle room.

(04:01) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, because the commitment can be broken by somebody else, or you may never be enacted. So, It's actually a pretty interesting legislative learning I've had because I guess I'm just too used to in Singapore because in Singapore it's like one of us gets it. It's pretty much going to get done, and will get done pretty much effectively. And then, in countries around the world, like for example, in China, this legislation is pretty much retroactively applied, right? So when they act legislation, it's applied retroactively. So there's no such thing as a wiggle room for this legislation.

We'll talk about it more as it goes along, but talking about all this government legislation stuff or so, I think the big news that people have been asking me about is the Singapore PM transition. So Singapore has a new Prime Minister designate.

(04:39) Shiyan Koh:

What percentage of our listeners who are not Singaporean can name the new PM designate?

(04:44) Jeremy Au:

They definitely know Lee. They know one-third of the name of the current name. And they know Lee Kuan Yew, obviously. I don't think they can name the current Prime Minister and I don't think they get to name the incoming.

(04:54) Shiyan Koh:

Well, we're a small country. Sometimes people don't even know whether we're part of China or not. So why would they know our incoming press prime minister?

(05:01) Jeremy Au:

You know, I do have to share the story of where I was applying to this Ivy league university for undergrad and I was on the, like those wait lists, where you're like, neither here nor there, it's maybe you'll get it, maybe it won't, and I called the admission office to figure out like what my status of my application was. And the lady was like, "Oh dear, which part of Singapore, which, is it under China? And then I was just like, this is the Ivy league ambitious office that has global applications. I was like, clearly you don't get what anybody apply from Singapore. I know it's like, it's it's just to her, it's sounds like Tianjin or like Beijing or Shanghai.

(05:33) Shiyan Koh:

I mean, I think it'll be interesting, right? It's Lawrence Wong. It's what Singaporeans colloquially refer to as 4G or the fourth generation of leadership with, founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew being the OG, I guess, the first gen. And I think it'll be interesting because not too much is actually known about him because I think For a long time, he wasn't really considered one of the front runners. And so there was sort of a trio of other ministers kind of jockeying position and he wound up emerging as the victor. And so I think it's going to be an interesting period for Singapore. I think there are a lot of interesting questions around wealth inequality and taxing the rich. How should we deal with land and property tax? Should we redistribute more? Is GDP growth at all costs our goal? Should we do more social programs and benefits? And I think also, of course, we sit in the middle of geopolitical tension between the US and China. So, I think he's stepping into a bunch of thorny situations that don't have a clear answer over the next decade or so.

(06:30) Jeremy Au:

I think that is 100 percent right. And I think there are two parts, right? One is the process by which he was selected and came into it. And the second, of course, is the external context. Yeah, but speaking about internal process, yeah, I think it was interesting because he kind of like, shown during the pandemic in terms of how he managed, handled the situation, a mix of both. I think the internal handling of the internal dynamics around decision making, the ministries, the rotations and I guess the trust, and then more importantly, I guess he's got a pretty decent bridge, I would say, with the population so far. I mean, I've just talked to a whole bunch of people about it, right? And a lot of people feel like he's a nice guy. I mean, that's the public image of him right now, I think. That's pretty decent. I think he's also a good guitarist from what I've heard.

(07:10) Shiyan Koh:

That seems to be what social media is trying to convince us of.

(07:13) Jeremy Au:

I mean, TikTok and everything, that's what you need today. You need some habit, you don't have a weirdo habit like, you know, podcasting or something. The guitars are pretty good. Everybody likes the Eagles, hot Hotel California, all those good old classics.

(07:25) Shiyan Koh:

It would be interesting. What if the PM had a podcast? I'm thinking back to FDR and maybe this was like, pre-TV age, but I think there used to be a presidential radio broadcast in the US. People would tune in, and listen to stuff.

(07:38) Jeremy Au:

And JFK was the winner of the TV era because of his looks, his energy levels. And then I think, arguably, I think Obama was the winner of the Facebook era. And then Trump was the winner of the Twitter era, and our true social. So I guess the next president will be the winner of TikTok, the short-form video game, you know, just some good old dancers, some hip movements, some rotations.

(07:59) Shiyan Koh:

Yeah. But I mean, I think it's interesting, which is that if we take that arc from radio, TV, Facebook to Twitter to TikTok, it's the decline of the time in which you get to make your message. And I'm not sure that's a good thing.

(08:12) Jeremy Au:


(08:12) Shiyan Koh:

That, maybe we should, we should do longer form stuff.

(08:16) Jeremy Au:

Weirdly, in some ways, I feel like people are more educated, more informed about some topics. The problem is that all the information is all slanted to whatever seed or demographic you represent. And what I mean by that is even though you're getting a two-minute blurb from a TikTok, the truth is TikTok is going to give you or some equivalent, the algorithm is going to give you hours and hours of two-minute videos. So it's actually an interesting portfolio. It's just that they tend to reinforce one another rather than be flat.

(08:39) Shiyan Koh:

Yeah. Yeah, but I guess to imagine what it would be like. It would be interesting to, I don't know if I had to imagine I would love if the new prime minister, as he came onto the job, did a weekly podcast and, involved maybe a regular mailbag, Q&A from citizens, and, provided sources you could click through and read more about a specific policy or debate or the topic or whatever. And of course, like 99% of people would not, but you would just have a way to actually talk to people. And you'd have to do it in multiple languages, obviously, but I don't know. I mean, I think it would be an interesting experiment, like my first hundred days, don't even commit to a year. During my first hundred days on the job, I wanted to listen to people.

(09:18) Jeremy Au:

I would say the, more like Singapore, the outside in for tech and everything. Yeah, I think it would be interesting to see how that turns out. I think the key thing, at least from a politics of business perspective, is that I think the sense from the ground is that it feels like the state is cool in some ways, it doesn't feel like there's going to be a massive platform or electoral shift from the business environment. So at least no signals. I think normally, a lot of countries when you have a new political leader that's designated, people are very much, obviously all the antenna come in, which is how are they going to do things differently. But so far it doesn't feel like a massive one. Maybe I said, maybe I'll say maybe more social safety net for Singaporeans. What's your reach in?

(09:53) Shiyan Koh:

Yeah, I think that's right. They have to call an election this year, and so you'll get more real-time feedback from what's happening, but I think more social safety net, people concerned about inflation, income inequality, not jobs, I think Singapore is largely full employment but I think inflation cost of living is like a perennial concern and always balancing the sentiment on immigration. I think the output of the tension is, we have a lot of folks coming in from China and other places as well. And does the average Singaporean feel like that's a net benefit to them? Or is that actually creating more competition for them and a negative impact?

(10:25) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, and I think Singapore has been also raising the bar and the immigration standards in terms of the salary that you need to have in order to come in as a middle class worker. So I think it's a little bit barbell immigration policy. So you have your low skilled labor, kind of like construction in terms of the helper business. There's there now on the other side that you have your a lot of special passes for the high net worth individuals and so forth, but the employment pass, they continue to raise that bar over time as well. So it was interesting I think approach frankly, and from a startup perspective, it's a struggle. I think a lot of startups do feel, they don't like.

(10:57) Shiyan Koh:

Continual struggle. I mean we had a company, they were trying to bring in a VP of Engineering, and the pushback was like, how come he has stock in his compensation package? And you're like, I mean, come on. That's the only way you can get someone to leave a higher-paying job is to promise them some sort of upside equity. I think people are adapting, right? Which is that you have very few actual employees in Singapore, and you need to locate your employees in Vietnam, India, and other places where it's lower cost, but I think that's not great. However, I have often wondered why more people don't run operations out of JB, which might be a nice segue to the efforts our Malaysian neighbors are making now. I think last week, Jeremy, if you want to kind of like run through some of the recent announcements coming out of Malaysia regarding their innovation ecosystem.

(11:39) Jeremy Au:

I think the big one they have is they hear all of the tech talent, they can't enter Singapore. And they basically said, Hey, let's create like a golden visa. Let's create all these tech visas for workers to basically work in Malaysia. And I think it's quite an interesting perspective because I've actually met startups, very large startups are relocating a lot of folks especially from, for example, Eastern Europe. For example, Russia and Ukraine, and from their perspective, it's like they need a place to house everybody. The West is kind of out, unfortunately for them. And so for them, they're looking for somewhere in Asia. They also have some Asia operations that they want to kind of like expand into local markets. So basically, yeah, they just said, Malaysia is the place that makes the most sense. Singapore is at 90,000 GDP per capita. Malaysia is a band to alongside Thailand at around 15,000, but I think Malaysia is currently is much more welcoming to Thailand than Thailand. Thailand has kind of turned off that flow from a work visa perspective. It's okay if you're a tourist. Obviously, Indonesia, Vietnam, around the 7,000-8,000 GDP per capita. It's a different quality of life for the workers they can cluster in. They're busy building out local CSR efforts in Malaysia. They're bringing folks in. It's an interesting dynamic.

(12:41) Shiyan Koh:

Yeah, I always say it's like San Francisco and Oakland, right? They're just across the bridge. You move to Oakland to get more space and more affordable housing, but if you need to go into the city, you still can. And so, I have often thought that people should be building clusters of workers in JB. And I think they continue to make it easier to come across. They've installed a ton of automatic face recognition detection things at the border. And so I think people are speeding through that. It'll be interesting to see how that changes the landscape over the next couple of years.

(13:08) Jeremy Au:

I heard about the new king, so it's a rotational Council of Sultans who can rotate about who's going to be the king constitutionally in Malaysia every number of years, and the current one is the Johor Sultan, so apparently he was pretty frustrated. He got to stand at the immigration hall and say, "Hey, what's going on?" So, apparently, there's been more deployment of time and attention, to making sure that the south border immigration channel between Singapore and Johor slash Malaysia is good. Yeah, it's a good spot for sure. There's always that debate, right? So I think at the end of the day, Singapore's barbell immigration policy does protect the Singapore middle class, which is obviously a huge electoral political vote constituency in Singapore. It is that for tech startups who are primarily focused on young hungry talent, and don't have access to the EDB, kind of like.

(13:51) Shiyan Koh:


(13:52) Jeremy Au:

Facilitation of visas for large MNCs coming to Singapore, I think there's some, and I think the entree pass is pretty good in Singapore as well which is helping people who want to be entrepreneurial and who are not Singaporeans to set up a business. So like business owners slash creators is there. I just wish I was a visa for super genius, technical visa.

(14:10) Shiyan Koh:

The O1, O1 equivalent.

(14:12) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. And they kind of have a tech pass, but that requires you to have worked at a large tech company.

(14:16) Shiyan Koh:

Yeah, it requires you to wait, make a ton of money. I agree. And I think the other thing that kind of happens with the cost of living also is that for a lot of non-Singaporeans, they believe that they have to put their kids in an international school. And so that ends up really driving up their living costs. And it's pretty hard to do on a startup founder salary to say, okay, I'm also going to pay 50K a year to send my kid to the American school. Because maybe you're paying yourself 50k a year. And so I think, I think that's a really challenging dynamic as well. This basically means you need to have a spouse working at an MNC or something, otherwise you can't be a founder. And, I have pointed out it's not actually true. Foreigners can go to local schools. It's just that Emily doesn't advertise it. But I mean, I think Emily doesn't believe that non-Singaporeans or PRs are in their constituents, so they don't bother marketing, but I don't know. I think it would actually be beneficial to have more foreigners in local schools. I think it would help their assimilation, and it would be beneficial for local kids to get more exposure to other folks.

And we have our declining birth rate. So school enrollments are actually down, right? We are closing and consolidating schools, so this is a way to keep enrollment up. And I think you can charge foreigners more, you just don't need to charge them 50k a year. You can provide an affordable option and I think are actually national positive externalities to having a more diverse student population.

(15:30) Jeremy Au:

Actually, really, I didn't even think about that, but you're 100% right. Singapore has a birth rate of effectively 1.0, which is basically for every two Singaporeans, there's only one in the next generation. So the Singapore population drops in half pretty much every generation cycle. So a lot of schools are going to disappear. And then on the other side, it's not good for the kids to be not assimilated slash integration, right? I mean, that's the whole point of America or these immigration cities is that people are supposed to get integrated. And maybe if you're first generation, you're not as integrated, but second generation, you're speaking Singlish, you're ordering food at a hawker center seamlessly.

(16:05) Shiyan Koh:

Yeah, but I mean, I think that's also part of being a global city, right? Which is that, you have people who have experience and you build relationships, that we're building a network kind of beyond and I think there's also actually research about how people with loose networks actually get access to better job opportunities. So it's not like the closed network that's going to show you the interesting opportunity because you all run in the same space, right? It's actually the looser network. And the looser network is people you might have gone to school with but moved away.

(16:31) Jeremy Au:


(16:31) Shiyan Koh:

And then they're like, hey, actually, you're interested in sound engineering. I now live in LA and here's some cool opportunities. That's kind of how it works. And so I am kind of curious about that and I try to sort of evangelize it, but I think a lot of times because it's a foreign system and people don't know very much about it, they're kind of just ah, it's okay. I'm it's, it's painful. I'll, I'll pay up.

(16:52) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, but the alternative is from a policy perspective is closing schools, right? And we have such a great school system and a huge system, such a shame to close schools that have the history. I mean, I think there's a two for one solution right there.

(17:04) Shiyan Koh:

They don't pay me for my ideas. Jeremy, I got a lot of them.

(17:07) Jeremy Au:

Hopefully, in 10 years when they have to close another primary school, they're going to be like, you know what? Maybe we just have an experiment and we just let people come in instead of closing the whole school, and people benefit because like you said, it's not just beneficial for assimilation, it's beneficial for the local population to have that mix and match of diversity as well, so I 100% agree.

(17:24) Shiyan Koh:

Yeah, I mean, I think actually, we've seen the benefit through we have various programs, right? ASEAN scholars.

(17:29) Jeremy Au:


(17:29) Shiyan Koh:

A long time program of bringing students from our region to study in Singapore. And there are actually many ASEAN scholars who've stayed. They've married Singaporeans or they've wound up running businesses that have gone regional. So I think one hiring hack is you want to go hire an ASEAN scholar to be GM of your Thai entity or your Malaysian entity or your Indonesian entity because they were educated in Singapore, but they grew up in their home country, they speak the language. And, those are all the benefits, I think, of having really a more integrated, diverse student population.

(17:59) Jeremy Au:

That reminds me of the promise of what Yale NUS had, which was like that global ambit, and I think there's quite a lot of folks who are quite passionate about it. So hopefully they're able to keep that even though they've closed down Yale NUS. And so maybe kind of like having an ASEAN scholar creating some stuff, I don't know, UN scholar.

(18:13) Shiyan Koh:

You don't even have to create a scholar. You don't even have to create a scholar, right? I think there's like actually a very simple one, which is don't make it so hard for kids to go to local school. And here's the interesting thing. People are always like, "Oh, but I've heard it's very competitive to get into local school and I'm going to be at the bottom of the list." And you have to kind of be like, yeah, there are certain schools that are really competitive to get into, but the vast majority of schools are not, they don't go to the ballot. And they're like, Oh, but what if it's a lousy school? And you're like, Hey, look, there's a national curriculum in Singapore. There's a national curriculum and teachers are assigned by MOE, and if you look at our international math and science scores or whatever it is, we actually are globally like the top three. So even the sort of not competitive schools are going to provide you with a pretty good academic outcome, but we don't talk about that.

(18:57) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. For sure. I want to circle a little bit back as well to another facet of immigration, which is a tech pass. So let me kind of make it an argument since I guess we're in the advocacy mode right now. So you've done the education one. I'm going to advocate for the tech, the CTO pass. So Audrey pass is for people who want to be a founder, but employment passes and properly cover for technical founders who are geniuses at engineering. And so why don't we just create like a CTO pass, or Head of Engineering pass, which is basically saying you are a genius or just really good at engineering or some sort of level of engineering experience at a senior level at some other company in SF or in Asia, but you're good.

And then the argument that I would make is that you want to have the leadership team in Singapore. That's one. And then two is that, Singapore is dealing with total factor productivity, right? Which is how we are not productive enough on a per pax basis. And, when you let in a CTO, you're not bringing one person in, you're bringing in an army of robots and AI agents under this person because I think we can't understand hey if you're bringing in an entrepreneur, this person is a job creator, in the sense that they are going to create 10 jobs, 100 jobs, 1000 jobs, which is why EntrePass exists, which is why I think a lot of the tech passes exist, it's focused on people who can create jobs, but I'm just saying hey, why don't we have that model where we're like, this person has an army of millions of agents under them. I'm trying to say here's, I

(20:11) Shiyan Koh:

Well, it's not, it's not even even, it's not even the agents. I think like technical people need other technical people to come up with better ideas.

(20:18) Jeremy Au:

I agree.

(20:19) Shiyan Koh:

So on the sort of creation and job creation side, if you don't just want people to execute old ideas and you want to create new ideas, you actually need technical people to bounce into each other. And I think this is not just true in technology. I think it's also true in the sciences, right? There's research being shown, which is you actually need that cross disciplinary interaction to generate new ideas, novel ideas. So I am totally on board with that. I don't know if anybody from MOM or ESG or EDB is listening. These ideas are yours for free.

(20:50) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. I mean, imagine if you have a company with a hundred people one has a genius CTO, and another, the other one doesn't, you already know which one is going to be way more productive, right? Because there's no code that has AI agents. There's so much stuff. Your workforce is just more productive when you're right. And you're not going to hire less people because of it. You're just going to make your current labor much more productive. I think it'd be much higher than the substitution effect.

(21:11) Shiyan Koh:

I'm with you. A hundred percent. Endorse.

(21:13) Jeremy Au:

And then all our engineers from our local universities who are currently kind of struggling because I met a lot of them and they don't really have good role models. I mean, if you want to be a, I've met friends who are product leaders or engineering leaders, but they are self taught in a sense. So they don't have that. I don't know what the word training or coaching to really get to the next level. And unless they join something like ByteDance, because the problem is Facebook, Meta, and Google, they don't really have engineering teams. They're primarily sales and marketing.

(21:38) Shiyan Koh:

No, no, no. Facebook and Google do Facebook, Google, and Stripe have product teams here.

(21:42) Jeremy Au:

There is, but my read from the people who have talked there is it's hard because to get really promoted to the next level, headquarters is in the US, right? So there's a difference between Grab, which has the whole chain of executive leadership in Singapore. So I think there is a, I'm not trying to say there is a job, but it's not chain of coaching.

(21:58) Shiyan Koh:

Yeah. I think so. That, that makes sense.

(22:00) Jeremy Au:


(22:00) Shiyan Koh:

I mean, I would say if you are a technical person and you have the opportunity to work in the Valley, I would go.

(22:05) Jeremy Au:

Because of that, you want to learn from somebody who's a great product executive, or technical executive.

(22:09) Shiyan Koh:

Yeah. Yeah.

(22:10) Jeremy Au:

I agree with you. If right now somebody was a head of product in Singapore and said, you know what, I don't know how to be a chief product officer, or I want to cross trade into CTO for some reason. I think somebody just talked to me recently. I will be like, yeah, go to SF because where can you learn to be a CTO or CPO in Singapore? There's only a handful of people and they're all self-taught. They started at

(22:28) Shiyan Koh:

There's nothing wrong with that. There's a lot of self teaching. There's a lot of, of self taught people in the Valley. I think that the thing that you're saying about mentorship and community does matter Because that accelerates your pace of learning. It's not that there is some one way received wisdom to do it. It's that lots of people are in the same problem as you. They are finding all sorts of solutions. And then when you're close to them, you can learn different approaches faster.

(22:49) Jeremy Au:

And I think the truth is if we had a CTO pass in Singapore, we'd probably have 10,000 folks apply by tomorrow, because San Francisco is also not an easy place to live for a lot of folks. And a lot of folks in China as well who are wanting to explore Singapore as a career as well. There's a lot of great engineers there as well. Okay. CTO pass. Maybe that's our new manifesto. And plus, don't close schools down, open schools, but it's such an easy fix, right? It's just the same, it's exact same policies, but just tweaked in a little bit way. And I think you can make a huge difference from a whole of government.

(23:17) Shiyan Koh:

I can hear, I can hear civil servants cringing now. It's just an easy fix, right?

(23:22) Jeremy Au:

Maybe in 2025 rather than 2024, I guess. So it would be easier, but I don't know. But the thing is, as you said, otherwise Malaysia is just going to do nothing wrong Malaysia. I mean, it's to their benefit. I think that's the right thing to do for them.

I think a strong Malaysia benefits us, right? Because you also have more connections there. I mean, I don't know what the latest number is on the number of Malaysians that cross into Singapore every day to work here.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's one of those like frienemy relationships at the governmental level, but yeah I think it's interesting and I think they're very sped up the, checkpoints between Johor and Singapore using QR codes and stuff like that. It's quite cool. So yeah.

On that note maybe we tie things off. Maybe next time we'll go hang out and get some durian in Singapore.

(24:00) Shiyan Koh:

We should record from Malaysia.

(24:02) Jeremy Au:

We should go to a beach in Johor, get some nice durian. Pump our car petrol and then do a podcast.

(24:07) Shiyan Koh:

Buy a toilet paper. Eat seafood lah, eat seafood.

(24:11) Jeremy Au:

You see food. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. The Saru apparently is fantastic. And it's like only a two-hour drive, sounds fun.