2017 Awards Ceremony

Guest of Honour
Senior Minister of State
Ministry of Trade and Industry & Ministry of National Development
Date: 30 October 2017, Monday
Venue: Mandarin Orchard Hotel, Mandarin Ballroom





President of Spirit of Enterprise, Mr Sa’at Ismail
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen


  1. I am honoured to be here again to join you for the 2017 Spirit of Enterprise (SOE) Awards Ceremony and Dinner. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Awards. I would like to congratulate SOE on reaching this milestone.
  1. The annual SOE Awards are conferred to deserving local entrepreneurs who have achieved success in their respective fields. Since the Awards were launched, SOE has honoured and recognised more than 500 home-grown entrepreneurs. I am encouraged that the success stories of past honourees have served to inspire other entrepreneurs to follow in their footsteps.
  1. Our home-grown entrepreneurs play a crucial role in Singapore’s economic development.Their capacity to generate novel ideas and introduce new products, services and business models serves as an important engine of economic renewal and industry transformation, creating value and jobs. Their role becomes increasingly important as the global economy becomes more complex, with sectors disrupted by new technology, and increasing competition for capital and talent.

The Government Remains Committed to Enabling the Success of Our Enterprises

  1. Enabling the success of our entrepreneurs is key to our economic development strategy. The Government is committed to creating a conducive environment for our entrepreneurs to enable them to seize opportunities, and access talent and innovative technologies to unlock future growth. We are seeing good progress, with Singapore considered to be one of the leading start-up hubs globally. For example, the San Francisco-based 2016 Start-up Genome Survey ranked Singapore as number 12 overall among all the start-up ecosystems around the world. We have also witnessed an eight-fold increase in venture capital activity in Singapore over the past five years.
  1. It is vital that we continue to nurture the spirit of enterprise in our society and build on the good foundation that we have established to ensure that our SMEs and start-ups are able to grow into globally competitive businesses of the future.
  1. In this vein, we rolled out new initiatives during Budget 2017 to complement our existing suite of support measures available to SMEs and start-ups. One example is the Start-up SG initiative to support start-ups and other players in the ecosystem on various fronts – from mentorship for first-time entrepreneurs, grant support for commercialisation of technology solutions, and co-investment to catalyse private equity.
  1. To better meet the evolving needs of our enterprises, we have also taken the decision to establish Enterprise Singapore, to drive SME growth and development. Formed through the merger of SPRING Singapore and IE Singapore, Enterprise Singapore will harness the existing strengths and networks of both agencies to provide more comprehensive support to our local enterprises – from start-ups to SMEs and large local enterprises – as they build key capabilities and internationalise.
  1. A company that has benefited from SPRING and IE’s support is casual Chinese dining chain Dian Xiao Er (“店小二”). Its Managing Director, Mr Samuel Yik, is the winner of this year’s SOE-Nexia TS Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Mr Yik started out 15 years ago in 2002 when he took a leap of faith and left his job as an accountant to venture into the food business.

    He identified a gap in the market then for casual Chinese dining and opened his first restaurant in Chinatown, adopting a no-frills casual dining concept and focusing on maximising table turnover. Mr Yik also started a tradition of organising annual competitions among the restaurants’ chefs to encourage their creativity and develop new menu items to entice more customers to dine at the chain. Additionally, Mr Yik is constantly reviewing the group’s operations and processes, and finding ways to streamline them.

    With the help of SPRING, the company developed a service framework to help it respond to customers’ feedback in an efficient and timely manner. Despite being hit by the Sars outbreak a year into his operations and other teething challenges such as manpower shortage, Mr Yik’s business strategies to appeal to the mass market have paid off. Today, Dian Xiao Er has grown into a household name in Singapore with a total of 12 restaurants employing close to 400 staff.

    The company garnered useful contacts during a recent business mission trip organised by SPRING and CapitaLand Singapore, and has since opened its first outlet in Shanghai after receiving assistance on market assessment and setup from IE. I understand that Dian Xiao Er’s restaurant has received good reviews for its dishes on Chinese eatery review platform Dian Ping (“点评”).

  1. With the formation of Enterprise Singapore, the Government will be better placed to provide more holistic support to companies like Dian Xiao Er and position them for new growth opportunities.

Importance of Key Partners Such as Spirit of Enterprise

  1. To maximise our enterprise development efforts, the Government needs to work with partners such as the Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs), Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and private organisations like SOE.
  1. In addition to providing an annual platform for local entrepreneurs to be recognised for their entrepreneurial excellence through the SOE Awards, SOE also promotes entrepreneurship among our youth through its Student Entrepreneur Programme (SEP) and Student Interviewer Programme (SIP). The SEP provides students with hands-on practical experience for starting a business, while the SIP gives them a chance to conduct one-on-one interviews with successful home-grown entrepreneurs to document their stories. I am happy to hear that over 3,000 students from 30 schools, youth centres and institutions have participated in the SEP, while more than 1,000 students from 17 tertiary institutions and colleges have participated in the SIP.
  1. This year, recognising the growing prominence of start-ups, SOE launched a new initiative – the SOE Forum and Start-ups Engagement – to provide a platform for the start-up community to discuss topics of interest and build up networks with the SOE alumni and other local entrepreneurs. SOE has also introduced a new award category known as the SOE-Neo Start-Up Award to honour promising start-ups with growth potential.
  1. I am heartened by the good work that SOE is undertaking and would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of the Board of Governors of SOE, who have worked tirelessly on your initiatives.


  1. Once again, my heartfelt congratulations to all the winners of this year’s SOE Awards. Your entrepreneurial journeys and accomplishments will serve to inspire budding entrepreneurs seeking to fulfil their own dreams and make a name for themselves.
  1. I wish everyone a pleasant evening. Thank you.