Smart Japanese tech money moves to Singapore
A city with no cars on the street looms as a possible future for Singapore, according to its latest tech billionaire.
Taizo Son, who built his fortune on hit smartphone game Puzzle & Dragons, has relocated to the city-state from Tokyo and plans to invest $100 million in Southeast Asia within five years. The younger brother of the SoftBank Group’s founder said last week he’d become frustrated by regulation in Japan, as well as the country’s education system.
“I tried very hard by lobbying the Japanese government: ‘Why don’t we have a regulatory sandbox to bring some innovative ideas?,”‘ Son told an the event arranged by the private bank of DBS. Group Holdings Ltd. “But the country’s too big and very slow to move. But here, even the government, regulators are innovation-minded.”ched in 2014.
Singapore’s high rate of internet use and a reliance on online data-processing has seen the government, agencies and companies look to technology to change how things are done, from self-driving buses and traffic management to public transport fares that are charged automatically.
With little crime, low personal tax rates and no capital gains tax, the country has already drawn other billionaires, including Eduardo Saverin, a co-founder of Facebook.
Taizo Son founded gamemaker GungHo Online Entertainment and is now chief executive officer of Mistletoe, a combination of early-stage venture firm, incubator and entrepreneur-in-residence program. His brother Masayoshi Son is chairman of SoftBank and is Japan’s second-richest man with a net worth of $12.9 billion.
Taizo Son’s move was partly motivated by his three-year-old son after losing confidence in Japan’s education system, which he said has failed to adapt from the approach used to build the company into a postwar industrial giant.
The Japanese system is “extremely terrible” at creating entrepreneurs, and Son said he intends to open a school in Singapore after recently opening one near Tokyo that encourages children to learn without teachers.
Among his existing investments in the region is games and e-commerce operator Garena, the most valuable startup in Southeast Asia.
Son laid out his vision for a futuristic city where large vehicles go underground, commuting is done on personal mobility devices, and people can shower with water purification systems the size of a suitcase.
“I’m getting an inspiration from Venice because inside Venice there is no car,” he said. He added an aspiration to redesign cities away from the industrialised, car-centric model of the 20th century to one that is more “human-centric”.