Johari Masod, Associate Director, Life science, Randstad Singapore
It is all eyes on Singapore when it comes to the innovative developments within the health-tech sector. Digital transformation continues to permeate the healthcare industry and more companies are leveraging new technologies to develop smarter and more cost-effective digital health solutions.
Galen Growth Asia reported that the number of health-tech startups rose from 45 in 2012 to 174 in 2018. The surge can be seen between 2015 and 2018, as the number of startups grew at an average pace of 23 percent each year.
The same report revealed that the city attracted US$105 million (S$145.78 million) across 21 deals in 2018. This is in addition to the multiple public-private partnerships that have been forged in the past years to accelerate innovation in different key therapeutic areas, as well as the S$4 billion public investment in health and biomedical sciences’ research and development between 2016 and 2020.
Through various government efforts to implement pro-business policies and elevate the skills of the local workforce, Singapore has proven its worth to be positioned as the leading health-tech hub of Asia Pacific.
Just within the first three quarters of 2019, startups in healthcare and biomedical sciences received S$148.3 million in funds. Of this figure, health-tech startups alone accounted for S$126.9 million. The burgeoning health-tech ecosystem is further fostered by the rising number of incubator projects.
The Temasek Life Sciences Accelerator is one such example. It is a collaboration between Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory and Vertex Venture Holdings, which aims to incubate more than 30 life sciences startups in the next five years.
Some of the most-watched startups are Biofourmis and UCARE.AI, who use tools like artificial intelligence in a bid to enhance the experience across various aspects for patients, healthcare providers, insurers and companies.
Lagging skills to keep up with business changes and innovations
Despite the booming health-tech startup scene in Singapore, there remains a shortage of skilled talent across the board. Demand for skilled talent in the life sciences industry is rising significantly, exacerbated by the growth in demand for new and innovative healthcare solutions.
Most startups run lean operations. Instead of having a large development team, they typically only have one to two people running the department. Administrative work is also often outsourced to independent agencies. Therefore, it is critical that they hire self-driven and experienced people who can disrupt and drive revenue. Some roles that are highly sought-after by health-tech firms would include R&D specialists, developers, digital marketing and commercial directors, as well as CIOs and CTOs.
These highly-skilled individuals will be responsible for securing funds, developing innovative products that ease consumers’ convenience, and commercializing them to drive revenue.
CIOs and CTOs, in particular, are in high demand. Health-tech startups are looking for senior executives who have worked in global healthcare companies to leverage their established network as well as relevant industry knowledge.
Regardless of position, an entrepreneurial spirit is essential for the startup scene, and talent occupying these roles must keep up with the latest healthcare innovations.
It is not uncommon for health-tech startups to hire from the existing pool of talent who are already working in medtech and tech companies, due to the transferable skills these individuals possess. Despite this, many startups still face manpower challenges in attracting the right talent, usually owing to the relatively higher risks associated with joining one.
There also exists a mismatch between having the flexibility to experiment, but having to do so in a highly regulated environment. This can prove to be a source of frustration for the more established professionals who seek to join a startup because of its exciting and innovative culture.
Managing expectations of what it is like to work for a startup
It is a flight or fight when it comes to having an opportunity to work in a startup. While some people yearn for the feeling of working on something exciting, others are concerned about job security and stability.
The decision of whether to join a startup or not is entirely up to you. It all depends on the stage of life that you are at, how you feel about joining another corporate firm as you advance in your career, or if there are new skills that you would like to learn.
At the end of the day, medtech and health-tech firms of all sizes will be actively courting professionals from the same talent pool. If you think you are entrepreneurial and have new ideas to bring to the table, perhaps it is time to consider a career in a health-tech startup in the new decade.