In 2012, Durwin Ho left Silicon Valley and landed in Singapore. What he encountered was a lackluster startup scene. Energized by his pioneering spirit, Durwin rallied friends and volunteers to breathe life into Startup Weekend. Now, the event is the largest hackathon in Southeast Asia.
He is now the CEO of StartupX, an innovation, venture and startup enabler in Southeast Asia. Their next hackathon, Startup Weekend: Seeds of Tomorrow, will take place from April 23 to 25. If you’d like to volunteer, sign up here.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
KrASIA (Kr): What was the most valuable part of your college experience in Silicon Valley?
Durwin Ho (DH): I was part of the first few batches to take part in the NUS Overseas College (NOC) program. It was life-changing. The culture shock and lifestyle changes were expected. The program requires us to secure our own internship, and I secured mine at Appbackr. I’m still grateful to my boss, Trevor, who gave me the opportunity to engage in business development. He pushed me to take up opportunities and socialize. No one told me that you have to rehearse for networking events. It was rough at first, but I was able to bring all the experience and skills back to Singapore. Also, people in Silicon Valley are extremely smart, and you feel like an idiot all the time. You realize why when you step into a classroom. There, they were asking questions I never knew could be asked. The angle they took to learning and questioning really opened my eyes.
Kr: Do you recommend NOC to young Singaporeans? Are there similar programs that can take them overseas for immersive experiences?
DH: If you have an opportunity to do so, just go for it. There are many variants of NOC available in different cities. Learning while being overseas is more about the mindset. You have to be clear about the goals you want to achieve by travelling overseas so that you can make the most out of it.
Not everyone has the means to go overseas, however. Fortunately, in Singapore, we’re well supported by the government. There are policies and investments that support companies headquartered in Singapore. There’s definitely a difference in other places, but Singapore does not lack opportunities either.
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