Starting a business in Singapore isn't easy, but it's not impossible either. The key is to do your homework, plan ahead and be prepared for some potential challenges along the way.
By following the right steps and ensuring your startup meets all legal requirements, you'll soon be ready to establish a successful enterprise that can thrive in this exciting market. We'll top this up with a list of the lean tech stacks you can use to get the ball rolling too! Continue reading to understand what are the tools.
Here's what you can expect from this guide
- What are the main steps you need to know to setup your business
- What are the best free tools you can use to help you with your Market research for your Go to Market Strategy
How is a business structured in Singapore?
In Singapore, you can start any business you like. There are no restrictions on the type or size of your company, and there is also no limit to the number of shareholders or directors in it.
However, before setting up your company:
- You must register it with the Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).
We've included the link so you can follow the step by step guide when incoporating your next big business idea! We're rooting for you!
- You must choose a legal structure for your business. In Singapore, there are two types: private limited companies and public companies (known as public limited companies). The most common type is a private limited company; this type of business can be owned by one person or group but has more flexibility than other structures because it allows them to issue shares and make losses tax-deductible.
- A public company must have at least seven members who own at least 25% each (with some exceptions), one of whom must be resident in Singapore; they cannot issue shares but can pay dividends if they earn profits!
How to register a business name
- Registering a business name
To register your business name, you must apply online through the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). You can also visit a branch of ACRA to complete the application in person. The procedure is relatively straightforward, but there are a few things you should consider before submitting your application:
- What is Your Business Name? Be sure that the name you choose is not already taken by another company or trademarked by someone else. If it's too similar to an existing registered company, then yours may be rejected for this reason alone; if it's too similar to an existing trademarked product or service, then yours may be rejected for this reason alone; and so on.
- It's best therefore not only because it makes sense but also because other companies might object that people might confuse one with another - which could affect their own businesses bottom lines.
If you're having a creative block and you need some free tools to help you out with it; here are some free platforms you can use to generate business names quickly ( just don't forget the "pte. ltd." 😁 )
Use Namecheap; it'll help you get the most out of your research on a business name
How to apply for a tax code and number
To apply for a tax code and number, you will need:
- Your Business Name Registration Certificate
- Your company logo or company stamp (if applicable)
- A copy of your certificate of incorporation or memorandum and articles of association
- Business bank statements from the last six months
How to open a bank account for your company
If you’re starting a business in Singapore, chances are you’ll need a bank account. If you registered your company with Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), it will already have its own unique operating account number. However, if you registered as an individual sole proprietor or partnership with ACRA, then the company has no legal status and cannot open an ACRA-registered bank account on its own. In that case, there are two main options:
- Open up your own personal bank account as an individual first before opening a business bank account later on down the road when things get more serious;
- Open up a “nominee” nominee account with someone else who can act as the representative for them - usually, the one who owns most shares in the company
Here's a bonus tip from us, getting the most out of banks that are startup friendly (or sexy):
For those who'd like to cut to the chase
- DBS offers a Digital Account that's friendly for startups -> Learn more here
- OCBC's Business Growth Account -> Learn more here
- Maybank's FlexiBiz Account -> Learn more here
Now, if you're a founder who prefers things outside of the norm and you'd like to go for "sexier" and unconventional options, we've got you too:
Here are other banking options you'd want to consider
- Aspire: Known to Supercharge your finance team with a global business account and unified solutions to manage your expenses, payables and receivables.
-> Learn more here
- ANEXT: Their claims - "Open an ANEXT Business Account with no upfront fees and enjoy daily interest on your balances. Experience simpler, safer and more rewarding banking today."
-> Learn more here
- Chase (J.P. Morgan), well if you'd like to standout will the cooler bunch out there you might want to take a look and consider them too maybe?
-> Learn more here
Legal requirements for running a business in Singapore
Singapore is a very business-friendly country. The laws regarding setting up a business in Singapore are straightforward and the process can be completed quickly.
Singapore’s legal requirements for starting a company:
- A minimum of two shareholders, with at least one individual shareholder.
- The name of your company must end with “Limited” or “Ltd”; if your company name already ends in Ltd, you don’t have to do anything.
If you'd like to dive deeper on the legalities, here's a more comprehensive guide from Deloitte
Top grants available for startups in Singapore
To help you get started, here are some grants for startups in Singapore:
- SG Start-up Grant
- SG Innovation and Incubation Grant
- SG Venture Capital Fund (VCF)
- SG Enterprise Support Scheme (ESG)
- SG Incubation Support Scheme (ISG) If you're looking to grow your business and apply for government grants to help fund your expansion, it's important to understand how they work.
Once you've reached about a year worth of operating experience and you've gained some some serious revenue, here are our top 3 favourite grants to help you grow even faster in year 2 and 3 of your venture
- EDG Automation Grant
- EDG Product Development Grant
- EDG Strategic Brand and Marketing Development
Yup, about time you take your branding and marketing works seriously - we'll need that brand equity uplift soon!
Market assessment is key
As you begin to establish your business, it is important to understand the market you are entering and how you can position yourself within that market.
Some things you can do include:
- Conducting market research and analysis to determine the size and growth potential of your target audience,
- Researching traffic analytics to better understand how your competitors are getting traffic into their websites through organic and paid channels
- Conducting keyword research to find out what keywords are most relevant to your market.
For further tips of tools and research guide, feel free to read further into our Lead Solution Architect -House's guide on his Pro tip for Market & Competitor's Research ->
The digital tools you’ll need when starting a company, with the right tech stack
- A great website, build it with Webflow for free
- Good marketing - using free tools to conduct your research
- Good customer service - integrate your platform with customer support tools
- Good accounting - getting your books right with Xero
- Business plan, create with the business model canvas
- People skills, getting to know startup-friendly teams (in person) and online communities such as Startup Grind and Slack Communities
- Networking by searching for upcoming events with Meetup (see below)
- Research by tapping on Zoominfo, SEMRush or other sources such as LinkedIn Company Pages
Here's also a bonus demo walkthrough from our Solutions Architecture team to help you look through some of the best in class digital tools to help your business's growth in 2023. Watch the video demo below.
We know it's lengthy you might want to 2x speed on this
Appointing the right partners for your future growth
When you’re starting your business, it can be tempting to hire family members or friends, who are likely to be more loyal and trustworthy than outsiders. But if you’re ready for growth and success, trust me—you want someone else on board.
Here are some of the things I look for in a potential partner:
- Business experience - If they’ve been in business long enough to know what they’re doing
- Work ethic - How hard do they work? Are they reliable and dependable? Are there times when you have trouble getting hold of them? A warm and trustworthy partner is definitely something you'll need when you're just getting started
- Experience in your industry - What kind of knowledge do they have about your industry? Do they understand the markets that are relevant to yours? Do their skills and interests align with yours?
- Vision & personality – Can this person see where the market is heading next year, five years from now… even twenty years from now?!
You can now start your company in Singapore. The most difficult part is done, and it's all about going to the next level. If you have gone through the steps correctly, there will be no trouble with starting a business in Singapore!
P.s. if you'd like to take this convo further and get some guidance on your next venture , please feel free to schedule a call with our team upon filling up your enquiry here ->