Noa Muzzafi: Singapore has plenty to offer to Israeli companies entering Asia

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In an exclusive interview with TI Business, Noa Muzzafi, Chief Operating Officer of Startup East, an incubator based out of Tel Aviv, spoke to us about her journey from Israel to Singapore. She has successfully navigated through the rich and diverse markets of Asia and shared with us her secret of her success.

Israeli companies looking east

Startup East,  a platform that connects Israeli companies with Asia and it specializes in IOT, Cyber Security, Fintech, E-commerce and Mobile applications and has brought numerous Israeli companies with deep technology into Asia. In many ways, Israel is like Singapore: it has a small population, small domestic market, diverse ethnic and religious groups and depends largely on exports and international commerce.

Singapore gateway into Asia

Startup East has been using Singapore as a base since 2013 to enter into South East Asia and China. Most of her partners and clients are American based and prefer to use Singapore as first stop into Asia. “Everyone in Singapore speaks English and it makes it that much easier to operate out of Singapore,” said Muzzafi.

She also said that Singapore’s common law and rule of law makes Singapore an attractive destination for companies from Europe and Americas.

But despite all the trappings of success and ease of doing business in Singapore, Startup East chose Hong Kong to setup a US$20M venture fund.

“China has a lot of cash,” said Muzzafi and Hong Kong’s proximity to China makes the cash attractive to fund managers like Startup East.

There are also other positives in doing business in China, according to Muzzafi. She cited China’s manufacturing and global distribution capabilities as pertinent factors in why she chose Hong Kong over Singapore for the setting up of the fund.

Her strategy is simple; she takes good core technology from Israel couples it with China’s manufacturing capability and registers the business in Singapore for its legal framework and friendly tax regime.

Her two cents

Her two cents advice to startups coming into Asia is to have at least a minimum viable product and said that companies from Europe that enter Asia with just a deck of Powerpoint slides are in for a rude shock.

Likewise, startups entering Israel should use Tel Aviv for its research and development capabilities. Isreal offers a dearth of entrepreneurial and technical talent.

Noa Muzzafi spends a quarter of her time away from home in Asia. She reckons that she knows a thing or two about cross border investments and transfer of technology.