Saturday, January 19, 2008

The next big idea

A*Star is offering US$100,000 to the person or team who can come up with the next generation search engine that will beat Google and Yahoo at its game. Are they serious? They want to attract the best and the brightest to hot and humid Singapore (I cannot imagine a worst type of weather in which to stimulate those grey cells) to cook up such an algorithm.? Yeah, they'll have to burn off a lot of fuel driving the air-conditioners in the office to even begin to stay awake for that endeavor. Islands in the tropics are not unknown as ideal places to doze off and do nothing.

Wait a minute. Let me check my calendar. It isn't 1st April yet. But Singapore's A*Star is a very serious government organisation. Inasmuch as it has gained a reputation for efficiency and can-do-ness, it is not THAT dumb to put out a joke so far ahead of the occasion. This is all inexplicable. As a Singaporean, I am getting worried about the nation's premier organisation that is responsible for driving research and development in the fields of Science and Technology.

A US$100,000 is not even enough to set up a small office in Singapore, (3-month upfront rental deposits, furniture, networks, etc.) much less think of how you can feed yourself on increasingly expensive food, renting or buying real estate at the current stratospheric levels and getting a Chevy at prices that your father will think is a rip-off anywhere in the world - except Singapore. Well, I am wrong. Transportation has always been expensive, not to mention the beers and wines, and the cigarettes, if those are what inspires one to come up with the next big thing.

US$100,000 is peanuts to giants like Yahoo and Google. Who would want to work for A*Star (don't forget, they have many regulations and procedures - hardly a conducive master to start off with the next big thing) when they can work for these companies and earn far far more, just from the stock options alone? Even if you have a good idea and can pull it off, would you settle for any less than a hundred grand? And whose will the idea belong to after they dump the 100 grand in your lap? It appears that A*Star is a Johnny-come-lately, trying to muscle in on the big boys with their peanuts. If A*Star thinks that a competition like this with monetary enticements is the formula for real breakthrough innovation, then it must be living on Mars. It has already put a value on this next big thing - a measly US$100,000. Sun just acquired MySQL for a US$1billion. Clearly the next big thing isn't worth a whole lot.

What Singapore is good for is to frolick in the sun and acquiring a really nasty tan. It doesn't have any breaktakingly inspirational natural views to calm the nerves and get the grey juices working - just lots of shopping malls to empty you pockets. But it is good for getting a Confucian-inspired education. But don't you ever fall sick on this island! You're on your own there, especially when you need to check-in to the hospital.

But if the world still believes that A*Star has the formula that spells success, let the world come a knocking on our doors. A*Star (aka the government...beginning to sound sinister...) will welcome you with its open arms and iron grip!

p.s. I am a patriotic Singaporean. But when idiotic ideas come out if it, I cannot but pretend that I am insane and disloyal.

Image source: Contact

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

If i can come up with a search engine to rival Google or Yahoo, i go to Singapore and get $100,000?

So should i take it to Silicon Valley and get a US$200million from a VC?

hmm..Silicon Valley versus Singapore... millions versus $100,000..

tough decision there.