5 Questions with Durwin Ho, Community Leader

Oct 26, 2021

Durwin Ho is the Chief Executive Officer at StartupX. He works with corporations and governments in Asia to drive sustainable innovation and develop collaborative ecosystems to accelerate the next generation of startups. He founded StartupX in 2018 following a decade working with early-stage founders across Asia and pioneered the pre-accelerator model for startups in Asia. Durwin has also led Techstars Startup Weekend Singapore since 2014. He started his journey in tech and startups at growing startup AppBackr in Palo Alto. Prior to his current role, he took over the reins of his family’s business in early childhood education and continues to serve as an advisor to the business today. His current interests are in crypto, sustainability, venture building, and corporate innovation.

01. How did you get involved in Techstars Startup Programs?

I joined my first Startup Weekend back in San Francisco in 2012. Back then, I was just a student and I was joining hackathons for the pizzas and the chance to build fun ideas that I had. Upon returning to Singapore, I was keen to find startup events to join.

At that time, the hackathon scene in Singapore was just germinating and I thought to myself: wouldn't it be awesome to organise one myself? So with a few close friends of mine, we organised one of the first few Startup Weekends in Singapore. Our first event had only 30 participants but I could see that the community was hungry for more, and there was much potential in the ideas that developed at Startup Weekend.

My vision is to bring together people from all walks of life, regardless of background and experiences, to come together organically to build ideas that can grow into world-changing startups. Subsequently, we were able to grow the community and scale Startup Weekend Singapore, with more than 750 participants in 2020. We were also able to galvanise the community, bringing tech leaders and corporate chiefs to lend their support to the event. We even had Patrick Collison (Stripe), Heng Swee Keat (Deputy Prime Minister, Singapore) and Justin Kan (Twitch) join us as guests throughout the years!

02. How have Techstars Startup Programs impacted your life?

Startup Weekend can be a powerful nexus for when the hungry meets the prepared. It allows like-minded people to connect with one another organically and provides a platform for the best ideas to progress.

There is nothing quite like it in terms of the energy, vibe and exuberance. You have to join one in person to experience the magic. As a participant, Startup Weekend really opened my eyes to how much the world has to offer. The feeling of meeting like-minded potential co-founders is just amazingly refreshing. As an organizer, Startup Weekend gave me the capacity to scale the discovery of entrepreneurship to the masses. It is a mechanism that allows anyone to network, validate ideas and grow exponentially.

Throughout my years organizing Startup Weekends, I have made so many good friends and gotten inspired by amazing personalities who have come to #giveback as judges, mentors and speakers to our community. Besides learning so much from their knowledge and advice, I also had the privilege to observe the mentoring process, which in turn has made me a better mentor for others.

03. Why are you passionate about entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is a universal equalizer for most. It is a spirit of pure creativity and deep inner drive. You have to be very creative and deeply motivated in order to succeed as an entrepreneur. You have to learn how to overcome obstacles and work with the limited resources you have on hand. You have to constantly push yourself through the pain and hardships because there will not be cheerleaders around you all the time. You will start to discover yourself and learn how to be better every time. Entrepreneurs are the same all over the world, we work hard to solve problems and make lives better. We want to do more for others and that is what keeps us going. It is a beautiful, artistic process of consistency and passion that drives the best entrepreneurs. Knowing that I am somehow involved in a tiny part of the genesis of passionate entrepreneurs who come to Startup Weekend is what keeps my fire burning.

04. How else are you involved in your community's startup ecosystem?

Anyone who has ever participated in Startup Weekend will know that it is just the start of an amazing entrepreneurship journey. Everyone is thinking: what’s next?

For the longest time, my team and I had always asked ourselves if there were more things we could do to help these aspiring entrepreneurs after the weekend. So as part of StartupX, the innovation consultancy I co-founded, we operate and run startup and innovation programs to help founders bridge the gap between zero to one.

These are crucial to any startup that needs the resources, guidance, mentorship, curriculum, and funding to grow their company and bring it to the next level. Judges and mentors who are part of Startup Weekend continue to support the teams that want to continue building on their ideas. Some participants go on to become successful founders, raise funding and hire more like-minded entrepreneurial talents, which in turn allows the startup ecosystem to continue to grow.

With StartupX, we are able to amplify the support for early-stage entrepreneurs and create further opportunities for entrepreneurs to grow and scale their business ideas after Startup Weekend.

05. What's next for your community's entrepreneurship ecosystem?

Relative to Southeast Asia, Singapore has a rather robust and mature entrepreneurship ecosystem. We are producing more unicorns and more funding has poured into the citystate than ever before. We have extraordinary talents coming from all over the world, working on some of the biggest challenges humanity is facing.

There is so much happening in Singapore’s startup scene. Crypto and related technologies are booming, fintech and healthtech continue to evolve, and sustainability has become core to public policy as the government, businesses and citizens realise its importance and start taking action.

More corporates are looking toward collaborating and innovating with startups, leveraging on agile experimentation and ecosystem collaborations as a competitive advantage.

Coming up in November, we are gearing up for one of the largest Startup Weekend Global ever. It will span 9 days and cover 3 different time zones, with potentially thousands of participants from every part of the world. We hope that people from all walks of life will come together to learn, love and discover entrepreneurship. Do join us on our mission to make entrepreneurship accessible for everyone!

Learn more at www.startupweekendglobal.com.