Woz: Apple couldn’t emerge in Singapore

“Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, said a company like Apple could not emerge in societies like Singapore where ‘bad behavior is not tolerated’ and people are not taught to think for themselves,” Shibani Mahtani and Sam Holmes report for The Wall Street Journal. “‘Look at structured societies like Singapore where bad behavior is not tolerated [and] you are extremely punished,” Mr. Wozniak said in a recent interview with the BBC. ‘Where are the creative people? Where are the great artists? Where are the great musicians? Where are the great writers?'”

“Speaking about the late Steve Jobs, his former business partner, he said that allowing creativity was more important than wearing a suit or the length of your hair,” Mahtani and Holmes report. “Speaking specifically about Singapore, he said that though many people are educated with well-paid jobs and nice cars, “creative elements” in society seem to have disappeared.”

Mahtani and Holmes report, “Singapore actively encourages startups and entrepreneurship in the city-state. According to government statistics, 29, 798 companies were formed in Singapore in 2010 across all sectors, a 13% increase from the previous year.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]


  1. Encourages biz startups? What a crock! Let me give you an example why those statistics mean nothing.

    I lived in Ukraine for years. There are so many business owners there. Not because the gov’t encourages it. The reason why is that people save a lot of taxes that way. And I mean a lot. So your average business owner has a small biz/sole proprietorship. They are coffee vendors on the street, newstands, street food vendors, bootleg DVD/CD/software sellers, grey market clothing/technology sales, or laborers.

    True innovation or large scale business models are discouraged by corp. law, tax law, bribes and theft. It’s like when Kyivstar’s owners (formerly the largest competitor to UMC now MTC) refused to sell to the president of Ukraine for 1 million dollars when it was worth 100 times that. There was a home invasion, they were murdered and their business was suddenly in the name on the president’s daughter and son.

    The number of business owners is a moot point.

  2. I Love Woz but I’ll play the ‘Devils Advocate’ here and spout out some pluses for Singapore (my brother works there as a computer person and I’ve been there a few times):

    — Singapore is a small rock with no natural resources , it even has to import fresh water from it’s neighbour Malaysia. It’s a mainly a Buddhist/Taoist society of 5 million surrounded by 150 million muslims.

    — with those facts rising from the ashes of savage Japanese occupation during the war it now has a standard of living about equal to West.

    — low crime rate, senior citizens can sit outside in the city late into the night (it’s warm there!) safe.

    — The Government has zero foreign debt , in fact it’s got surpluses most years. The Government invests hundreds of billions of dollars through investment arms like Temasek which invests in things like foreign airports, real estate etc generating income to support hospitals, social systems back in Singapore. (Won’t americans wish the U.S govt was like that?)

    — It’s got subsidized Government housing. Can’t remember the stats but I think something like 80% own their own homes. (this is incredible considering there’s so little usable land and real estate prices should be astronomical)


    that said I’m more like Woz and I like freedom and easier way of life and wouldn’t want to live there. To achieve their aims with so little to start with (no land, no natural resources) Singaporeans have to work very hard with great discipline (some Government departments work Saturdays). But you have to ask yourself could an ‘easier freer society have worked in their situation or turned in a Haiti ?

  3. China has a somewhat similar and dire problem with creativity. Their criminal government has been trying for decades to engender creativity, while of course enforcing a totalitarian culture with zero incentive to give a rat’s. It doesn’t work.

    Free thinking.
    Personal incentive.
    Sane support.

    These are a few basic ingredients. If one is missing, the cake will fall in the oven. Feed it to the dogs.

  4. Woz doesn’t know Singapore at all.

    Singapore is like Apple more than any country I can think of. They are small but have tremendous financial prowes. They invest heavily in their infrastructure and people. They do things differently and boldly to preserve their way of life and they embrace creativity and diversity.

    1. The demand for conformity supresses creativity by definition. It is ridiculous to claim that a conformist society like Singapore ebraces creativity and diversity.

  5. Lived in SG for 6 years. It was à dead city when I arrived. No lively streets, concrete and shopping centers.
    But it turned itself around to be one of the most vibrant cities in the region in just a couple of years.

    How they do that?

    Key is that Singapore is a country that is being ran as a company.
    Complete with CEO and Board of Directors.
    They push law through in days, not years.
    Decisions made based on positive effect for country first. Individuals 2nd.

    1. Agree, we could/should actually learn from them. Many positives. As business people they work SE Asia.

      Creativity – I think part of the dynamic is it is a smaller country by far, so there aren’t as many creatives.

      NZ is another great country, and they are even more isolated. But the people there are independent and very resourceful.

  6. Possibly Woz is right that Apple could not have emerged in Singapore. But Singapore doesn’t need an Apple to be highly successful as a country. Zero net debt, highest saving per capita of any country, virtually zero unemployment, very safe and a high standard of living. How you doin, USA?

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