SINGAPORE (Mar 22): The search has started for the 18th EY Entrepreneur Of The Year, as part of the bid to promote entrepreneurship and shape a new role model for the business community.

Ernst & Young LLP, organiser of the annual awards, observes that entrepreneurs in Singapore, and the world, have built some of the world’s most enduring companies. The businesses they build don’t just create employment and contribute to the GDP.

“Their creativity, tenacity and courage serve as an inspiration for many. In many ways, the way they overcome the odds, the power of their influence, and the ripple effect they create, is unstoppable,”  says Max Loh, EY Asean and Singapore Managing Partner, “And every great story deserves to be told."

To be sure, entrepreneurs may not be just founders of businesses; "they could be the next generation or an owner-manager who epitomises the finest in entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and leadership through opportunities and adversities,” says Loh.

Last year’s winner was Jeffrey Tiong, founder and CEO of PatSnap. This June, Tiong will be Singapore’s representative at the world award and compete with over 50 other country contenders at the global EOY awards.

In addition, EY will be giving out the EY Family Business Award of Excellence, by looking at the family business’ ability to successfully balance business and family issues, grow the business and show responsibility for others through philanthropic or social engagements

The winner of the Family Business Award will be selected by the Business Families Institute, part of the Singapore Management University and The Wendel International Centre for Family Enterprise at French business school INSEAD.

The Edge Singapore is one of the official media partners of the EOY awards. Other partners include Merrill Corporation; Action Community for Entrepreneurship; Enterprise Singapore; Singapore Business Federation; SkillsFuture Singapore and The Business Times.

The theme for this year is “Unstoppable – innovate, disrupt, transform” – a clear nod to the threat and opportunities brought about by disruption that’s happening in the wider business environment.

Michelle Cheo, CEO of Mewah Group, warns that besides disruption brought about by rapid technological changes, the current business environment is getting more uncertain too, no thanks to the string of “regulatory surprises”, such as the China-US trade war and other geopolitical developments. “We don’t know when rules will change; and the pace has quickened,” says Cheo, speaking at the launch of the awards on March 22.

Derrick Yap, CEO of PBA Group, speaking at the same event, reminds companies in Singapore to pay attention only to China, as a competitive threat. He points out that neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam are stiff competitors too. Costs, he says, is just a quarter that of Singapore’s. Yet, the disparity in skills and capabilities isn’t all too different. More importantly, people in these markets are “hungrier”. By contrast, Singaporeans are “softer” and “spoilt”, says Yap.

For these entrepreneurs, the issue of talent is one that worries them as well. Dr Shi Xu, founder and executive chairman of Nanofilm Group, says that entrepreneurs need support from two main kinds of talent: generalists who are able to scan the horizon and identify broad trends as they shape up, and subject matter experts with deep technical knowledge.

Shi, the 2017 winner, sits on this year’s judging panel as well. Other judges for the awards include Chia Nam Toon, assistant Group CEO of ARA Asset Management; Alvin Lim, managing director of CVC Capital; Ooi Huey Tyng, managing director, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines at GrabPay; Ng Cher Pong, chief executive of SkillsFuture Singapore, and Prof Annie Koh, vice president, Business Development at Singapore Management University. She wears another hat as the academic director of the Business Families Institute and International Trading Institute at SMU. Ron Sim, executive chairman and CEO of V3 Group, will be one of the judges too. He was the winner back in 2003.

Nominations close on April 30.