“Singapore’s Bill Gates” Thought Innovation Should Not Require Government Permission

(p. A9) In the late 1990s, before Singapore was known as a global center of digital innovation, Sim Wong Hoo had a theory about what was holding his country back.

Mr. Sim, who went on to become the city-state’s first tech billionaire, called it the “No U-Turn Syndrome,” or NUTS. In the U.S., he said, cars could turn around anywhere unless a sign told them not to. But in Singapore, drivers wouldn’t dare if it wasn’t expressly allowed. The “no rule, no do” mentality kept Singaporeans from thinking outside the box, he said.

So he wrote some new rules. Mr. Sim was raised in a poor household by illiterate parents before founding a startup that revolutionized computer audio and inspired a generation of Asian entrepreneurs. Many admirers still call him

. . .

Born in Singapore in 1955, when it was still under British rule, Mr. Sim grew up in a village in an area now called Bukit Panjang with 10 siblings. Their father died when he was young, and his mother struggled to support their large family by selling whatever seasonal fruits grew on the unkempt 1-acre farm she leased for about $15 a year. When not in school, the young Mr. Sim helped her sell eggs at a local market for about 1 cent apiece.

In his 1999 book, “Chaotic Thoughts From the Old Millennium,” Mr. Sim described himself as a weird child who made his own toys and board games because he couldn’t afford to buy them.

For the full obituary, see:

Feliz Solomon. “Singaporean Inspired Asian Tech Innovators.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date January 13, 2023, and has the title “Sim Wong Hoo, Creator of Sound Blaster, Inspired Asian Tech Innovators.”)

Mr. Sim’s book mentioned above is:

Sim, Wong Hoo. Chaotic Thoughts from the Old Millennium. Singapore: Creative O., 1999.

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