I’m exceptionally excited to announce that I’m now Chairman and lead investor with some other angels in a new company, Spright Governance Inc. Spright is a spinoff of the Singaporean government, which will leverage their proven expertise and technology to run other cities, states, and nations globally.
Due to the nature of our business, we cannot disclose most client’s names. I can tell you that we have signed an exclusive contract to run most of the operations of a small U.S. state, currently rated one of the most corrupt states in the US by the Center for Public Integrity. In addition, we are taking over the school system of a mid-size U.S. city, addressing what former New York City school system Chancellor Joel Klein called the failure of American schools.
The company has held high-level discussions with many other federal, state, and municipal governments. CEO Chan Ah Boon notes, “Our total addressable market is enormous. The only governments who couldn’t reasonably be clients are those who can confidently claim that they deliver services to taxpayers more efficiently than we do.”
Governance is clearly not a core competency of the US; it’s time we outsourced governance to those who do it better than we do. I’ll be drawing heavily on my experience working for Evalueserve, the leading pure-play knowledge process outsourcing company.
Spright will focus on helping governments provide basic public goods, by directly advising government employees how to deliver what they’re supposed to (but sometimes don’t): sound money; an affordable budget; effective education; functioning infrastructure (e.g. airports, less-intrusive airport security); a sane legal system (tort reform); a healthcare system with incentives aligned and reasonable limits on money spent; a functional tax system (tax simplification), and an immigration policy that isn’t ‘national suicide’.
Spright will draw on Singapore’s long track record of model governance to deliver its advisory services. For example, Singapore has a more balanced budget than the U.S.: it has a per-capita external debt of $4,194 compared to the U.S. at $47,568. Additionally, Singapore boasts a more streamlined tax system with more favorable rates: the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Singapore as #3 in the world for having the least cumbersome tax policy on business, while the U.S. was ranked #71.
Despite this fiscal conservatism, Singapore is still able to provide higher-quality government services to its citizens. Take healthcare: Singapore boasts longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates, while spending one-seventh less on healthcare on a per-capita basis compared to the U.S. By building a high-performing teaching profession, Singapore has achieved a 99% literacy rate and ranks as the 33rd most-literate country in the world, compared to 94% and 77th for the U.S. Worse, upward of 60 percent of Americans ages 16-25 are ‘functionally illiterate’, meaning they can’t, for example, fill out a detailed form or read a numerical table (like a time schedule). Furthermore, Singapore consistently ranks as one of the least corrupt countries by Transparency International – most recently, Singapore was rated 3rd least-corrupt country in the world, while the U.S. ranked 19th. The WEF ranked Singapore first in the world for its institutions, based on lack of corruption and efficiency (the U.S. was ranked 40th). The WEF also rated Singapore 5th for infrastructure, noting Singapore’s excellence in roads, ports, and air transport facilities (again, the U.S. was well behind in 15th place).
When I visited Singapore in 2010 as a guest of the government (via my role as a Mentor with Founder Institute), I was impressed by the highly efficient way the place is run. I’ve been reading the Economist for two decades, which predisposed me to think highly of Singapore. (The Economist’s writers adore Singapore.) I spoke with a range of Singaporean entrepreneurs, many who felt that the U.S. had done an amazing job squandering its vast natural advantages. Based on these discussions, I began thinking about ways the US could run its government more effectively. I was introduced via mutual friends to Boon, and jointly decided to start a ‘government for hire’ business.
Boon observed, “In the spirit of ‘aim high’, we decided to first win a contract to run a major U.S. state. To our surprise, many leaders in government said they would be happy to forego their current jobs and join us, as long as we gave them competitive pay or better. After all, most of them can look forward to dramatic pay increases already when they leave office; why not accelerate those raises?”
One of the most attractive aspects of Spright’s business model is how governments are able to simultaneously afford higher pay and better services. The additional revenue earned from taxation on a better-managed state easily allows them to cover such costs. Take Singapore again: Singaporean government ministers are paid, on average, $1.26 million annually. They are some of the best paid government employees in the world, while managing a country which gives its citizens one of the lowest-cost governments. The employees of Spright’s clients can count on significant increases in compensation.
The Singapore government has a long history of informally advising other governments, and frequently hosts visitors who want to learn from its experts. However, Spright is the first business that takes over entirely the delivery of services provided by a non-Singaporean government.
Spright Governance doesn’t have a website yet, as it is keeping a deliberately low profile. However, you’ll be hearing more about it soon. We are exceptionally excited about this investment.
(Note: this is a rare personal investment, not an investment through our fund.)