This article examines the impact of policies for start‐up and entrepreneurship on the developmental model that remains a policy legacy in many Asian countries. The main argument is that the influence of central planning is deeply embedded in the institutions of the Four Asian Tigers, but globalisation and economic liberalisation are disrupting the old developmentalism by incentivising innovation and structural adaptability. In practice, although developmentalism once focused on infrastructure and industrial policy, softer strategies such as attracting educated millennials through urban amenities and creative clustering mimic those of the postindustrial West. Either this trend represents the end of developmentalism or top‐down industrial policy is being rebranded to embrace knowledge and service industries. This article examines this issue at the urban scale, examining policies used by Singapore and Seoul to encourage start‐ups and entrepreneurship in the context of innovation. Government documents are examined and findings compared. Copyright © 2018 The Authors.