In this article

What makes a startup Malaysian?

Nowhere else in the world would one find an entity quite like ours. It isn’t just because we speak in a certain slang when dealing with business partners, nor is it the fact that every business deal revolves around a makan session.

It’s far more than that.

To call oneself a Malaysian startup, holds a certain amount of responsibility and courage, and we are certainly unique, even when we are compared to our fellow South East Asian counterparts. Here are four reasons why.

1. Our startups aim to solve Malaysian problems.

Image Credit: http://casivaagustin.com.ar/
Image Credit: casivaagustin.com.ar

It is far too easy to leave it to our Western counterparts to figure out a solution to a local problem. Need food delivered? Just give FoodPanda a call. Need a medical opinion to that persistent cough? Google it.
The problem with that is we can’t maju as an entity, and we would ultimately become overly-reliant on ideas which aren’t even ours to begin with.

Preopinion is a Malaysian startup which allows one to get an opinion on their medical symptoms prior to heading to the doctor. Many might have the tendency to Google the symptoms of their ailment, prior to getting a medical opinion. That is what makes Preopinion unique, as they are a niche service which definitely serves a purpose in our country.

Shane Chiam of Preopinion shared, “In my opinion, every startup in this country is uniquely Malaysian because we try to solve issues in Malaysia while taking into account the cultural taboos, government laws and public demand in Malaysia.”

2) Our startups are not afraid to be proudly Malaysian.

Image Credit: Tumpang
Image Credit: Tumpang

It is far too easy to Westernise a startup name and to allow it to be globally appealing, and not to mention, SEO-friendly as well. However, to localise a startup brand and make it relatable to all Malaysians, that requires a certain amount of belief in what you’re trying to market. Tumpang, Wedapao, Kaodim and Kakitangan are a few such startups.

Kakitangan.com is a startup which streamlines the HR processes and policies of a company, enabling an entity to manage the processes online. Effon Khoo of Kakitangan.com relayed to Vulcan Post, “From its brand name, ‘kakitangan‘ is a beautiful Malay word that carries the meaning of not only employees, but hands and legs, as the bonding of the company. Even in the Chinese language, the kaki/tangan has a direct  meaning of brotherhood bonding.”

This is exclusively Malaysian, as where else in the world would one find an AisKosong?

3) Our startups embrace the local culture. 

Image Credit: myBurgerLab
Image Credit: myBurgerLab

Being a startup, one might label you as a “try hard”. After all, when you’re trying to fix a problem and be ambitious in your own entity, there will be those who would shoot your ideas down. To stick to what you believe would work is ultimately what is important.

For instance, myBurgerLab is a local burger joint and despite burgers being a highly Western dish, they do serve burgers which are inspired by the sights and flavours of Malaysia. Teoh Wee Kiat of myBurgerLab shared, “From ingredients such as Budu (Kelantanese Fermented Fish Sauce), Salted Egg and Oyster Sauce, to dishes like Satay and Rendang, we take pride in Malaysian cuisine, and aim to provide our own spin on it. Also, unlike most local restaurants, 90% of our crew our local hires.”

Naysan Munusamy of pitchIN agreed and he simply joked, “You know a startup is uniquely Malaysian when the co-founders prioritise makan trips and what to eat during company events or trips!” Certain things makes our country totally Malaysian, be it the traffic jams, the tasty delicacies or even our slang. Capitalising on these unique cultures is not only wise, it is also showcasing our national pride.

4) Our startups know how to band together when it counts.

Image Credit: Starter Incubator
Image Credit: Starter Incubator

Typically, startups work independently and they each aim to solve a problem or engineer change in their own specific field, be it food delivery, concierge services or local tour guides.

Hence, it’s nice to see that they would rally together for a mission bigger than their own, when it counts. Project Merdeka was created with that very purpose in mind. They grouped together a bunch of local startups like Twenty3, BloomThis, Grab and DahMakan, who are providing their very own Merdeka deals, and this makes it convenient and easy for Malaysians to search up deals in conjunction with our Independence Day.

In my opinion, this is what makes our startups specifically Malaysian. The general mindset in business is “What’s mine is mine” but when it comes to our local entities, we know when it is alright to exercise the “What’s mine is yours” belief as well.

After all, it’s not just about screaming “Malaysia Boleh” at the top of our lungs and waving a flag. It’s about banding together with your fellow countrymen to bring our nation to greater heights. Being selfish in business is easy, but that isn’t what we’re all about, and in the midst of any differences we might have along the way, it’s nice to see this still happening.

Feature Image Credit: Komunikitas.com

Categories: Entrepreneur, Malaysian

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay updated with Vulcan Post weekly curated news and updates.


Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)