8 startups stepped up to the plate yesterday to bare their souls on stage. All they had was 5 minutes.
It was almost a full-house at Innovation Center yesterday for this year’s Seedstars event, co-run by the likes of names such as MDEC, Cradle, Khazanah, MaGIC, and even the Fintech Association of Malaysia.
Some of them thrived under the pressure—RM4.29 million was on the line after all—that is if they win the global summit in April next year.
In the end, it was PolicyStreet that won the judges’ attention through their gruelling 10-minute pitch and grill. Their startup curates insurance policies for groups that aren’t confusing—and apparently encourages millennials to get insurance without having to hear the sales pitch from insurance agents.
Theirs was the Malaysian startup with the best chance of taking the crown home for Malaysia during the global Seedstars Summit in April. They’ll be joining the ranks of winners like California-based Notiplac and Manila’s ServeHappy Jobs in Switzerland.
So what was it about PolicyStreet that won the judges over?
It’s another victory for a Fintech startup from Malaysia, receiving the winning ticket from last year’s champion, MyCash Online for their turn in Switzerland. We had our own little theories about what makes and breaks a startup’s pitch (we’re fans of Shark Tank after all). But what goes on in our heads definitely wouldn’t compare to the judges’ about why PolicyStreet stood out.
So we just asked the judges what they thought.
It’s all about your existing traction, your team, and passion. Being uniquely B2G helps, too.
Rebecca Kux of 500 Startups, head of portfolio management in Asia told Vulcan Post, “I find that PolicyStreet had the best chops for Seedstars in Switzerland and are a great representation for Malaysia. Strong team, strong pitch, and interesting approach to getting people insured (B2G, or business to groups).”
Manila-based Joseph de Leon from Gravitas Prime, a man in-the-know of the Malaysian scene states that “The team’s got a diverse set of experiences that rounds out. They have some weaknesses that they’ve got to address—but they’ve got a shot.
“They’re solving a major issue that needs a lot of breakthroughs. And they’re approaching it in a unique way by going B2G (Business-to-Group) instead of P2P (Peer-to-Peer) or B2B (Business-to-Business) which is what a lot of other players are trying to do.”
He adds that he found the founder’s personal story about how he broke his back as a “strong indicator that his personal commitment to solving the problem and the passion he’ll bring”.
Returning judge Hassan Alsagoff, CEO of Mountain Partners Malaysia echoed those thoughts. “We pay emphasis on team and traction more than others, and the fact that they had points for both of those was very important.”
“We look into is how big the market is, and I think what they’ve done is that they’ve taken the sector and opened it up to a much larger audience. That caught our attention.”
“Secondly, they have paying customers. Thirdly, We feel like the team had a good mix of relevant experience.”
“So they were probably the only team that scored generally well across all aspects. A lot of the other teams had very strong points, but we feel like Policy Street scored better overall.”
Before we rounded off the night, we also managed to catch up with Rosie Keller of the titular Seedstars and one of the few judges who has seen most of the contenders that will be pitching at Seedstars Summit in April for her insights as well.
She talks about the traction and the team yet again, adding that “We’re always looking for a team that we feel confident will know what needs to be done to go the long run, to go big. So that’s what we feel this team has. They’ve got a lot of passion, they’ve got a lot of drive.”
She brings up their B2G focus, stating, “It’s something we can work with, and hopefully—we had some ideas in the jury deliberation about how they can work with the focus that they have to be more defensible. For example, ironclad the business. But the traction and team are really good points.”
So how would they quantify passion?
According to Rosie, “I’d say that passion is reflected, a lot of times, in their fast growth. To achieve what they did really quickly, you have to put in a lot of hours and thought into the startup. Just being on another level of commitment to something, especially if you want it to take off, I think that’s something they’ve really shown us.”
And now it’s time for PolicyStreet to put their feet on the pedal—harder—on the race to the upcoming Seedstars global. Last year, MyCash Online managed to make it to Switzerland, just not quite the crown.
Would the same fate befall PolicyStreet?
“I think it depends on how they adapt to certain weaknesses that we see between now and April,” said Rosie. “If they do, I think they have a good shot and that they will be strong contenders as well. We’re looking forward to seeing how they develop, and hopefully, we’ll be able to help out with that along the way.”
Feature Image Credit: Seedstars