Last Friday, the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) kicked off the 3rd iteration of their award-winning accelerator programme, the Global Accelerator Programme (GAP).
This time round, they had 30 startups from 9 countries including Malaysia, Russia, India, Kenya, Estonia and Vietnam.
GAP 2019 drew a record number of over 1,170 applications from 68 countries across the globe.
The final 30 were shortlisted based on three key criteria:
- Prospect to expand regionally and globally
- Potential of highly scalable products with large growth potential
- A demonstrable market-ready product with traction
Having taken up the mantle of MaGIC’s CEO in April this year, Dzuleira Abu Bakar shared, “At MaGIC, we aim to aid the transformation of Malaysia into an entrepreneurial nation, through nurturing a generation of resilient entrepreneurs that leverage on technological trends in alignment with the UN sustainable development goals.”
Trivia Time: The UN Sustainable Development Goals are part of a blueprint that is meant to help build a better and more sustainable future. The aim is to achieve each goal and target by 2030, and the 17 goals include targets like ending all forms of poverty, decent work and economic growth, and to build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation.
The startups are also eligible for benefits worth over USD500,000 from various programme partners including Amazon Web Services, HubSpot, and Usability Hub; industry-specific training, an opportunity to learn from world-class technical and business mentors; a stronger route-to-market focus with corporate support as well as a co-working space, accommodation, monthly stipend, a six-month professional visitor pass and marketing allowance.
As this is MaGIC’s third outing when it comes to GAP, Dzuleira explained that, “From one programme to the other, we try to get it more targeted. We actually [take time] to understand the needs of the cohort, and target them to the right mentors as well as network.”
“Long story short, we do continuous improvement. The whole idea is to ensure that each cohort gets the help that they actually need, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.”
Yang Berhormat Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof, Minister of Entrepreneur Development (MED) said at the launch, “Innovation moves so fast, if we don’t take the opportunity and apply it at the time when it is needed, and we might lose the golden opportunity to commercialise.”
“We believe that the most vital element to build a thriving regional entrepreneurship system is through the support of cross-border collaboration in entrepreneurship and innovation. GAP will help us to further establish and strengthen Malaysia’s position as a gateway to the region, for entrepreneurs who are keen to build and expand their business in ASEAN,” he added.
Who Are The Participants?
Forbes 30 Under 30 social entrepreneur Wenshin Chia (of Green Yards, an oil recycling startup), is also a participant, this time with a new startup and idea, iFull, a door-to-door gadget repair service.
Unsurprisingly, lifestyle startups dominated in terms of numbers, with 12 out of 30 startups in that category. Dzuleira also pointed out that the shift observed this year was that there were more IR4.0-type businesses that provide enterprise solutions.
Dictionary Time: The Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) represents the change across industries that will be led by automation and artificial intelligence .
We asked Dzuleira about the distribution of verticals, and she reiterated that the startups were chosen on the 3 criteria listed above, not their industry.
“The startups chosen are more reflective of the trends. Typically, if you see a lot of consumer-facing companies, that year you’ll see a lot more [in GAP].”
Based on the startup trends, it’s also not surprising that the keynote speaker of the launch was Bryan Loo of Loob Holding and Tealive, a homegrown bubble tea brand.
Present in 6 countries and operating 322 stores, Bryan shared some insights in Tealive’s expansion.
He pointed out their first-in-industry innovations, including their custom-designed tea dispensing system, which allowed their Tearistas to literally become customer-facing, instead of turning their backs away from the counter to make the drinks.
“Not only did this allow our servers to face the customers, but it also allowed the drinks to be stored in a cold chiller, which allowed the tea to remain fresh 24 hours long, instead of the usual 4–6 hours when stored at room temperature.”
Small innovations that made big differences, paying attention to such details, and leveraging on technology, are what Bryan believes has helped Tealive to rapidly expand to where it is today.
To Asean And Beyond
Southeast Asia is often said to be the next consumer powerhouse, and MaGIC believes that their efforts in GAP are part of equipping Malaysian startups and beyond to be ready for this shift in global economics.
“Based on the data that MaGIC has collected, Malaysia has 1,880 startups. It’s a 25% increase from 2018. The reality though is that the number is 3 times more in the neighbouring countries. So, the message is that we need to do a lot more to increase our numbers,” said Dzuleira.
“GAP is important because it equips startups key to expanding into SEA with the necessary tools, skills and network to be sustainable, investment-ready and prime for ASEAN expansion, in 4 months.”
With the goal to condense a few years of progress into 4 intense months, we look forward to witnessing the growth and acceleration of the businesses, which will culminate in a demo day later this year.
Feature Image Credit: MaGIC