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How these 4 M’sian startups plan to scale this year after winning grants at SUPERB 2021

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[This is a sponsored article with TERAJU.]

Malaysia’s startup ecosystem has been steadily growing to become a robust environment. According to The Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2021 by Startup Genome, the Kuala Lumpur ecosystem is valued at USD$16.1 billion. 

Fostering this entrepreneurial arena is SUPERB 2021, a programme organised by TERAJU, a strategic unit established in 2011 to lead, drive, and coordinate Bumiputera participation in the national economy.

Since its launch in 2014 up until 2020, SUPERB has produced 208 Bumiputera startup youth entrepreneurs and this year, more have joined the ranks.

For SUPERB 2021, out of 60 finalists, 23 were chosen as winners at the end of the Finale Pitching Session, successfully winning a grant of up to RM500,000. 

Of those, here are the stories of four selected winners and their plans for utilising the fresh funds.

1. Creating entertainment that educates

Using real-time rendering technology and AI assistance, POLYTAKO is an animated series for preschool children from ages 2 to 5. 

The team intends to produce the series in multiple languages, with AI-powered lip-syncing to help animators synchronise the dialogue and motion of animated characters.

Mohammad Ibrahim Rahmat and POLYTAKO’s poster / Image Credit: POLYTAKO

The 60-episode animation is made to not only entertain but educate kids, enabling them to learn various languages through its polyglot nature.

According to the team, Mattel, the international toy company, has valued POLYTAKO’s intellectual property (IP) at US$3.5 million.

POLYTAKO first joined SUPERB in 2020 and made it all the way to the finals, but fell short of the finish line. Of course, there were takeaways that later helped them in SUPERB 2021.

“We came back with strong market traction, industry collaboration, and better planning on what kind of assistance that we wanted from TERAJU,” Ibrahim Rahmat, the creator of POLYTAKO, said. 

Putting those lessons to use, they were able to win the grant in SUPERB 2021, which will be used to create an off-screen project with a bunch of preschool educational products and toys.

POLYTAKO is set to be out in March on Durioo+, a platform envisioned to be the Disney+ for Muslim children.

2. Destigmatising mental health needs

PlusVibes is a social enterprise focusing on transforming the mental health arena in Malaysia.

Although mental health consultations in mental clinics are common nowadays, Madiha Fuad, founder of PlusVibes, said mental health stigmas make many people ashamed to ask for help.

Using “positive vibes”, the company wants to transform traditional mental health solutions to be non-intrusive and digital. 

It integrates mental health associations, volunteer listeners, and campaigners on the platform to encourage self-development and motivation.

Founder Madiha Fuad showcasing the PlusVibes application / Image Credit: PlusVibes

Joining SUPERB has given the team credibility when pitching to clients and investors. In fact, PlusVibes was later approached by a few corporates that were keen to subscribe to the service.

The team is also in discussions with a university to become the exclusive provider for mental health services for their students across Malaysia. 

On top of credibility and validation, Madiha said the six-week accelerator by SUPERB brought in industry practitioners and experienced entrepreneurs, and gave her access to mentors, a benefit she deemed priceless.  

This year, PlusVibes plans to grow the number of its mobile application users, so a bulk of the funds will go towards enhancing that service, as well as marketing and operational costs.

3. Streamlining the tech talent marketplace

The demand for quality tech talent today is high because many businesses are starting to develop and adopt digital solutions, according to Krenovator

Before Krenovator, co-founders Mohamad Mahadhir Yunus and Calvin Lim ran a software house. There, their biggest problem was finding quality tech talent. 

Krenovator co-founders Calvin Lim (left) and Mohamad Madahir Yunus / Image Credit: Krenovator

The team realised that programmers and software developers are usually in short supply, and that there is also a lack of relevant skills. 

To add, businesses often have no clear idea what the candidate’s potential is before hiring, and what training should be provided. The potential mismatch of expectations during the early hiring period is costly.

So, Krenovator has taken on the task of building a tech talent pool across SEA for the benefit of employers and jobseekers.

With the SUPERB grant, it plans to continue tackling the outlined issues and further scale the business. For that, they will invest heavily in talent development, talent acquisition, marketing, and technology enhancement.

The Krenovator application / Image Credit: Krenovator

4. Optimising educational technology  

SnappEd is a mobile and web application designed for educators, students, and parents to better manage and organise school assignments. For that, the application analyses data, prepares reports, and integrates gamification elements.

In the big picture, it aims to promote inclusivity and accessibility for the underserved and marginalised communities, while helping educators build digital literacy skills.

“We noticed that the adoption of EdTech tends to cater towards more affluent markets, not to mention cause additional burden to the already under-resourced teachers,” pointed out co-founder and CEO Iliyas Jamil.

(Left to right) SnappEd co-founders Nikki, Iliyas, and Helmi / Image Credit: SnappEd

SnappEd’s current priority after winning at SUPERB is to invest in fine-tuning its core offerings and roll out features that will further incentivise users. The grant they won will thus be going towards product development and technology enhancement.

Overall, the team envisions SnappEd to be a platform that enables a seamless transition from the traditional education approach to more tech-enhanced learning.

Bolstering the Bumiputera startup ecosystem

The companies highlighted here are providing solutions to relevant issues in today’s world. Creative educational technology, mental health assistance, and tech services all align with the trends of our digitalised world, showing that the entrepreneurs have a keen understanding of the market and world at large. 

Through SUPERB, TERAJU has nurtured Bumiputera startups and entrepreneurs who contribute to the nation’s plan of building a vibrant and innovative startup ecosystem, with the highlight being on Key Economic Growth Activities (KEGA) outlined under the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030

This is also in line with the targets of the Bumiputera Development Action 2030 (TPB2030) launched last year, among others, which is to increase equality of opportunities and outcomes for national development. 

But the organisation’s work is not done yet. They’re still on the lookout for new startup ideas to develop when the next SUPERB comes around.  

  •  Learn more about TERAJU here.
  • Read other Malaysian startup stories here.

Featured image credit: Mahadhir Yunus, co-founder of Krenovator / Madiha Fuad, founder of PlusVibes / Ibrahim Rahmat, creator of POLYTAKO / Iliyas Jamil, co-founder and CEO of SnappEd

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