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Malaysia’s gaming industry is still pretty nascent, all things considered. There is certainly a number of indie startups in the scene, as well as bigger, more established studios like Passion Republic, but all things considered, it’s still a growing market.

And one company that has been growing with this local ecosystem since 2010 is Streamline Studios.

You might recognise this company as the maker of Bake ‘N Switch, or perhaps as the studio that worked on iconic titles such as Cyberpunk 2077, Street Fighter VI, Final Fantasy XV, and many more AAA games.

A global company, Streamline also has offices in Bogota, Columbia, Tokyo, Japan, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

But before all those offices, Streamline started in the Netherlands, all the way back in 2001. Yet somehow, it ended up making a home out of sunny Kuala Lumpur. How did that happen?

Image Credit: Endeavor Malaysia / KL20 Summit

This was a question answered during a panel at KL20 Summit by Streamline’s co-founder and CEO Alexander Fernandez. Here’s what he said.

Trading rainy Holland for sunny Malaysia

The journey started in an apartment with four co-founders who bootstrapped Streamline with $15,000 (Alex didn’t clarify whether that was in Euros or USD).

The team never took external funding, instead wanting to run a business that simply worked thanks to its basic unit economics.

Some years later in 2009, they were invited by MDEC to come speak at the first KRE8TIF! conference in Malaysia.

Image Credit: Streamline Studios

“As soon as we got here, within 24 hours, we realised that Malaysia would be the place for us to relocate our business to because it had the right mix of talent, economics in terms of scalability, costs, and a supportive government,” Alex shared.

“You could see the desire of the people, you could see the raw talent, you could see the capability looking to be matched with the international market.”

The “spectacular” food and climate were key reasons as well, the co-founder added.

“Great cost of living, great food, great people, amazing quality of life,” he listed. “Why wouldn’t you want to be here in your 20s?”

So, Streamline set up shop in Malaysia. And what Alex has witnessed throughout these years is the commitment of Malaysia and Southeast Asia to grow its technology and entrepreneurship, and expose itself to the wider world.

And that commitment is really starting to pay off now.

A protected landscape to grow

Coming from a traditional and conversative background in terms of business, Alex believes in prioritising profits rather than growth. And he thinks that Southeast Asia is one of the places where you can still do that.

“You don’t basically need funding to make it work,” he said about the region. “Your unit economics are so clear that you can effectively grow a giant without anyone realising you’re doing it. And by the time they figure it out, it’s too late for them.”

Image Credit: Streamline Studios

One of the biggest advantages for Streamline, Alex said, was the protected nature of our ecosystem.

“The runway is longer, the talent is deeper, the opportunity is further, and you’re in a way, confined from the more aggressive parts of the world which is kill or be killed,” he said, comparing our landscape to, say, Silicon Valley’s.  

In a way, though, that might be a disservice for homegrown companies as they aim to go abroad.

Alex advised that those who want to expand abroad must understand why they’re doing it. Entrepreneurs looking to go abroad should do it as a market play, not an administrative or talent play, because it’s just too costly.

“You have to know what it’s for,” he advised. “You have to understand direct talk and confrontation and capability to say what you want and then know how to say no. You gotta be ready to fight, and I mean fight hard.”

Entrepreneurs must study the market and have cultural and language understanding before making a move. For example, he pointed out that respect based on seniority or age is an antiquated idea in many Western regions. But not all markets are the same.

“In the US they’ll shoot you; in the UK, they’ll tell you they’ll shoot you—that’s the difference,” he said. “At the end of day, get ready to be shot at.”

23 years of grinding

Having been in Malaysia for the past 13 years, Alex truly believes that all the ingredients are here in Malaysia to make a business work.

“I’m not going to make it sound like it’s push a button and it works, because that’s not how it is, you still have to grind,” he elaborated.

Image Credit: Streamline Studios

Ultimately, it’s all about the commitment one has to grow a business, to invest in a community and its people. That, Alex said, will create the business success that entrepreneurs are looking for.  

“That might not be interesting because there has been 13 years of cheap capital, and everyone made money and it was great,” he said. “But those times have gone. The unicorn era time is kind of gone. The reality now is about a business’ viability and sustainability, about being a real company.”

That might be hard because some entrepreneurs might have gotten so used to raising capital that they forget what it means to actually sell to a willing customer. But the co-founder said that understanding how to make money from day one should be the goal, instead of just raising capital.

Image Credit: Streamline Studios

Although, Alex thinks that it’s easier here because the effort and resolve entrepreneurs have go more towards running the business rather than being wasted on administrative things.

Back in the Netherlands, he said he was stuck doing administration 70% of the time.

“When you break it down, and just talk about basic economic reality, you’re not going to find a more beneficial place where talent, cost, environment align the way it does here,” he concluded. “The rest of it is up to you, and your willingness to grind.”

  • Learn more about Streamline Studios here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Streamline Studios

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

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