Startups rising from failure – part 9


Startup_failure by design “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again- this time more intelligently.” — Henry Ford

Startups can learn much when they do not succeed

Success stories have always been a source of great encouragement for struggling entrepreneurs. It seems easy enough to romanticise accomplishments.

After all, there seems to be no shortage of stories on budding entrepreneurs who worked hard to develop great products that were later acquired for hefty price tags.

Perseverance pays: Grove says he learnt the value of persistence when the bursting of the dotcom bubble drastically altered the company’s fortunes in 1999.

In reality, the path of entrepreneurship involves plenty of speed bumps, potholes and dead ends.

Entrepreneurs who have made it often recount how they lacked time for anything other than work, how they had to fumble through everything on their own and how some of their ventures failed before they became successful.

Additionally, entrepreneurs are making a big bet by putting their money into something that has no promise of returns on top of not having a secure income for what can be extended periods.

But serial entrepreneurs persevere through their failures.

Patrick Grove, co-founder and chief executive officer of Catcha Group, understands the importance of picking up the pieces and persisting after a failed attempt.

Grove established Catcha Group, which holds a portfolio of online assets, in 1999 and had plans to list the group on the Singapore Exchange the following year.

But shortly before the exercise, the Nasdaq crashed and brought the end of the dotcom bubble.

Subsequently, Grove and his partners were saddled with debts of US$1.5mil (RM5.2mil).

Teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, he slashed his headcount, diversified the business and persisted.

Grove refers to that period as “the school of hard knocks.”

But in the end, Catcha got its groove back and Grove went on to list four online companies.

“I learnt the value of persistence… because we were humbled early on, we don’t forget that,” Grove said in an interview with an Australian publication, adding that it is alright if entrepreneurs fumble.

MyTeksi technical head Aaron Gill is likewise no stranger to failure. Before joining the Malaysian startup that has grown regionally, Gill had three failed ventures under his belt.

His ventures had started off with ideas good enough to obtain government pre-seed funding from the Multimedia Development Corp and Cradle Fund. But the companies did not survive.

However, Gill says that his failed attempts taught him a lot about running a company and managing a team.

Additionally, he learnt the importance of being focused when running a business and the need for structure in the face of expansion.

Grove and Gill are only two of many more entrepreneurs who have encountered hardships before finding that one successful startup. The road taken by entrepreneurs is often long, winding and certainly stressful.

But fear of failure shouldn’t stop entrepreneurs from taking risks. There are rewards to be reaped from thinking outside the box and pushing boundaries.

The lessons learned from failures can be brutal. But taken the right way, these lessons can bring you one step closer to success.

Entrepreneurs describe themselves as people who hop from one failed business to another until they hit a jackpot. To them, failure is a part of their experiences.

■ This is the ninth article in a 10-part tie-up between Metrobiz and the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creative Centre (MaGIC) to explore startup ecosystems.

By Joy Lee The Star/Asia News Network

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SoftBank invests $250M (RM860mil) in GrabTaxi, an Internet company founded in Malaysia

SoftBank Invests $250M In GrabTaxi, Uber’s Archrival In Southeast Asia Not content with leading a $627 million mega-round for Snapdeal…
Successful entrepreneurs join forces to fund
and support businesses Malaysia has seen quite a number of successful
entrepreneurs coming i…

Startup’s components of a support system, govt incentives, market access – part 5, 6, 7

OOI Boon Sheng, founder and chief executive officer of Web Bytes Sdn Bhd, was fortunate to have found a good

SoftBank invests $250M (RM860mil) in GrabTaxi, an Internet company founded in Malaysia


GraTaxi

SoftBank Invests $250M In GrabTaxi, Uber’s Archrival In Southeast Asia

Not content with leading a $627 million mega-round for Snapdeal and a $210 million raise for Ola as part of a $10 billion commitment to startups in India, Japanese telecom giant SoftBank has now turned its attention to Southeast Asia and sunk $250 million into GrabTaxi, Uber’s major rival in the region.

Neither party has confirmed what the deal values GrabTaxi at, but the company’s valuation is likely to exceed the $1 billion mark. The duo did confirm that SoftBank has become GrabTaxi’s largest investor.

The round is the highest raise for a startup in Southeast Asia to date — Rocket Internet companies aside — and it is GrabTaxi’s fourth funding activity this calendar year, taking it past $320 million in capital from investors. GrabTaxi’s previous $65 million round closed in October and was led by Tiger Global — which also invested in Uber rival Ola — while GGV Capital led a $15 million raise in May. Its $10 million-plus Series A was announced in April.

GrabTaxi was founded in Malaysia in 2012, has over 500 staff and is live in 17 cities across six countries in Southeast Asia: Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia. Its core offering is a service that connects registered taxis with would-be passengers via its app — thus working with the existing industry rather than against it — but it also offers an Uber-like private car service and is trialling motorbike taxis in Vietnam.

Uber is present in each of GrabTaxi’s markets, offering its standard Uber Black service in all and its cheaper UberX service in most. Hailo is present in Singapore, while Rocket Internet-backed Easy Taxi is a minority player in a handful of countries in Southeast Asia.

Uber doesn’t break out user numbers, but GrabTaxi — which says it is leading the taxi app space in Southeast Asia — claims 500,000 monthly active users from 2.5 million app downloads. It says there are 60,000 drivers on its network, and that three bookings are made per second on average across its platform — which is an 800 percent increase over the past year.

Back in May, GrabTaxi claimed 1.2 million downloads and 250,000 monthly users.

Collecting War Chests

This Series D round comes at a fascinating time. Uber raised $1.2 billion earlier this year and is tipped to be closing in on another billion-dollar round again soon at a rumored $40 billion valuation. GrabTaxi, it seems, is building its own war chest, and bringing on a formidable ally in SoftBank, at just the right moment.

anthony tan grabtaxiGrabTaxi didn’t explicitly reveal how it will invest the money from SoftBank, but CEO and co-founder Anthony Tan told TechCrunch in an interview that it will go towards fortifying its efforts in existing markets and continuing its expansion across Southeast Asia.

There are no plans to move outside of the region, which has a cumulative population of around 600 million, he said.

“We’re going to be staying regional. [We want to] grow very fast and focus on expanding in this region, whilst staying very very focused,” Tan commented, speaking after the Bloomberg ASEAN Business Summit in Bangkok, Thailand.

“We’ll also be hiring. We want the right kind of people, people who love people and believe in our mission,” he added.

Related to that, Tan said GrabTaxi is open to potential acquisitions, but he stressed that in any possible deal, the focus would be on finding the right cultural blend.

GrabTaxi has been focused on providing a pure-play transportation service to date. Uber, however, has experimented with a range of alternative services across the world. While he didn’t explicitly advocate that GrabTaxi will follow suit, Tan did admit that the company’s new funding intake gives it “the resources” to potentially explore new areas of business in the future.

Price Battles

Harvard graduate Tan admitted that the price battles between rival services in Southeast Asia necessitate significant funding just to compete, although he said GrabTaxi still maintains the “heart of a startup” — such as working hard, traveling via economy class and low-cost carriers where possible — and generally being thrifty.

While Uber has raised boat loads of money for its operations, the company is engaged in every continent on the planet. That’s something that could mean GrabTaxi is actually better capitalized, which Cheryl Goh, GrabTaxi’s VP of marketing, hinted.

“Our strong focus in this region means that each of [the] six GrabTaxi markets stands to receive a significant portion of funding compared to larger players that have to stretch their funding much further,” Goh said in a statement without explicitly mentioning the ‘U’ word.

While SoftBank provided the entire round for GrabTaxi, TechCrunch understands that the startup had multiple alternative offers on the table. That certainly bodes well for the future, since GrabTaxi’s track record and the ongoing battle will almost certainly require further rounds of funding in the not-too-distant future.

Uber, GrabTaxi and others have come under pressure from the governments of Vietnam and Thailand this past week, and numerous other regulators in the past. Tan didn’t provide specific comment on either of those incidents, but he did reveal that GrabTaxi has set up a dedicated government liaison team that works directly with authorities across Southeast Asia to help smooth out issues and communications.

Southeast Asia’s startup scene continues to heat up. Just last week Carousell raised $6 million and PocketMath bagged $10 million. But this investment from SoftBank is sure to put the region on the map, particularly coming right after Rocket Internet’s Amazon rival Lazada raised $250 million led by Singapore’s Temasek Holdings.

SONY DSC

Making a Difference

When I put it to Tan that many founders will want to know how he’s been so successful in Southeast Asia, he points to his faith in God and his company’s mission to make a difference.

“There are a lot of well-run startups in Southeast Asia. We hope that the values we’ve been pushing for — helping drivers make more money, women feel safer and more — and changing the current ecosystem and how we treat each other makes a difference,” he explained.

With SoftBank and its renowned founder Masayoshi Son on his side, Tan’s company is closing out the year in a very different position to how it began 2014. Then it was an outsider that was full of ambition and plans but lacking resources. Now it has gathered steam in multiple markets and pulled in the financial muscle to potentially battle Uber, one of the world’s most talked-about companies, blow for blow.

Certainly, 2015 is gearing up to host a fascinating battle between these two, particularly now that SoftBank has stepped into the ring.

Source: techcrunch.com by Jon Russell

Japanese group invests RM860mil in Internet company founded in Malaysia

GrabTaxi_myteksi

KUALA LUMPUR: GrabTaxi Holdings Pte Ltd, whose roots can be traced back to Malaysia, received a major boost in its challenge to keep up with the market share fight in the taxi booking mobile application market with a US$250mil (RM864mil) investment from Japan’s Softbank Corp.

The investment, which was made through SoftBank Internet and Media, Inc (SIMI), is the largest for GrabTaxi, which is known as MyTeksi in Malaysia.

It is also among the largest, if not the largest, Internet company in South-East Asia.

The company that provides the mobile taxi booking application was founded by Anthony Tan and Hooi Ling Tan, both Harvard Business School graduates, in 2011, according to a statement from the company.

Anthony is the grandson of Tan Sri Tan Yuet Foh, the co-founder of the Tan Chong group of companies.

MyTeksi currently serves 17 cities across six countries in South-East Asia, including Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Through the strategic investment and partnership with MyTeksi, the SoftBank group aims to further build its presence in South-East Asia and maximise synergies with its network of Internet companies around the world.

Nikesh Arora, the vice-chairman of SoftBank Corp and chief executive officer of SIMI, said in a statement that in two years MyTeksi had become the dominant player in South-East Asia’s taxi booking mobile app industry, which is a testament to Anthony’s outstanding leadership.

“We look forward to working with his team and supporting MyTeksi’s further expansion in the region,” he said.

SIMI will become the largest investor in GrabTaxi, Anthony told Bloomberg in an interview in Bangkok yesterday, without providing stake details.

GrabTaxi has raised about US$340mil (RM1.18bil) in the last 14 months, it said in a statement. GrabTaxi’s funding comes as rival Uber is said to be close to raising a round of financing that would give it a valuation of as much as US$40bil (RM138bil).

Ride-hailing apps on smartphones are gaining popularity across the world by providing transportation alternatives, with the investment by SoftBank adding to the 1,300 made by the Tokyo-based technology company.

“We will do whatever it takes to ensure that we maintain our leadership in an ethical and moral way,” Anthony was quoted by Bloomberg. “It’s a fight for market share. We’re many, many times bigger than our closest competitors and we intend to grow that fast.”

GrabTaxi counts Singapore’s Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd backer GGV Capital among its investors.

There were now 500,000 active users who used the app at least once a month, up six-fold from a year earlier, GrabTaxi said. It received about three taxi bookings every second across the region, the company said.

SoftBank, founded by Masayoshi Son in 1981, controls wireless carriers in Japan and the United States, as well as owning the largest stake in Alibaba Group Holding.

In October, the unit of SoftBank said it would lead an investment of US$210mil (RM726mil) in ANI Technologies Pvt, which offers a taxi booking service called Ola Cabs in India.

Uber has been attempting to gain a foothold in the region despite multiple regulatory tangles and already fierce competition.

Within South-East Asia, Uber is said to operate in the same six markets as GrabTaxi, after entering Singapore last year. It does not release operational statistics.

Malaysian and Indonesian authorities have said Uber services that utilise private vehicles are illegal, while Thai authorities last week indicated that they are also banning the service.

Other major taxi apps in South-East Asia include Indonesia’s Blue Bird, regional player EasyTaxi, backed by German start-up incubator Rocket Internet, as well as London-based Hailo, which operates in Singapore.

Taxi-hailing apps have become popular in South-East Asia, especially Singapore, one of the most expensive places in the world to own a private car.

Finding a cab during peak hours and during frequent tropical downpours can be difficult in the city-state, which last month said it planned to start regulating third-party taxi booking services for the first time.

Heavy traffic in cities such as Manila and Jakarta also makes finding taxis tough.

Those troubles are benefiting apps such as GrabTaxi. The apps are seen as revolutionising the taxi industry, which has long been plagued by inefficient cartels and price-gouging drivers.

Source: The Star/Asia News Network

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Endeavouring to give back to startups – part 8 

Startup’s components of a support system, govt incentives, market access – part 5,6,7

 

Endeavouring to give back to startups – part 8


Magic Logo_SmallSuccessful entrepreneurs join forces to fund and support businesses

Malaysia has seen quite a number of successful entrepreneurs coming into the market over the last two decades or so. They have established strong businesses and built up significant wealth and experience.

While any normal person would likely retire and enjoy the fruits of their labour, entrepreneurs have a knack for staying in their jobs.

Not only do they move on to bigger ventures, they also relish the opportunity to invest in other passionate entrepreneurs who have ambitious visions.

Many of these early entrepreneurs have come full circle.

They recall their early days of struggle to get their ideas off the ground, their first successful rounds of funding and remembering how they persevered to grow their startups to become successful companies.

Most of them understand the importance of giving back to the ecosystem.

Angel investors are valuable to the ecosystem not just because they have capital to back startups, but also other experiences that will help to nurture budding entrepreneurs.

sssssss: Afzal Abdul Rahim, Chief Executive Officer - TIME dotComBerhadSome of these entrepreneurs, including Time dotCom Bhd chief executive officer Afzal Abdul Rahim (left picture), Terato Tech founder Reza Fahmi Razali and JobStreet Corp Bhd founder Mark Chang.

After establishing their businesses, they remain actively involved in investing in other people.

Afzal started his entrepreneurial journey in 2006 after he and his partner successfully raised RM20mil to execute a management buyout of AIMS Group.

In 2008, he took over Time and grew it from a penny stock company to a formidable telco solutions provider.

But Afzal is far from done.

Today, he is an active angel investor and currently leads Endeavour Malaysia, the local affiliate of the global non-profit organisation Endeavour.

Under Endeavour Malaysia, Afzal, along with the other board members and partners, provide funds, mentorship and access to networks to help startups scale up and expand.

“As an entrepreneur, I know how important mentorship can be,” Afzal said at the launch of Endeavour Malaysia.

He added that the mentoring network of Endeavour would provide valuable support to Malaysia’s next generation of high-impact entrepreneurs.

Likewise, UnrealMind Interactive Bhd founder Tan Swee Yong sees much value in providing support to the new wave of up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

“I enjoy a startup environment more than a corporate environment. There are plenty of ideas and talent out there.

“It is all about giving them a helping hand,” Tan had said in an earlier interview.

Tan started UnrealMind, a mobile content company, in 2001 with a personal investment of RM300,000.

The company grew regionally, was listed and subsequently privatised by a British company in 2005.

Not one to sit on his profits, Tan has been actively looking out for other startups to invest in and participated in events such as Echelon Malaysia.

Like other angel investors, Tan believes in investing more than just finances into his investee companies and takes an active role in guiding them as well.

There are many other entrepreneurs who are willing to grow other startups.

And most of them are accessible through various angel investor networks, including Malaysian Business Angels Network (MBAN) and through organisations such as MaGiC.

It takes every party to keep the investment and nurturing cycle going in order to establish a strong startup ecosystem.

And successful entrepreneurs who have come full circle certainly have a lot to offer in terms of guiding new startups to greater heights.

This is the eighth instalment of MetroBiz’s tie-up with Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) to explore startup ecosystems.

By Joy Lee The Star/Asia News Network

Oil enters a new era of low prices: Opec vs US shale, impacts, perils as Petronas cuts capex


Petronas_free fall price

Oil Enters New Era as OPEC Faces Off Against Shale; Who Blinks as Price Slides Toward $70?

OPEC’s decision to cede no ground to rival producers underscored the price war in the crude market and the challenge to U.S. shale drillers.

The 12-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries kept its output target unchanged even after the steepest slump in oil prices since the global recession, prompting speculation it has abandoned its role as a swing producer. Yesterday’s decision in Vienna propelled futures to the lowest since 2010, a level that means some shale projects may lose money.

“We are entering a new era for oil prices, where the market itself will manage supply, no longer Saudi Arabia and OPEC,” said Mike Wittner, the head of oil research at Societe Generale SA in New York. “It’s huge. This is a signal that they’re throwing in the towel. The markets have changed for many years to come.”

The fracking boom has driven U.S. output to the highest in three decades, contributing to a global surplus that Venezuela yesterday estimated at 2 million barrels a day, more than the production of five OPEC members.

Demand for the group’s crude will fall every year until 2017 as U.S. supply expands, eroding its share of the global market to the lowest in more than a quarter century, according to the group’s own estimates.

Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg.Floor hands on the Orion Perseus drilling rig near Encinal in Webb County, Texas.

Benchmark Brent crudefell the most in more than three years after OPEC’s decision, sliding 6.7 percent to close at $72.58 a barrel. Futures for January settlement sank to $70.15 today, the lowest close since May 2010. Prices peaked this year at $115.71 in June.

Market Signals

“We will produce 30 million barrels a day for the next 6 months, and we will watch to see how the market behaves,” OPEC Secretary-General Abdalla El-Badri told reporters in Vienna after the meeting. “We are not sending any signals to anybody, we just try to have a fair price.”

OPEC pumped 30.56 million barrels a day in November and has exceeded its current output ceiling in all but four of the 34 months since it was implemented, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. OPEC’s own analysts estimate production was 30.25 million last month, according to a report Nov. 12. Members will abide by the 30 million barrel-a-day target, El-Badri said yesterday.

“OPEC has chosen to abdicate its role as a swing producer, leaving it to the market to decide what the oil price should be,” Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets at BNP Paribas SA in London, said yesterday by phone. “It wouldn’t be surprising if Brent starts testing $70.”

Conventional Producers

Conventional oil producers in OPEC can no longer dictate prices, United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said in an interview in Vienna on Nov. 26. Newcomers to the market who have the highest costs and created the glut should be the ones to determine the price, he said.

“That is what OPEC is hoping for,” Carsten Fritsch, a commodity analyst at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt, said in an e-mail. “It’s the question of who will blink first.”

OPEC may now be prepared to let prices fall to force some drillers with higher production costs to stop pumping, said Julian Lee, an oil strategist who writes for Bloomberg First Word and has worked in the industry for 25 years. That scenario would mark the start of a fourth oil-market era since the end of the 1970s, he said.

Fourth Era

Since the early 2000s, surging demand growth drove up prices allowing companies to apply new extraction techniques and develop deep-water and other costly oil. That ended an era that pervaded since the mid 1980s, which was characterized by low prices and OPEC regaining the market share that it had previously sacrificed in an attempt to preserve high prices, Lee said.

OPEC will face pressure too, with prices now below the level needed by nine member states to balance their budgets, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“They haven’t taken collective action,” Richard Mallinson, an oil analyst at London-based Energy Aspects Ltd., said by phone. “That doesn’t mean they won’t do it in the next few months if prices stay low.”

U.S. Production

U.S. oil production has risen to 9.077 million barrels a day, the highest level in weekly data from the Energy Information Administration going back to 1983. Output will climb to 9.4 million next year, the most since 1972, it forecasts.

Middle Eastern exporters including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq can break even on a cost basis at about $30 a barrel, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. They need more to balance their budgets. Some U.S. producers need more than $80, the consulting firm said in a report last month.

OPEC’s policy will spur a crash in the U.S. shale industry, Leonid Fedun, a vice president and board member at OAO Lukoil, Russia’s second-largest oil producer, said in an interview in London before the group’s decision.

“In 2016, when OPEC completes this objective of cleaning up the American marginal market, the oil price will start growing again,” said Fedun. “The shale boom is on a par with the dot-com boom. The strong players will remain, the weak ones will vanish.”

The share prices of U.S. oil producers including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. fell by at least 4 percent in New York trading today.

No Cut

Igor Sechin, the chief executive officer of OAO Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer, said after a meeting with Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Mexico that his nation wouldn’t need to cut output even if prices fell below $60.

“The question is, what price level will be low enough to slow U.S. production growth?” Torbjoern Kjus, an analyst at DNB ASA, Norway’s biggest bank, said by phone. “What price will get U.S. growth to slow to 500,000 barrels a day from this year’s rate of 1.4 million barrels?”

Only about 4 percent of U.S. shale production needs $80 or more to be profitable, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency. Most production in the Bakken formation, one of the main drivers of shale oil output, remains profitable at or below $42 a barrel, the IEA estimates. The agency expects U.S. supply to rise by almost 1 million barrels a day next year, with increasing flows to international markets.

OPEC has gone “cold turkey” on balancing the oil market, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a report yesterday. Prices may have further to fall until there is evidence of U.S. production slowing, according to the bank. It said last month that oil markets were entering a “new oil order,” with OPEC retreating from its role as a swing producer.

“OPEC’s decision means it is over to you America,” Miswin Mahesh, a London-based commodities analyst at Barclays Plc, said in an e-mail. “This opens the window for the U.S. to be the new swing producer.”

Source: Bloomberg


The perils of cheaper oil

COME Dec 1, Malaysia will enter a new era long desired by the advocates of free market.

The pump price of petrol and diesel at the kiosk will be based on a managed float system depending on global oil prices. This will replace the current system where the Government fixes the price at the pump, a process that involves a huge amount of subsidy.

For years, the Government adopted the fixed price mechanism because it brought about an element of stability.

Unlike most other countries where the price at the pump varies from day to day, Malaysians are used to planning their expenditure based on a fixed price.

Right from a typical consumer to large companies, they all depend on oil or some form of energy to carry out their daily lives or operations. The fixed price has helped in their planning.

But the biggest disadvantage of having a fixed price for oil is that it involves a huge amount of subsidy, especially in an environment where oil prices go beyond what is anticipated by the Government.

Malaysia’s tale of subsidy woes is a subject matter that is often spoken about.

The subsidy bill is estimated at about 14% of the Government’s total operating expenditure of RM271.94bil for next year. The bulk of the RM38bil that has been set aside for next year is to ensure that the fuel cost remains stable.

There is a sales tax of 58 sen per litre on petrol sold at the pump. But the mechanism to collect the tax has not kicked in because the subsidy per litre is much higher than the sales tax.

Beginning July this year, the oil and gas dynamics changed with the United States becoming a large producer, thanks to the shale oil and gas.

The implications of the shale oil and gas on the global economy are huge. It has gone beyond the oil and gas industry. Oil-dependent nations such as Iran, Iraq and Venezuela are in trouble because a low oil price means less revenue and less money to fund their development programmes and, more importantly, to pay off their debts.

Venezuela is high on the list of countries that could seek some reprieve from bondholders because it needs oil price to be more than US$160 per barrel to balance its budget.

The Russian rouble has depreciated by more than 45% against the dollar and state-owned Rosneft has seen its profit almost collapse due to the depreciating currency.

Russia’s problems have exacerbated the slowdown in Germany, the strongest economy in Europe and this has in turn affected the entire eurozone recovery.

As for Asia, the best thing that the low oil prices have brought about is an era of low inflation and allowed some governments to carry out their reforms of energy policies. It has allowed governments to dismantle the subsidy system that has for long artificially kept the cost of production low.

Indonesia removed subsidies last week, a move that was cheered by foreign investors, because the system apparently only benefited a handful of powerful businessmen.

For Malaysia, when global oil prices are less than US$80 per barrel, which is the case now, there is no more subsidy for petrol and diesel sold at the pump. What kicks in is the sales tax of 58 sen per litre.

Come April 1 next year, the sales tax will be replaced with a goods and services tax of 6%. What this means is prices at the pump will be substantially lower than what they are today – provided global oil prices remain at less than US$80 per barrel.

Theoretically, this should translate into Malaysia having a lower cost of production due to cheaper energy prices. When oil prices went up over the past years, wages and all other costs followed suit. When the reverse happens, shouldn’t the cost of production come down?

Unfortunately that is not the case. The US is benefiting from the low energy cost era, at the expense of Asia. In fact, Asia as a whole may be losing out as a result of the steep fall in global energy prices.

Since the 1980s, Asian countries have been the destination for foreign manufacturers from the Europe and the US to relocate their operations because of the cheap cost of labour.

But manufacturers increasingly are paying more attention to destinations with low energy cost. Cheaper cost of energy is seen as an adequate substitute for low wages.

European manufacturers have turned to the US, where the cost of natural gas is one-third that of South-East Asia, to relocate their operations.

BASF, the large German chemical company, is planning to build a US$1.4bil plant in the Gulf Coast, apart from increasing its annual capital expenditure of US$20bil into that country.

An Austrian steel company, Voestalpine, is building a US$500mil facility in Texas to export iron for its steel plants. It will use natural gas to blast the furnace instead of coking coal in Europe.

Previously, these companies would make Asia their destination because of its low cost of production.

The flow of new manufacturing investments to the US is also assisted by the low rise in wages there compared with Asia. According to a report, between 2006 and 2011, Asian wages rose by 5.7% compared with only 0.4% in developed countries.

For decades the big gap in the wage rate increases between Europe, the US and countries such as Malaysia determined the flow of foreign investments. But now that is no longer the case.

Malaysia has to raise productivity or it will lose out on attracting new investments. Low wages alone will not do, especially now when prices of oil and gas resources are in a tailspin.

By M.SHANMUGAM The Star/Asia News Network

 

Petronas cuts capex

PETROLIAM Nasional Bhd’s (Petronas) announcement of its third-quarter results comes at a delicate time, considering that it is being watched by all and sundry.

Petronas president and CEO Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas

Amidst a scenario of a free-fall of oil prices and the politically-charged Umno General Assembly, it comes as no surprise that Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas (pic), the oil major’s president and chief executive, says he has to be “politically correct” in delivering his key message.

At a press conference yesterday, Shamsul also explained that Petronas had waited for the all-important Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) meeting to conclude before addressing the media in Kuala Lumpur.

And rightly so

The 12-member Opec decided on Thursday not to lower its output target, leading to oil prices plunging by a further 8% on Friday, cumulating in an almost 40% dip since mid-June.

The Brent crude oil price is now at US$72.84 per barrel and some forecasters are predicting that oil prices could hit US$60 per barrel.

Petronas itself is now predicting that oil prices could settle at US$70-US$75 next year.

This is a far cry from the US$108 per barrel that Petronas had averaged last year and the US$106 per barrel, which is the average price of the Brent crude for the first nine months of this year.

Shamsul lays out the bare truth on what the falling oil prices would mean for Petronas, the oil and gas (O&G) services industry and the federal government’s coffers:

  • Capital expenditure (capex) on the O&G industry will be cut by between 15% and 20%
  • Petronas’ contribution to Government coffers in the form of dividends, taxes and oil royalty for next year will dive by 37% to RM43bil, assuming the Brent crude settles at US$75 per barrel;
  • Petronas will not proceed with contracts to award new marginal oil fields unless oil settles at levels above US$80 per barrel
  • Projects in Pengerang that have yet to receive the final investment decision (FID) will be affected by the cut-backs. Projects worth US$27bil that have received FID will not be affected, but Petronas does not have 100% equity in all the projects approved.

The capex crunch is expected to send chills down the spine of the already fragile O&G sector, with the stock prices of listed players already haemorrhaging in light of the free-fall of oil prices.Petronas_free fall price

Apart from the 40-odd listed O&G companies, there are close to 4,000 other smaller companies that depend onPetronas for O&G service jobs.“Nearly all depend on Petronas for jobs,” says an official in the O&G industry.

The capex cut by the national oil company is likely to have a negative impact on these companies and runs contrary to what research houses have been projecting.

Global slide

Several research houses have been stating that the Malaysian O&G industry is sheltered from the global slide in crude because Petronas will keep up with its spending of about RM60bil per year.

Taking a jibe at the forecasters, Shamsul says he has been warning of a shake-up in the industry in all his quarterly briefings.

“But nobody wants to listen to me. The worst part is, some of them have been listening to these so-called desk-top analysts who say this cannot happen because Petronas is always there to help them out … dream on.”

Shamsul says it is also reviewing the feasibility of some of its projects and could shelve projects that are no longer viable and for which Petronas has yet to make its FID.

“For the last nine months, we have been telling you guys about the likelihood that oil prices will drop. So the declining oil price is no surprise to us,” says Shamsul.

“But like every international oil company (IOC) out there, declining oil prices will impact us, and as such, we have to review our capex plans for next year onwards, which is also what the IOCs are doing. We have to assess the feasibility of projects,” Shamsul says.

He adds that at current oil price levels, marginal oil fields are no longer feasible for Petronas to get involved in, and warns that companies seeking to get involved in this business are “dreaming”.

When asked what was his message to the service providers seeking to do more work for Petronas, Shamsul said: “I’ve been singing this song for the last nine months, to watch out because things are not going to be that rosy.

“But not many seem to want to listen to me. So, I’ve stopped singing that song. But when they (service providers) get hurt, they will know,” he said.

Clearly, Shamsul is referring to how the sluggish oil price will force it to become more cost-effective in its projects, cancelling some, shelving others and negotiating down the terms of others.

Impact to federal government coffers

Meanwhile, Shamsul also explains that based on the assumption that oil prices average US$75 per barrel for 2015, the state oil firm would be paying the Government about RM43bil in dividends, royalty and taxes.

This would be 37% less than the RM68bil it plans to pay the Government this year.

“The lower dividend and other payout contributions is to ensure Petronas has enough money to replenish the reserves. If we are to maintain the payouts, it will have a significant impact on our growth plans,” says Shamsul.

As such, he says the Government should relook and rebalance its budget planning to adjust to the new level of oil prices.

He also reiterates that Petronas still needs to keep investing in new technology, in overseas projects and increasing its oil reserves in order to maintain its growth, considering that current production levels decline by some 10% every year, naturally.

At present, Petronas produces some two million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

“In five years, if we don’t replenish our production, our production will be down to half of what we have today,” he asserts.

By RISEN JAYASEELAN, NG BEI SHAN The Sunday Starbizweek Nov 29 2014  

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Startup’s components of a support system, govt incentives, market access – part 5, 6, 7


How components of a support system nurture nascent companies – part 5

Startups_IncubatingGeared up: A participants in the 1337 Accelerator programme demonstrating a gaming app, Agent RX — a single player top down stealth game. The app can be used on a desktop and be enhanced with the Oculus. Difference between Accelerator and Incubators: Infographic:  https://infogr.am/infographic-79580 via @infogram

Over the course of grooming startups, the industry has perhaps grown familiar with the terms “incubator” and more recently, “accelerator”.

These organisations, part of the modern support system for new entrepreneurs, have helped startups take shape in their early stages.

In almost all cases, participation in an incubator or accelerator programme has enabled entrepreneurs gain access to resources beyond their own to scale their business. Services such as regulatory and strategic expertise that otherwise may not be available to independent startups become more readily available.

And because of their seemingly similar functions and involvement with early-stage startups, incubators and accelerators are often mistaken to mean the same thing. But they are not.

An incubator is essentially a physical work space that hosts a new business with many other startup companies. Startups are usually allowed to stay in the space as long as they need to and mentorship is typically provided by the incubator or through peers at the facility.

An accelerator programme, on the other hand, is limited to a three- to four-month period intended to accelerate a startups’ business and the kick them out of the nest. Accelerators often make investments in the companies they support and provide a strong network of mentorship. These programmes typically culminate in a “pitch day” for startups to raise more funds from venture capitals.

In Malaysia, both private and government funded incubators have been set up in the Klang Valley over the past few years as the government pushes for the growth of more local entrepreneurs and startups.

But it may come as a surprise to some that there is only one proper accelerator model in Malaysia, known as 1337 Accelerator.

1337, pronounced “leet”, started in March last year with an initial government funding of RM5mil to invest in startups. The programme has two intakes a year where budding tech-entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to join the programme to develop their ideas and take them to market.

“We invest in the best minds in the country. The teams here have to earn their way into the programme. They have to go through a stringent panel to see if they have an investor-worthy idea and can contribute back to the ecosystem,” said Bikesh Lakhmichand, chief executive officer of 1337 Ventures Sdn Bhd.

He explained that accelerators are more mentor-driven and are directly involved with the development of the startup.

According to Bikesh, accelerators are the way of the future for startups, noting that the trend is growing globally to create a more vibrant startup community.

However, incubators, too, have their appeal.

As incubators do not invest in startups, entrepreneurs are able to maintain full ownership and control of their companies while tapping onto facilities provided by the incubators.

Among incubators in Malaysia, many would probably be familiar with Technology Park Malaysia (TPM) and MAD Incubator.

TPM spans some 650 acres of land in Bukit Jalil with total lettable business and incubation space of 725,000sq ft.

Its president and chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Azman Shahidin said the number of companies at TPM has grown to more than 200.

Companies that have been selected for TPM’s incubation programme will be guided through a hand-holding and business coaching programme over a duration of six to 18 months. Here, they will be equipped with knowledge on product development, marketing techniques, R&D and networking.

“Our main role is to accelerate the growth of small businesses. We are here to grow and be the catalyst for these companies. And we have seen some companies here that have grown to become listed companies,” Azman said.

MAD Incubator has also seen good traction with its facilities and had launched its third incubator in Malaysia in the middle of the year.

While different in nature, both incubators and accelerators play an important role in boosting early-stage venture. One model may not necessarily be better than the other. But interested startups should be clear on what they want out of these supporters to get the best out of these facilities

 

Govt incentives for startups - part 6

 

Startups_Govt support

Ample opportunity: Malaysia provides many initiatives to fund startups. Recently Axiata Group Bhd launched Axiata Digital Innovation Fund, a RM100mil venture capital fund, with Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap). Its group president and group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Jamaludin Ibrahim (right) is seen here exchanging document with Mavcap chief executive officer Jamaludin Bujang (left). Looking on are Khazanah Nasional Bhd managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak.

Silicon Valley has long been known as a hub for high-tech innovation. The southern part of the Bay Area is home to many of the world’s largest companies and thousands of startups including Facebook, Google and eBay.

But Silicon Valley was not an overnight success story. It took decades of government funding and support to make it the vibrant tech cluster it is today.

Policymakers play an important role in supporting the growth of a startup ecosystem. Be it in funding research and technologies or in building infrastructure, government help create ideal conditions for innovation and commercialisation.

In Malaysia, the government has announced various initiatives, including financial allocations, over the years to groom entrepreneurship and support the startup ecosystem.

In the Budget 2015 speech, the Prime Minister noted the government’s aspiration to position Malaysia as a choice location for startups in the region.

And among its efforts to achieve this target is the establishment of Malaysian Global Innovation & Creative Centre (MaGIC) to create a more conducive ecosystem for startups.

Financial assistance

One of the most crucial ingredients for the development of startups is funding and several government agencies have been established to dispense pre-seed and seed funding to enable startups to transform ideas into commercially viable products and ventures.

These agencies include not-for-profit organisation Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd and venture capital company Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (MAVCAP), both under the purview of the Finance Ministry.

As a VC, Mavcap makes direct investments with fund size ranging from RM1mil to RM20mil and participates actively in the management and operations of these companies.

Mavcap also invests through its Outsource Partners Programmes, whereby it allocates capital to other VC fund management companies to invest in high-growth businesses.

Cradle offers a maximum seed funding of up to RM500,000 to help technology companies attain commercialisation.

Tax incentives

The government has also introduced tax breaks to encourage private investments in startups as well as promote the setting up of high-tech companies in Malaysia.

For example, the Angel Tax Incentive allows angel investors who have invested in early-stage startups to qualify for tax exemption. This would indirectly see more fund flows to startups and also encourage eligible angels to participate in the ecosystem.

There are incentives for ventures that have obtained MSC Status including a 100% investment tax allowance and duty-free importation of multimedia equipment.

Building skills

Various programmes have also been initiated to build entrepreneurial and technical skills as well as encourage interest among the local community to venture into the startup scene.

MaGIC recently launched its partnership with Stanford University, which, among its programmes, would send entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley for a two-week immersion programme.

The partnership will also see an exchange programme whereby local entrepreneurs will be able to learn from the Stamford faculty on marketing and commercialising their ideas.

Another significant component of the partnership is the “Faculty Train Faculty” Programme where faculty members from 14 local universities will be sent to Stanford over the next three years to help them develop impactful and creative entrepreneurship programs in their respective universities.

Early this year, MDeC announced its MSC Malaysia Startup Accelerator Lite programme to help early-stage ICT startups map out and accelerate their goals.

MDeC is also working with partners such as JFDI Asia, a regional startup accelerator, to help mature and globalise the local startup community.

Government agencies are actively seeking partnerships with startup communities and small and medium companies in other countries to provide local startups with an opportunity to learn from and potentially partner with startups abroad as well as explore other markets.

Market access can be as important as funding for startups – part 7

 

Startups_market access

Sealing the deal: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak with Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd Ceo Jamaludin Bujang (left) and Axiata chief executive officer Datuk Seri Jamaludin Ibrahim at the event announcing the RM100mil Axiata Digital Innovation Fund recently. The fund will focus on helping startups gain access to markets. — Bernamapic

BEYOND just starting a business, a startup company’s main purpose for being is to offer a product or innovation that addresses a problem.

As one investor puts it, a truly innovative product will solve a customer’s problem that has not been solved before.

But one of the challenges of introducing a new product or innovation is that it has not been tried or tested. Naturally, the market may be slow in embracing such an innovation.

Additionally, startups rarely have the capacity or network to tap into new markets to bring their products out.

As such, investing partners, with their strong networks and deep pockets, play an important role in the startup ecosystem by providing the kind of market access needed by startups to reach potential customers.

Corporations, investors and even the government are increasingly recognising this need and are providing platforms for startups to tap into, beyond just early and growth-stage funding.

For example, early last year, Telekom Malaysia, the Multimedia Development Corporation and StartupMalaysia.org collaborated on an accelerator programme focusing on getting startups to market quickly.

More recently, telco giant Axiata Group Bhd and Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap) recently signed an agreement to establish a RM100mil venture capital fund, the Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (ADIF), to help companies with innovative products in the digital-services space markettheir offerings.

ADIF will focus on revenue-generating companies that may still require support to grow in terms of funding, know-how and market access.

Axiata noted that digital-services entrepreneurs will have unprecedented access to regional partnership opportunities among other things, thanks to its extensive market reach of over 13 million customers in Malaysia and over 250 million across Asia.

Given Axiata’s many years of operations in the region, these startups are also able to leverage the telco’s in-depth knowledge of the regional market.

Likewise, Alliance Bank’s SME Innovation Challenge 2014 programme provides participating startups with an opportunity to be coached by corporate titans, a platform to network through, and access to markets.

When new products are launched, startups and their investors concentrate the bulk of their initial efforts on educating the market about what the products offer.

But entrepreneurs understand that having an innovation with little visibility and access to markets does no good.

Startups are now seeing the need for opportunities to tap into existing networks and markets, coaching, exposure and resources, offered by incubation and accelerator programmes.

In other markets where the startup ecosystems are more mature, the private sector and governments have introduced programmes to tackle market-access issues for startups.

These include the US Market Validation Program run by Silicon Valley-based tech accelerator, US Market Access Center, and the Market Access Grant administered by the Irish government to incentivise companies to develop viable and sustainable market entry strategies for new products and markets.

While such efforts have yet to become well established here, different players in the local ecosystem are becoming more aware of the need to provide startups with market access to ensure better chances of success.

By Joy Lee The Star/Asia News Network

■ This is the seventh instalment of MetroBiz’s tie-up with Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) to explore startup ecosystems.

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OOI Boon Sheng, founder and chief executive officer of Web Bytes Sdn Bhd, was fortunate to have found a good

Startups vying for the attention of Venture capitalists (VCs) – part 4


OOI Boon Sheng, founder and chief executive officer of Web Bytes Sdn Bhd, was fortunate to have found a good match in Chok Kwee Bee, managing director of venture capital firm Teak Capital, when he set out to look for a partner to help his retail management services company grow to the next level.

Venture capitalists (VCs) play a unique role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.Magic Logo_Small

They provide startups with funding in exchange for equity in the company. In addition, VCs are often given a say in how the company will operate and grow.

Ultimately, the goal of such partnerships is for VCs to make a profitable exit at a later date either through the sale of their stakes or an initial public offering.

Chok, who sits on the board of Web Bytes following Teak Capital’s investment in the startup, takes an active interest in helping Ooi develop the company’s product.

As Web Bytes grow with the guidance of Chok, so does its value, allowing Teak Capital the chance to make a profitable exit in the future.

Somewhat like angel investors, VCs have a wealth of resources, expertise and network that startups can tap into.

However, VCs tend to fund early-stage startups that have already gained some traction in user base and revenue, but are still new enough to be considered a risky investment for traditional banks and debt funding.

In identifying suitable startups to invest in, VCs are naturally drawn to early-stage companies with technologies that have the potential to generate high returns. Ideally, products developed by these startups are not in overly saturated markets.

VCs also analyse the market to ensure that it is robust enough to support the entry and growth of a startup.

The startup’s management team is also taken into consideration as VCs typically look for a team that is passionate, persistent, experienced, dedicated and organised.

According to Chok, having the right people is as important as having the right idea as the right people would be needed to make the ideas work.

“We have seen more than 1,000 companies since our formation in 2008 and only invested in less than 10, with an average investment of RM2mil to RM3mil.

We look at the team, the product and the market potential,” she said.

Startups are encouraged to build a good working relationship with VCs, not just for the funding element but also because investee companies will be spending a lot of time with mentors from their VC partners.

Many startups, like Web Bytes, have indeed benefited from the active participation of their VC investors. Among Teak Capital’s portfolio of startups, Web Bytes has seen tremendous growth after a year of active mentoring.

But the venture capitalism in Malaysia is still in its early days.

Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap) chief executive officer Jamaludin Bujang noted that while there is an increase in demand for capital, there are only a handful of VCs in the market.

Currently, about 60% of VC funds come from Government sources, with only nine private VC firms in the country.

Jamaludin says VC firms should look at pushing out more Series-A funding. Series-A is the first significant round of funding for startups that have progressed beyond the seed-funding stage and have started generating revenue of between RM200,000 and RM1mil. With things heating up in the local startup scene, both Jamaludin and Chok agree that more needs to be done to encourage more entrants into the field of venture capitalism.

“The startup scene is picking up. And a lot of them are actually going to Singapore for funding. So I think we need more Malaysian VCs in the market,” said Chok.

By Lim Wing Hooi
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Playing angel to startups as some successful Malaysian entrepreneurs made it big – part 2 & 3


How successful entrepreneurs can give back to their younger counterparts

JUST as it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes many different players in an ecosystem to raise a successful startup.

And one of the most valuable players in the startup ecosystem are those who have walked the path of an entrepreneur and succeeded in their own right. These players have a wealth of experience and expertise as well as capital to plough back into other budding startups.

Most times, they invest in the capacity of an angel investor.

By definition, an angel investor is an affluent individual who is willing to invest in a company at its earlier stages in exchange for an ownership stake, often in the form of preferred stock or convertible debt.

They typically fill the gap in startup financing between seed funding, likely provided by friends and family, and formal venture capital funding in later stages once the startup has gained some traction.

Angel investors are usually entrepreneurs themselves and have successfully cashed out of their ventures with deep pockets to spare.

Over the years, scores of entrepreneurs, who have tasted hard-earned success, have increasingly been giving back to the ecosystem by reinvesting their time, money and knowhow into other startups.

Unlike other sources of funding such as government grants and venture capital funds, the angel investors’ involvement in startups is vital given their experience in building successful companies.

This would enable new startups to tap into their network and expertise, giving them a higher chance at succeeding.

As some entrepreneurs note, “one entrepreneur betting on another is a great validation of the idea.”

Some Malaysian entrepreneurs who have made their mark in the startup scene have sowed back into the ecosystem. They include the likes of Azrul Rahim, founder of application launcher for PalmOS, Facer, and Mark Chang, founder of JobStreet. com, who recently expressed interest in backing entrepreneurs from underprivileged backgrounds.

MaGic_Angel Network

Notably, like every investment, there are risks involved when investing in early stage startups.

To recap, startups are experimental by nature and therefore are meant to fail several times before they succeed. As such, it is important that angels understand that a high percentage of the startups they invest in may likely fail.

However, as with other types of investment, angel investors should have a portfolio of high growth startups to invest in. And in that basket of startups, a gem or two will return a big reward.

Take Berjaya Group’s Tan Sri Vincent Tan, for example, who is known to make quite a few bets with budding companies.

While not all of them have been known to be successful investments, Tan certainly uncovered a jewel in MOL, which he bought for US$3.2mil (RM10.5mil) in early 2000s and listed on the Nasdaq this year. He reportedly pocketed a cool US$200mil from the listing exercise.

The government is also increasingly encouraging more early-stage private investment in startups with the introduction of the Angel Tax Incentive, which is administered by a unit within Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd.

Angels who are eligible for the incentive are high net worth individuals with total wealth of more than RM3mil or high income earners with gross annual income of more than RM180,000.

Angel investing is indeed becoming more visible and formalised with the formation of networks that connect entrepreneurs and angels.

Most recently, local entrepreneur-turn-investor Khailee Ng, who co-founded GroupsMore and SAYS. com, was made managing partner at 500Startups. Through the fund, Ng has invested in multiple companies across the region.

The local startup scene can indeed benefit with the involvement of more angel investors. Entrepreneurs who have achieved their milestones should think of investing in the future and giving back to younger entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs who have been there understand the satisfaction of nurturing another venture.

So if you have succeeded with your company, perhaps it is time to consider investing back into the ecosystem by sharing your expertise and resources as angel investors.

Malaysia has more successful tech startups than many people realise

MaGic_MyTekxi

Investor interest: MyTeksi has managed to raise a total of US$90mil in funding over the past 12 months.

Much has been said about this being the best time to launch and grow startups due to the availability of funding, infrastructure and an accommodating environment.

Additionally, mergers and acquisitions suggest that there is much value to be derived from startups. Foreign corporate moves include the US$966mil (RM3.1bil) price tag that Google paid to acquire navigation app Waze and the US$22bil takeover of messaging app Whatsapp by Facebook.

No doubt, many budding entrepreneurs aspire to follow in the footsteps of these successful startups. In a globalised market, the success of startups is not limited to those with connections to or within the vicinity of Silicon Valley.

With the right experimentation and innovation, a startup can succeed even in a risk-averse culture. It is not impossible for startups to grow rapidly and achieve high revenues in a short time.

But budding local entrepreneurs often lament that there are few local heroes to look up to in order to benchmark the ability of the local startup scene in producing successful ventures.

Although they are few and far between and are generally below the radar, there are some local gems that have scaled up very quickly, attaining regional success in just a few years, and have caught the eye of internationalinvestors.

One such company is MyTeksi Sdn Bhd. The Internet-based taxi booking service provider, which was launched in 2012, has already established a strong presence in Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia under the brand GrabTaxi.

The MyTeksi app has reportedly been downloaded onto over 2.1 million mobile devices with more than 400,000 active monthly users in six countries and more than 25,000 taxi drivers registered with the network.

Most notably, the company has managed to raise a total of US$90mil in funding over the past 12 months, counting US-based Tiger Global Management, GGV Capital and Vertex Venture Holdings as some of its investors.

One of the key reasons for MyTeksi’s success, says co-founder Anthony Tan, is its focus on solving a real social problem. In this case, providing an efficient and safe platform to match taxi drivers and passengers.

Another homegrown startup that is shaking up its field is banking solutions company Juris Technologies Sdn Bhd.

When the company was founded in 1997, co-founder and CEO See Wai Hun said its main agenda was to market a data mining system. But See quickly realised that no one was interested in data mining because people were reeling from the shock of the financial crisis.

Thankfully, she was equally quick at spotting an opportunity to create software for bad debt recovery which would help financial institutions manage their workflow with their litigation team.

Juris was set up with the help of an angel investor but See noted that the company eventually bought back its shares within a few years of incorporation. The team has grown from 10 people when it started to a staff strength of 80 today.

Its product range has also expanded from just a component of the debt recovery software to software for debt collection systems, loan origination systems, credit scoring systems, conveyancing and loan documentation systems.

To-date, 11 banks, 900 lawyers, 200 collection agencies and 100 property valuers are using its systems and See is expecting revenue to hit a high of RM30mil this year.

Most recently, Juris joined the ranks of Endeavor Global Inc’s global network of high-impact entrepreneurs, being the second Malaysian company to do so.

The achievement gives Juris access to global investor network and partnerships that will enable the company to scale up for regional expansion.

Malaysia has seen other startups, including the likes of iMoney, Softspace, FashionValet, Piktochart and TextbookAsia, take flight and achieve success in various fields.

Local entrepreneurs can take heart that some of the action does take place on our home ground. It is possible to nurture the local startup ecosystem to provide startups with a good platform to thrive and contribute significantly to the growth of the country.

With the right combination of policy, infrastructure, funding facility and mentoring, the local startup industry could unlock another key growth driver in our economy.


By Joy Lee

 

 

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Brewing a startup – part 1

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