Malaysia and the Journey to Silicon Jungle

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When writing about tech startups in South East Asia, most of the global press tend to focus their attention on Singapore, the financial capital of the region. But we might be seeing the media spend more ink on Malaysia, thanks to a range of new initiatives in the country’s latest budget. The 2018 budget allocated 1 billion RM specifically for investment in the regions tech startups.

The influx of government funding is not the only thing reinvigoration Malaysia’s startup economy. Other factors have combined to help invigorate the scene in Malaysia. The streamlining of government systems and procedures. New developmental initiatives and ample outreach from organisations like the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), and MaGIC, one of the largest locally based incubators in the South-East Asia region. These are just some of the reasons it’s become extremely convenient and profitable for entrepreneurs to set-up, grow and scale from Malaysia.

Recently the MDEC introduced the Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Programme (MTEP). An initiative backed by the Malaysian government which aims to attract international entrepreneurs and help them establish their start-ups in Malaysia. Thanks to then adoption of the Malaysia evisa for travellers, it’s become easy for anyone to apply from anywhere in the world. The MTEP gives out passes of one or five years to both new and established startups.

The Malaysian ecosystem is built right for global tech startups too. Located within the heart of ASEAN, it acts as a gateway for expanding reach into the South East Asian market. Malaysia also functions as a good test market, it’s larger than Singapore, and has three different national demographics, Chinese, Indian and Malay/Indonesian, which can help give a good sense of potential markets. It also is home to Cyberjaya, the smart startup capital that is encouraging developers of smart technology to roadtest their products in a real city. Smart traffic lights, electric vehicles, and digital signage and the ability to link them all together in one city is a compelling invitation.

The country’s startup culture has also been leading the way when it comes to embracing youth and women. Malaysia has a reputation for young talent, with the increased level of education from millennials, there are ample fresh, young minds eager to get onboard with a project. Malaysia also boasts some of the most successful Asian business women. Entrepreneurs like Sasha Tan, Vivy Yusof and Neelofa have paved the way for the next cohort of women in tech, resulting in a higher number of girls getting involved with launching startups, especially when compared to the numbers we see in Western accelerators.

Thanks to the recent budget announcement highlighting the government’s commitment to the industry, it’s clear Malaysia has reaffirmed its position as a regional hub for tech startups, and a centre for innovation and growth within the South East Asian start-up scene. Malaysia already had the talent, ideas and expertise. Now with the added incentives for venture capitalists to invest they’ve got everything they need to develop the new silicon jungle.

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