Malaysia has more successful tech startups than many people realise

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.

Malaysia has more successful tech startups than many people realise

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.

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