Malaysia’s startup scene catching up to other ASEAN hubs

The country's entrepreneurial ecosystem is growing fast helped by an injection of venture capital and the success of its neighbours.
By: | November 15, 2019

The big boys of Southeast Asia’s startup scene have always been Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. Now Malaysia has plans to catch up with them.

Unicorns such as Grab (Singapore), Tokopedia ((Indonesia) and VNG (Vietnam) have helped boost the value of Southeast Asia’s internet economy and get more venture capital funds focused on the region. Malaysia is keen to grab a slice of the action.

Malaysia’s internet economy was valued at US$5 billion this year and continues to grow at a healthy 20% to 30% annually, according to the e-Conomy SEA report released by Google and Singapore state investment firm Temasek.

Industry players say Malaysia’s strength is its geographic versatility. Its startups are uniquely positioned to move to places such as Thailand and Indonesia, which have similar economic and infrastructural set-ups.

The Malaysian government has also been playing its part by starting organisations and funds dedicated to supporting startups and entrepreneurs.

One group helping to grow the startup ecosystem in the country is Drinkentrepreneurs Malaysia. Drinkentrepreneurs is a global event held across more than 40 cities around the world. The Malaysian leg is now the largest in the world.

The aim is to bring movers and shakers together in a social setting while helping to support the entrepreneur community.

Co-founder Lingesh Thayala, who started Drinkentrepreneurs Malaysia five years ago, said: “If you have started a business, you definitely know it is an intense journey. Facing this is always easier when you have a community of people that understand you and allows you to have a space to share and talk with fellow entrepreneurs. This is a space that we have created.”