KUCHING: One cannot deny the robustness seen in Malaysia’s start-up ecosystem, currently thriving with the backing of incubators, accelerators, entrepreneur communities, and more importantly, funding programmes offered by various institutions in the country.
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor noted in its 2013 report that Malaysia is among the few economies in the Asia Pacific and South Asia region – where finance and physical infrastructure to support entrepreneurship – are widely available.
The study has however found that despite such positive factors, the country’s total early stage entrepreneurial activity rate (TEA) is the second lowest in the region, with only Japan having a lower rate.
This clearly needs to change, specialists observe, especially with the finance opportunities and support provided by the government and insitutions nationwide to help empower entrepreneurs and set them on the path to success.
According to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the recent launch of Gathering of Rising Entrepreneurs, Act Together (GREAT) 2016 in Kuching, the country needs creative and innovative entrepreneurs to help push the country to become a high income developed nation by 2020.
He went on to say that the nation needed a new generation of people who could create jobs and wealth.
“If we are successful entrepreneurs, we create jobs and wealth for ourselves and nation. What we want are not entrepreneurs that are stereotypes. We want entrepreneurs that are creative and innovative,” he said.
Besides thinking carefully and acquiring the right skills and knowledge, Najib said entrepreneurs must also have the passion to succeed.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) chairman Tan Sri Dr Irwan Serigar Abdullah highlighted in MaGIC’s website that in order to foster sustainable economic growth and social impact, job creators and innovators play an important role in impacting their communities and inspire people to take the path less traveled.
“Malaysia has produced many successful entrepreneurs and we applaud their tenacity, passion and drive.
“As with anything to be sustainable, we need to continue investing in quality education and instil awareness to cultivate the entrepreneurial DNA of the future generations,” he said.
One such scheme which is invested in encouraging and empowering entrepreneurs via financial assistance is the Bumiputera Entrepreneurs Startup Scheme (Superb) – an initiative from the Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (Teraju) – which is a RM100 million grant fund allocated to finance Bumiputera entrepreneurs and startup companies to commercialise their proudcts and take their business to the next level.
Launched in 2014, Superb’s funding of RM100 million is to be distributed over three years and 200 businesses were expected to be funded during the initial implementation period.
With Superb opening up opportunities for those without academic qualifications but with creative and innovative business ideas, Teraju chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Husni Salleh said the scheme aims to uncover young talents through business pitch competitions, with about 100 winners so far given grants of RM500,000.
Husni noted that over 5,000 Bumiputera entrepreneurs nationwide have joined the Superb scheme, which this year will provide RM20 million in grants to at least 40 start-up entrepreneurs.
BizHive Weekly takes a look at the two winners from Sarawak and what to expect from the Superb programme this year.
Superb winners from Sarawak
Akhmal Buanie: Innovative tech for charcoal production
Akhmal Buanie was the first Sarawakian contestant to win over the panel in the fourth series of Superb in 2014 with his invention called the Biochar Pyrolysis.
Akhmal was one of 26 winners of Superb grants in the third and fourth phases that won a total of RM13 million – each taking RM500,000.
Titled ‘Biochar Pyrolysis – Innovated Technology For Charcoal Production’, Akhmal’s project involved the production of Biochar from industrial residues or other Biomass Energy sources using Pyrolysis Technology.
“As you know, Superb programme is a programme which provides initial capital to start up new and innovative businesses for Bumiputera youth who have new innovative business ideas which could be introduced or even be a hit in today’s market.
“I believed that I have a few new and innovative business ideas that I can bet on in the Superb programme.
“For that programme, I offered Superb my latest innovation, ‘Biochar Pyrolysis’ – Innovated Technology For Charcoal Production,” Akhmal said to BizHive Weekly.
Biochar Pyrolysis, he explained, is a technology that will improve and reduce the production cost of producing charcoal to as much as 60 per cent of the current cost using the traditional technology, a method which is still widely used by charcoal producers in Malaysia.
“The pyrolysis system that we adopted for the charcoal production will also produce better and cleaner charcoal compared to the traditional method,” he said, adding that the system is also environmental friendly as there is no smoke produced in the process.
Akhmal believes charcoal production will be more cost efferctive with better quality products while at the same time, the industry will be a green industry for the country if all charcoal producers adopted his technology.
On the progress and development of Biochar Pyrolysis, Akhmal shared that they have just completed their design and planning stage.
“We have rented a factory in Sejingkat Industrial Area for our future operation,” he enthused. “We will very soon start fabricating our own design (of) relevent machineries.”
With the funding from Superb, Akhmal is confident that they will surely be able to have a modern charcoal production factory capable of producing various types of charcoal/biochar products in the range of 10 metric tonnes (mt) per day.
“We hope to go further downstream, producing activated carbon and carbon-related products in the future,” he added.
Akhmal had advice to impart on those aspiring entrepreneurs looking to join the Superb programmes which is simply to “understand and know your product well.”
At the same time, participants are also advised to expand their knowledge base, gathering more information from whatever relevant resources they can think of.
As for those who believe that Akhmal can be of help to them and would like for him share his experience in Superb with them, he stresses that he is willing to do so and is always available to them in that regard.
Roderick Rentap Robert: VR computer, smartphone based training systems
It did not take long for another winner to emerge from Sarawak in the first series of Superb for 2015, with Roderick Rentap Robert of ASiA Consultants and Training Services Sdn Bhd (ASiA Consultants and Training Services) obtaining the funds for their ‘Virtual Reality Computer and Smartphone Based Training Systems’ project.
Roderick told BizHive Weekly that in the beginning, when they were looking for ways to fund their project, they decided to start their search for a solution on the internet.
“That was when we encountered a Superb video presentation on Youtube which led us to the actual website for Teraju,” he recalled.
“After much consideration and comparison with other funding programmes (we reviewed almost all available alternatives offered locally), we found that the Superb program suits us best.”
Roderick explained that they found Superb the most suitable funding program in terms of entry criteria and most importantly, the programs offered by Superb which included boot camp, coaching sessions, and others.
Roderick’s project, Virtual Reality Computer and Smartphone Based Training Systems, basically aims to provide training and consultancy services for skill, occupational safety and health by using a Virtual Reality computerbased training.
This will reduce the cost of training by allowing the participants to be taught by computers with the trainers guiding theinteraction between the participants and computer.
The training system will also make it cheaper, faster and easier for participants to be trained and assessed.
“Our ‘Computer based Simulation Training System’ focuses on enhancing the traditional classroom training delivery (Trainer and Trainees interaction) for industrial skill training by incorporating Gesture Control Technology into the training,” Roderick said.
“Through this technology, trainees will be able to participate actively in a virtual simulated training environment hence making the training more interactive and for the purpose to improve the memory retention of the participants/trainees.”
According to Roderick, the application of this new training approach is not just limited to the industrial skills training sector but it can be applied to other sectors such as education, tourism and others.
“After several rounds of successful Alpha testing, we managed to reduce the training duration by almost half while still preserving the actual contents of the training syllabus.
“By effectively conducting the training in almost half of the duration taken to conduct it in the traditional way, we will be able to reduce the cost of the training making it more affordable for the trainee and more profitable for us as the training provider,” he added.
Roderick revealed that they expect to achieve the same result for their future customers and possible future business partners.
To date, ASiA Consultants & Training Services has completed its first ‘Computer Based Simulation Training System for Rigging and Slinging Course’ with minor adjustment left before it can officially launch the product for Beta testing latest by the third quarter (3Q) this year.
“We are also working on a few new training modules such as ‘Confined Space Training and Scaffolding Training’,” he said.
Roderick highlighted that winning the Superb grant gave them the opportunity to accelerate their execution plans.
“We hope to be able to start marketing our ‘Computer based Simulation Training System’ after successfully proving the effectiveness of the system through Beta testing in 3Q this year,” he said.
On a last note, Roderick shared with BizHive Weekly his experiences from participating in the Superb programme.
“Personally, I can say that the Superb Programme had helped me a lot in terms of understanding the true nature of entrepreneurship.
“The coaches were really supportive in guiding us (the Superb participants) to develop the perfect business pitch in order to convince the panels or any other potential investors.
“To all aspiring entrepreneurs out there, it would be a great loss to miss out on the opportunity to learn from the best and also the opportunity to elevate your business ideas to the next level,” Roderick advised.
Superb the perfect platform to discover entrepreneurs with great ideas
Teraju’s initiative Superb has now entered its second year of helping Bumiputera entrepreneurs realise their dreams, with a grant up of to RM500,000 for business startups or individuals.
“We have seen the quality of business ideas getting better with each series. Therefore, our screening standards has to be set higher,” the unit said.
To date, Teraju has been successful in encouraging the right pool of talent who are creative and innovative to surface and push forward their business ideas.
Teraju highlighted that Superb is the perfect platform to find Bumiputera entrepreneurs with great ideas.
“We are looking for competent and confident entrepreneurs with potential, and we help provide capital to start their business or for the businesses to grow.
“We hope to encourage more young entrepreneurs to participate in Superb especially entrepreneurs from Sabah and Sarawak,” the unit added.
According to Teraju, it collaborates and ensures that the Bumiputera Economic Agenda is being carried out through collaborations with various parties and by applying the concept of leverage and multiplying effect in all its programmes.
“Teraju aims to create a sustainable Bumiputera entrepreneurial ecosystem where we support entrepreneurs at each cycle; when they are starting up, growing and eventually expanding,” the unit said.
Teraju believes that through its second year, Superb has been able to bring forward quality, creative and innovative Bumiputera entrepreneurs and expose them to the real entrepreneurial world.
This, the unit pointed out, is achieved through Superb’s interesting format of coaching and mentoring, elevator pitching as well as exposure to experienced industry panellists and successful entrepreneurs.
For Superb 2016, there will be no BizPitch Road Tour as Teraju took into account the fact that it was difficult for applicants to take time off and attend the road tour location at the stipulated time.
Applicants now need to upload two-minute videos of their business pitching when they apply online.
These videos will be used to further fine tune the selection process; ensuring only the best and unique business ideas will be advancing to the final stage.
These selected finalists will then go through a one-day boot camp of coaching and mentoring to further polish up their business ideas’ proposals and elevator pitching skills before battling it out on the Finals.
“We will continue to organize engagement programmes to further encourage Bumiputera entrepreneurs to participate and to produce more creative and innovative business in line with the Bumiputera Economic Transformation Plan,” Teraju said.
As mentioned earlier, Superb is a merit-based business challenge where participants are given a chance to shine through their business ideas based on standards set by Teraju.
Teraju stressed that many Bumiputera talents have the drive to venture into new business opportunities and Superb provides a platform to further inspire, explore their capabilities and test their skills.
“Superb is the perfect platform for Bumiputera entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas and businesses potential.
“We look for such competent and confident entrepreneurs, to help provide capital for the businesses to grow.
“We hope to encourage more young entrepreneurs to participate in Superb especially entrepreneurs from Sabah and Sarawak in line with the ultimate objective of wealth creation for Bumiputeras,” Teraju concluded.