More Sabahan startups urged to showcase themselves


Norman (seated, third left) with the participants and winners of the Kinabalu Startup Bootcamp.

KOTA KINABALU (March 10): More Sabahan startups should take the opportunities available to them to hopefully inspire fellow companies here to develop the state’s startup ecosystem together.

Group chief executive officer of Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd (Cradle), Norman Matthieu Vanhaecke, said for example, there are a number of Sabah-based startups it has financially supported through various efforts such as their CIP SPRINT grants as well other initiatives under the MYStartup programme.

He said since Cradle first stepped foot in Sabah in 2022 to start the Malaysia Startup Ecosystem Roadmap (SUPER) and MYStartup, the number of startups that registered with its national portal has nearly doubled today, attributed to the continuous efforts by the Federal and State Governments to give birth to more startups from Sabah.

“So I think we need to encourage more Sabahan startups to actually take the opportunities that are available out there to showcase themselves, and hopefully it will be an inspiration for other Sabahan startups to come together to develop the Sabah ecosystem,” he told reporters after closing the Cradle Open Day at Wisma Bandaraya here on Saturday.

Norman said Cradle as a Federal Government agency under the purview of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) is looking forward to developing the startup ecosystem in Malaysia, with the objective of placing the country in the top 20 global startup ecosystem.

He said it is important that the development of the said ecosystem is more inclusive, not just in Klang Valley but throughout the whole country, and with its local ecosystem partner Sabah Creative Economy and Innovation Centre (SCENIC), it has been working hard to help develop the ecosystem in Sabah.

“Last year we held a micro-conference, MYStartup NXT, while this year the Kinabalu Startup Bootcamp to empower Sabah’s tech startups. And moving forward, we will plan more ecosystem building activities in Sabah,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Kinabalu Startup Bootcamp concluded successfully with the participation of around 60 enthusiastic individuals, marking a significant milestone in Sabah’s entrepreneurial landscape.

It was organised by SCENIC in collaboration with MYStartup and with support from Cradle and the State Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (KSTI) from March 7 to 9 at the Digital and IoT Sandbox Sabah.

This annual programme, aimed at fostering the growth of tech-related startups in Sabah, is part of SCENIC’s ongoing initiatives in collaboration with stakeholders like Cradle.

The organisation encourages tech startups in Sabah to develop solutions that address real-world problems, often requiring disruptive and groundbreaking technological solutions.

Over three days, the participants engaged in workshops, pitching sessions, and networking opportunities to elevate their business ideas to the next level.

They were immersed in workshops and mentorship sessions throughout the bootcamp, delving into topics such as market dynamics, differentiation from competitors, and navigating Malaysia’s burgeoning startup landscape.

Additionally, they identified challenges, devised innovative solutions, and gained insights into team management, crafting compelling presentations, and securing funding.

This rigorous programme was designed to give participants the essential skills and resources needed to excel in the startup environment.

The highlight of the event was the announcement of its outstanding startup winners: Rare is Real, a company that is creating an integrated culture system, Reviewbah, a dedicated platform committed to providing an open and reliable space for reviews, seamlessly integrated with social media and AgroDaya, a social marketplace that helps modern farmers.

These three innovative ventures were recognized for their groundbreaking ideas during the event.

Each winner was awarded a prestigious cash prize of RM2,500 funded by Cradle, in recognition of their innovative ideas.

Datuk Mohd Hanafiah Mohd Kassim, the Permanent Secretary of KSTI, highlighted the consistent support by the ministry to startups through SCENIC.

“As an agency under the ministry, SCENIC organises courses designed to enhance the growth and ultimate success of startups.

“In a significant development, KSTI launched Digital and IoT Sandbox on December 22, 2022. This launch highlights KSTI’s dedication to fostering innovation and technological advancement in Sabah.

“Additionally, KSTI offers facilities, exemplified by the IoT Sandbox Digital Center located in Wisma Bandaraya. The sandbox serves as a pivotal platform for innovators and startups, providing a conducive environment to create and test the feasibility of their products and technologies,” he said when closing the bootcamp at Wisma Bandaraya here on Saturday.

His text speech was read by KSTI Deputy Permanent Secretary II Syahrin Samsir.

Mohd Hanafiah said the holistic approach by KSTI reaffirms its role in empowering startups and contributing to the dynamic growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sabah.

He said these initiatives cannot remain where they are and need continuous planning, and what is in the pipeline of the Sandbox concept will be widened throughout the state to enable more participants to join and provide convenience for them to access this programme.

“We have currently some 31 facilities statewide known as e-Desa which was launched in early 2004 to bring internet to rural areas. It needs enhancement and advancement so it can be utilized fully.

“More importantly is bringing the sandbox to the rural areas where more talents can be discovered and along with that to save them traveling money coming to central Kota Kinabalu. This intention is currently under careful planning and has been indicated to SCENIC and MRanti,” he said.

Norman said it stands committed to fostering a globalised, high-performing, inclusive, and sustainable startup ecosystem for the country, driven by its MYStartup initiative.

He said this commitment extends across the country, including Sabah, where it anticipates in collaborations with esteemed ecosystem partners, including SCENIC and KSTI.

“Our dedication is reflected through the ongoing initiatives focused on nurturing the growth of impactful startups through diverse engagements within the ecosystem.

“This steadfast commitment aligns with the national objective of positioning Malaysia among the top 20 global startup ecosystems,” he said.

Viviantie Sarjuni, chief executive officer of SCENIC, said the Kinabalu Startup Bootcamp offers more than just an avenue for tech startup in Sabah to refine their business ideas and solutions.

She said it provides an opportunity to network with fellow founders, investors, corporates and universities, fostering the nurturing of relevant ideas within the digital and IoT sandbox.

“Capacity building and funding are the two most common challenges voiced by our startups in Sabah. There is a clear need for more programmes organised locally, as travelling to Kuala Lumpur is not only logistically challenging but also financially burdensome.

“This is the driving force behind SCENIC’s inception to organise more programmes in Sabah, akin to the successful collaboration with Cradle fostering the growth of our startups and equipping them for funding opportunities,” she said.

In an era where entrepreneurship is gaining momentum as a driving force for economic development, initiatives like the Kinabalu Startup Bootcamp play a crucial role in shaping the entrepreneurial landscape.

By providing a platform for budding entrepreneurs to hone their skills, connect with industry experts, and refine their business ideas, the bootcamp has become a catalyst for positive change in the Sabah business ecosystem.

The success stories emerging from this program signal a positive shift, indicating a promising future for the region’s business community.