Three Malaysian early-stage startups have secured more than RM250,000 ($61,000) in equity funding from Digi Accelerate, the maiden acceleration programme by Kuala Lumpur-based Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd.
The startups, including on-demand cooking gas delivery service GrabGas, recreational experiences discovery app Local Usher and market research platform Vase, graduated from the accelerator’s first demo day in Bangkok last week.
Local Usher, launched in August 2015, has grown 10-fold in the last six months, and is already recording positive cash flows, while GrabGas, launched four months ago, has expanded more than 12-fold. Meanwhile, two-month-old Vase has developed its total respondent base by 11-fold in the past three months.
Digi-X, the telco’s innovation lab exploring new digital services, will continue to provide both funding and hands-on support for these startups, enabling them to grow further through commercialisation opportunities with Digi and Telenor, to tap into the 200 million potential customer base globally, said Praveen Rajan, Digi’s chief digital officer and head of Digi-X.
During the Digi Accelerate bootcamp, the three startups spent four months receiving direct mentorship from Silicon Valley experts and regional technopreneurs.
“They have done a lot of work in the past four months to validate their business models, and now the real challenge is to be single-minded on building a repeatable, scalable and sustainable business beyond borders. The ambition should be to build traction and generate revenue in the first year – then they’re on to something potentially big,” said Rajan.
Digi-X was freshly launched in June 2016, running both Digi Accelerate and a pre-accelerator called Digi Incub8, with a hope to broaden its involvement in the startup scene.
Most recently, it launched an ideation lab with MaGIC and Uber to nurture business ideas across ASEAN, in addition to partnering with the local education ministry and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation in an initiative to encourage Malaysian youths to become digital producers.
Digi-X’s main aim is to create new digital businesses that serve Digi’s 12.3 million customers or graduate the startups into new ventures beyond telecommunications. Besides mentorship, the lab may invest and acquire incubated companies.
“The accelerator has helped us build the foundation for our market entry into Thailand and other possible Asian markets. We now have an idea of who to approach and how to make GrabGas a market fit for the locals,” Jeson Lee, co-founder and COO of GrabGas, commented on the programme.
Sabrina Cheng, co-founder of Local Usher, added: “We learned important, practical tips on how to scale our business, and also gained access to a larger customer market. Both aspects are crucial for a startup like us who want enable more people to enjoy fun trips and activities around them, and to expand our business into ASEAN.”