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Melaka Startup Ecosystem (2018) - wait, do we even have one?

by Soon-Aik Chiew

With less than a million population, Melaka is the second smallest state in Malaysia, after Perlis. This historical state city was Asia's most thriving international port between 13th-17th century, attracting merchant vessels from China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Europe, making it the commercial hub as well as cultural melting point between the East and the West. Can Melaka revive its past glory in the modern digital age?

Over the years, people from the startup scene have been asking us:

  • How's the startup ecosystem in Melaka?
  • Is there any startup in Melaka?
  • Is Melaka a good place to startup?

Even Malaccans like me find it hard to give a good answer to these questions, but some recent events below can give us some ideas, and we will cover a bit on the following:

  1. Startups (e-commerce & Online Services)
  2. Universities  / CoWorking Space / Government
  3. Events / Supports

In the past 1 month, Startup Melaka hosted 2 events:

  • equity crowdfunding by pitchIN 
  • Startup Journey In Melaka by Wahdah.my

pitchIN's very first Issuer Preview in Melaka

pitchIN CEO Sam Shafie & CSO Kash (classmate of our Finance Minster Lim Guan Eng in Malacca High School), brought along 6 crowdfunding-ready startups to Melaka. To our surprise, Sam revealed that the first Malaysian company that raised more than RM 3 million via equity crowdfunding is a company based in Melaka named QEOS LED, advanced lighting service provider.

pitchIN is the leading equity crowdfunding platform in Malaysia, and have raised more than RM 20 million funding for startups like Kakitangan.com, RunningMan, BabyDash and more.

These are the 6 startups that came down to Melaka:

'Startup Journey in Melaka' sharing by co-founders of Wahdah.my

CEO Muhd Raden Anwar surprised us with his decision to move to Melaka to startup his company 2 years ago.

According to them, Melaka is not their main customer market, but it is an ideal place to startup mainly because of lower living cost, supply of talents (universities) and friendly neighbourhood. However, it is definitely not the perfect situation when you learn that their office that located at a MSC-status building (K-Economy Incubator) has only 8mbps internet speed. This is also a shared painpoint by many other technopreneurs in Melaka.

About Melaka..

If you're not familiar with Melaka, here's some ideas for you. (If you know Melaka well enough, please skip to the next section).

  • Tourism is huge here! Ever since Melaka received world UNESCO heritage status together with Penang in 2008, the number of inbound tourist increased significantly and had doubled from 7.2 million to 16.8 million inbound tourist in 2017 alone.

  • Some Malaccans, or most of them who live near town are not happy with influx of tourist that caused massive traffic jam during weekend.

  • Melaka is the home for 2 giant local food companies, namely Mamee & Julie's (famous for their peanut butter sandwich & love letters). Yes, you will see 'Mamee' poster everywhere in Melaka, and we even have a "Mamee" museum at Jonker Street.

Mamee welcomes you to Melaka~

'Is there any startup company in Melaka?'

The number one question that we got almost every time when we speak to someone from the startup scene.

Ans: not many that we are aware of. We're sure there are more, as we still slowly discover over time, and here's a few notable online service companies that based in Melaka.

E-Commerce (Fashion)

🚀JelitaSARA - Islamic Fashion Store

Website: www.jelitasara.com

Monthly Site Traffic: 25,000*

Sales Revenue: estimated more than RM 8,000,000 (in 2014)

Office Location: 1 Lagenda

🚀Happy2U - Fashion / Shoes

Website: www.happy2u.my

Monthly Site Traffic: 21,000*

Office Location: Batu Berendam

Highlight: the company is run by a very young female entrepreneur who is still studying in university.

🚀Isois.my - Fashion / Plus Size

Website: www.isois.my

Sales Revenue: more than RM 1,000,000

Office Location: Ayer Keroh

Highlight: Founder Siew Lee shared her entrepreneurial journey in one of Startup Melaka's monthly cafe sharing session.

E-Commerce (Others)

🚀Trapo - Car Accessories

Website: www.trapo.asia/my

Monthly Site Traffic: 40,000*

Office Location: Melaka Raya

🚀Wako - Skin Care & Cosmetic

Website: www.wako.com.my

Office Location:Plaza Semabok

🚀Game Houz - Video Games

Website: www.gamehouz.com

Office Location: Ayer Keroh

Online Service

🚀WAHDAH - Car Rental Platform

Website: www.wahdah.my

Office Location: Ayer Keroh

🚀Lets Go Holiday - Homestay & Small Hotel Booking

Website: www.letsgoholiday.my

Monthly Site Traffic: 60,000*

Office Location: Bukit Beruang

Highlights: Lets Go Holiday is powered by Softinn. Softinn is the first Malaysian company that won Echelon Asia 2016 in Singapore as well as 'Best Startup' award in WIT Japan & North Asia 2017. The Founder JeeShen Lee has been actively supporting startup community in Melaka through mentoring and events.

🚀Delivery Squad - Online Food Delivery

Website: www.deliverysquad.com.my

*Site traffic is measured using Similarweb, it should be noted that site traffic does not equate sales revenue, these companies might be using other channels to generate revenue, for example, social media.

There are also some established companies based in the industrial zones:

  • Batu Berendam Free Trade Zone (Infineon, Texas Instruments)
  • Ayer Keroh Industrial Estate (Mamee, CSC Steel)
  • Cheng Industrial Park (Panasonic)
  • Jasin Industrial Park 
  • Alor Gajah Industrial Estate (SunPower, Honda)

Talking about 'high tech solutions' company in Melaka, iRadar should not be kept 'under the radar'. iRadar has strong research scientist team that provides Smart Sensing solutions (radar, camera, drone) to solve tough industry challenges such as monitoring of environmental quality and agriculture growth.

The CEO of iRadar Prof. Koo will be the next speaker of our monthly sharing session in December. Like our FB page, to keep yourself updated with our event details!

Universities in Melaka:

  • Universiti Teknikal Malaysia (UTEM) - public university [Campus: Durian Tunggal, Bandaraya Melaka]

  • Universiti Technologi MARA (UiTM) - public university [Campus: Alor Gajah, Jasin, Bandaraya Melaka]

  • Multimedia University (MMU) - first private university in Malaysia, with strong link with TM, the nation's largest broadband service provider [Campus: Ayer Keroh]

What's different in 2018 for Melaka? We (finally) have coworking spaces, but what about the occupancy? It's too early to justify now, we will know more in no time.

Co-Working Space:

pitchIN x Startup Melaka at Grind Shack Workspace

pitchIN's event at Grind Shack Workspace

The 'First' initiatives by Melaka Govt

Many Malaccans would be surprised to learn about these initiatives above, they either not aware of them, or not being able to feel the impact.

We can't neglect the great efforts done by them in the past, however, public projects would always bring more benefits to the citizens if the government is willing to switch from their 'top-down' approach to a more citizen-centric method.

Events & Supporters

Before we started to host events and meetups in Melaka, what we had is a just FB group (it reached 700 members today) for people to have discussion and learn from each other.

Organizations like E27 have been supporting the community group by providing discount and free tickets to attend their flagship tech conference in Malaysia and Singapore.

Multimedia University, and EDC (Entrepreneur Development Centre, MMU) supported the first Startup Weekend Melaka event in 2016. It was initiated by few MMU students and lecturer Dr Dennis (who participated and won in Startup Weekend before). In the same year, few talented young Malaccan ladies organized another Startup Weekend event in Melaka with the support of MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre) and YSEALI (Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative).

It's 2018, we're blessed with the support we have within and outside Melaka, for example, our neighbour community Startup Johor.

If you're interested to try starting up in Melaka, come join us at Global Startup Weekend Melaka 2018. We also bring in quality mentors & partners to help you make your ideas happen, especially for travel and smart city related ideas. Any business ideas are welcomed too.

or learn more about the programme details or view FB event page.

'It takes a village to raise a startup'

This is one thing I realized when attended the world's largest startup demo day by SparkLabs in South Korea.

Different stakeholders play a role to facilitate the entrepreneurial and digital development of Melaka. We've observed entrepreneurs moving away from Melaka, as well as entrepreneurs starting up in Melaka. Although some of the companies are based in Melaka, they still have to spend around 50% of the time going to KL to meet clients, and facing difficulty to get businesses here to adopt new or digital solutions.

This year, Startup Melaka hosted sharing session every month featuring Melaka-based startups as well as entrepreneurs and managers from Melaka. Only 3 of the speakers are (still) based in Melaka. One AR Tech company in Melaka was acquired by a big marketing firm, and moved to KL.

We already have supply of talents from universities, but there's more to do: to provide better infrastructure and platform to thrive, to train and equip young talents with right market skills, and to retain them to build up Melaka, just to name a few.

We hope to see a better, greener and smarter Melaka for everyone soon.

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