Growing businesses from ideas

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Ezuan Yaacob presenting the business model for Job4LOCUM.Ezuan Yaacob presenting the business model for Job4LOCUM.

If you’ve ever been told to put your money where your mouth is, you would know just how difficult it is to turn an idea – even a good one – into reality; what more make it a success. This is doubly true when you don’t have the money or experience to run a business based on it. Investors may be keen on your idea, but you need to prove that it is a viable business venture. “Come back to us in a year and show us proof,” they say as they shut their door on you.

One company that may be willing to take a chance on you, and even help turn your ideas into a viable business is Infinite Ventures, a venture building accelerator that provides funding as well as hands-on operational guidance to help initiate, co-create and ramp up start-ups.

Its formula is simple – “Idea is pushed to materialisation through relentless execution,” said one of its founding partners, Joshep Lee.

“I believe that currently we are the only one in Malaysia who is investing in the ideas of entrepreneurs of early stage start-ups.”

Infinite Ventures is a story of a bunch of highly motivated young people with extensive experience with start-ups and online platform overseas, who now want to make a difference in the start-up scene in Malaysia.

These young entrepreneurs have managed to get the support and backing of Cyberview Sdn Bhd and are currently managing Cyberview’s Living Lab Accelerator Programme (CLLA) – aimed at accelerating the growth of innovative start-ups that would both meet and create market demands.

With the backing of Cyberview and other partners, Infinite Venture functions as a venture building accelerator that provides pre-seed to seed funding and hands-on operational guidance to help initiate, co-create and accelerate start-ups.

joshep“Our primary goal is to create high-growth start-ups in key sectors such as on-demand services, fintech (financial technology) and e-commerce/online marketplaces,” said Lee (pic).

The company’s website itself is a platform that is designed to bring together entrepreneurs and investors. Those with ideas that the founders believe are viable business ventures can submit their ideas and apply to be part of the accelerator programme.

“We also go through innovative ideas as well as start-up trends overseas. Out of countless ideas and trends out there, we narrow them down to the top 30 using a specially built in-house algorithm. The top 30 would be ideas that would theoretically be viable here if executed well.

“We would then evaluate the qualitative nature of these ideas by getting the input from members of our informal investment committee comprising experienced industry players, venture capitalist, private equities, investment banks and existing start-up. This is usually done in an informal way through chats and more often than not, these seasoned investors and businessmen would be able to provide valuable insights on the viability of these ideas in the Malaysian environment.”

The 30 ideas would then be narrowed down to 10 that are considered highly workable in the Malaysian context and these ideas are then pitched to various start-up communities, said Lee.

The company takes on 10 start-ups – five for each batch, which will be placed under the CLLA-IV programme. Here, the company not only pumps in investments ranging from RM60,000 to RM100,000, but provides facilitation and mentorship for accelerated growth. Infinite Ventures takes up 8 to 10 % of equity in these start-ups.

At the lab during the acceleration programme, the start-ups will be introduced to industry and functional experts, who will guide them in building their business models, technology platforms like website and mobile apps, as well as financing, marketing, operations and logistics.

“Funding of RM60,000 to 100,000 is more than enough for start-ups to achieve product market fit in five months. If the start-up has found the product market fit, we would then want to scale up and look at sales traffic, website traffic as well as market expansion.

“This is when we invite later stage investors or follow on investors both locally and regionally to our Demo Day, which will be a pitching session for the five start-ups in that batch,” said Lee.

The most recent Demo Day was on Dec 15 in Petaling Jaya and featured five new start-ups pitching their ideas and business models. The five are Local Ushers, which provides a platform that brings together people who are looking for different recreational experience and service providers offering something different; PantryExpress – a online and mobile platform which offers to deliver daily necessities to the doorsteps of homes and offices; A&B Concierge, which provides homes  on demand concierge service for anything from cleaning to delivering mails; weSTYLEasia – a platform that connects salons, beauty parlours and wellness centres to customers, providing customers a range of choices and a seamless process from scheduling to payments; and Job4Locum – an automated locum matching service that connects medical institutions to locums via structured scheduling.

“During our inaugural Demo Day in July, the first batch of five start-ups under the CLLA-IV programme successfully raised about RM2.15 million (US$566,000) in letters of intention to invest,” said Lee.

The start-up scene in Malaysia has moved from its fledgling stage to become more vibrant due to numerous government initiatives such as Malaysia Venture Capital Management Berhad or MavCap, Cradle Fund, MSC status for start-ups and Malaysia Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC)  as well as numerous accelerator programmes apart from CLLA-IV, including the MaGIC Accelerator Programmes, Tune Labs Accelerator and Watch Tower and Friends Accelerator.

“There is a pull and push factor in the development of start-ups in Malaysia – while we have success stories that have pushed boundaries, there is also the need to pull early stage or less developed start-ups. With the backing of Cyberview, we are laying the groundwork for more success stories by relentlessly pushing for the growth of early stage start-ups, which can be rather challenging,” said Lee.

“Malaysia being a diverse market is a suitable incubation nation for start-ups and we also see a burgeoning venture capital scene here, with more international ones taking an interest in our start-ups.”

With so many willing hands ready to help, fledgling Malaysian innovators are certainly primed to soar.

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