The steady uptick we have seen in the past two years have been encouraging but we need more, and more critically, meaningful engagements between corporates and tech startups and not just an exercise in corporate vanity. Done right, they could be a precursor to more significant involvement by corporates, perhaps even in the form of investments which will bode well for the ecosystem;
2. The power of communities
Communities are one of the key intangibles that have driven hot beds of tech entrepreneurship in the US, UK and elsewhere in the world. This needs to be developed consciously and more effectively so we can reap the long-term benefits of self-reliance and sustainability;
3. Less reliance on (Government) grants
A key exception here is the need for (small) grants at the very earliest stages of a tech startup’s development where Government grants are still relevant and should continue. Beyond those early stages, private sector funds either in the form of angel investments or other forms of risk capital should be the leading source of funds. A move in this direction will put Malaysian tech startups on firmer footing earlier and force the ecosystem to embrace both the discipline and rigor required to produce quality across the board;
4. A more robust and diverse angel investor community
While good progress has been achieved since 2015 in this space, the angel investing community is still quite small and lacks diversity thereby limiting its impact. More angels from specialised sectors such as life sciences, women angels and a wider geographical distribution will help boost the startup space tremendously not only from the money they bring but also the expertise, experience and networks that are the hallmarks of this special breed of investor.
5. More open (and connected) communities
A recurring concern I have in my work at Cradle Fund and the Malaysian Business Angel Network (MBAN) is quite simply “Are these the best tech startups in their respective areas? Are there more out there? Who are we missing?” Cradle/MBAN only sees what is on our respective radar screens. I can only imagine the number of tech startups that we don’t see because of the asymmetrical or imperfect nature of information that is available. We really need to work together better, remove boundaries and connect the different communities that exist within the ecosystem today to ensure the best and most innovative startups have the chance to emerge.