[This is a sponsored article with MDEC.]
Coworking spaces have become breeding grounds for technical innovations and a launch pad for many up-and-coming startups.
Given the growing demand for more flexible and customizable workplace options during the pandemic, this industry faces fierce competition to provide the right support or to meet the needs of its customers.
As a result, coworking spaces also need to evolve, and they play an important role as ecosystem enablers to drive the growth of tech companies.
To support the coworking spaces in further promoting technological innovations, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) launched the Malaysia Digital Hub (MDH) initiative to redesign coworking spaces in 2017.
MDEC has been since its inception recognized and certified 20 coworking spaces as MDHs serving nearly 600 local companies, promoting innovation and collaboration. The currently certified MDHs in Malaysia are Sunway iLabs, Common Ground, Dojo KL, the Selangor Digital Creative Center (SDCC), WORQ, Found8 and UnionSPACE.
More than just a space
A Malaysia Digital Hub offers startups the opportunity to expand globally through instant access to high-speed broadband and fiber optic connections, financing and facilitation options, and a technology-driven ecosystem ready for the workforce.
While an MDH encourages participation of all types of technology startups, it mainly focuses on four categories: promoting technology startups through growth programs and initiatives, and providing access to talent builders and investors.
Before a coworking space can be recognized as an MDH under MDEC, it must meet these criteria.
- Equipped with high-speed broadband,
- Promoting a community of startups in their space,
- Connected to important technical anchors in the internet economy that are regionally / globally present,
- Partnership with a talent builder and a coaching / mentoring network,
- Provision of financing options for startups,
- Have a modern and accessible amenity for startups to meet and network.
These standards were set by MDEC to ensure that startups in the hubs receive essential support to accelerate their development.
“The Malaysia Digital Hub initiative was inspired by the Silicon Valley ecosystem. While we understand that we may not be able to recreate Silicon Valley, we can recreate the thinking behind it and bring in the critical elements that make the ecosystem so vibrant and effective. ”
Gopi Ganesalingam, MDEC vice president for global growth acceleration
To better understand how this support is being translated into real-world applications, we spoke to some MDH members to get better insights into how they can benefit startups.
A landing place for global talent
Malaysia is designed to be a hub for top tech talent. Via MDH, startups from abroad could also try to position themselves in the Malaysian market via the Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Pass (MTEP) program.
With the combination of MTEP and MDH, Malaysia can be your home to put your tech startup in a global spotlight with Malaysia as the base for operations.
Via MTEP, the founders can conquer the ASEAN market from Malaysia by spending a year or five years in the country. And through MDH, the hubs can help create opportunities and incentives for tech entrepreneurs.
An MTEP lecture in Dojo KL / Photo credit: Dojo KL
Dewan Ng, the founder of Dojo KL, said programs like MTEP have been of great benefit to the startups. “With the contact to MDEC, it is good for startups to build in Malaysia. The MTEP program speeds up the visa process and makes it clear and easy for companies to get their visa. “
Easy access and connection to financing partners
Financing is often an exhausting process for the startups involved, especially if you don’t have any in-roads. It’s even more difficult now because of the outbreak. Startups can no longer network and meet with potential investors like they used to.
With the certified MDHs, MDEC ensures that the coworking spaces are available connected with a funding partnerThis eases the startup’s request for investment.
For example, VentureGrab, a business matching platform, recognized MDHs MDH and SITEC for their success. At the beginning of the year, VentureGrab successfully raised 500,000 RM via the MyStartr platform, a crowdfunding platform for shares in cooperation with SITEC and MDH.
A group picture from one of the previous Selangor Accelerator programs from SITEC / Image Credit: SITEC
JomRun, an app for people who pursue an active lifestyle, also attributed their growth to MDH and Sunway iLabs. The Sunway iLabs Accelerator Program made JomRun one of the finalists to take home a cash prize of RM 25,000.
During the process, they were also linked with one of their funding partners, NEXEA Angels.
JomRun founder Chang Yi Hern said, “This investment was the stimulant we needed drive our business forward enter other Southeast Asian markets and become the largest sports portal in Malaysia. “
Connect Malaysia’s startup community
If you managed to catch JF Gauthier’s presentation during Malaysia Tech Month, he pointed out that Increase in networking between startups as a key component in creating global startups.
Bridging the gap between startups is a key element that MDH specializes in.
Mecapan, a startup founded in Indonesia, set foot in Malaysia two years ago after receiving the MTEP. Since then, Mecapan has decided to make Malaysia its engineering hub and they are now working from WORQ.
The spacious hot desk areas from WORQ. / Photo credit: WORQ
“WORQ has created a great community for founders to interact and discuss, be it through casual encounters or through their“ campfire meetings ”. That was helpful for us to learn from the analysis, criticism and suggestions of others, ”said Adrian Wisaksana, CTO of Mecapan.
However, when we talk about reach in SEA, not many coworking spaces can keep up with Common Ground from head to toe. Debra, the director of marketing for Common Ground, said they host over 7,000 members in their 22 rooms in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.
Common Ground Eco City / Photo credit: Common Ground
An MDH must be able to utilize its own strengths and offer attractive offers to aspiring tech startups.
In a recent report by Startup Genome, Kuala Lumpur is recognized as the eleventh emerging startup ecosystem in the world. This means that Malaysia is going in the right direction in promoting startups.
Whether you are a local startup or an overseas SME looking to venture and integrate into Malaysia’s ever-growing digital ecosystem, these MDHs provide you with the support and boost to ensure your business is well equipped to succeed.
Malaysia is moving towards Malaysia 5.0, a more people-centered approach, and becoming the ‘Heart of the digital ASEAN‘. MDEC’s role is to Empowering Malaysians with digital skills, enabling digital businesses and promoting digital investments.
- For more information on MDH, click Here.
- Information on MDEC can be found at Here.
Selected image source: WORQ, Common Ground