It seems like an exciting time to be a part of the startup ecosystem in Malaysia. In 2016 the total funding in SEA was US$1.61 billion, which was a 43% increase from the previous year and the estimate for 2017 is US$2.6 billion.
1337 Ventures aims to bridge the gap by providing a platform for accelerators and investors looking to invest in a worthy startup.
Out of the 20 teams that were accepted into its pre-accelerator programme, 11 gained entry to the demo day. Around half were at ideation stage with no minimum viable products and the remaining had basic prototypes.
The winning teams that received USD25K (RM108,000) worth of funding, AWS support and mentorship from 1337 Ventures are:
- DobyBox, a 24/7 locker laundry collection service via a mobile app.
- HomeTaste, an online platform for people who enjoy cooking homely, hearty meals for pickup or delivery.
- Bayar, a social mobile wallet that helps to split bills amongst friends and pay through an app.
Bikesh Lakhmichand, founding partner of 1337 Ventures weighed on the programme and on the ecosystem.
“With each batch, the level of applicants are significantly improving. We’re seeing more domain experts attempting to launch products to significantly expand their businesses,” he said. For example, a launderette owner like Elmi from Dobybox, one of the winning teams is attempting to better his existing business and pilot his service in two new locations.
With a core team of four, HomeTaste was created out of love for homecooked food. Win, one of the founders, mentioned that, “HomeTaste brings the food to your doorstep straight from the kitchens of your neighbourhood home chefs”.
Similar to platforms like Dinez-in and PlateCulture, HomeTaste offers an opportunity for those who wish to monetise their passion to cook but do not have the resources to operate out of a brick-and-mortar establishment.
With HomeTaste, these home chefs are then able to do so from home. Win and the team go for what they term as “home visits”, where they conduct a short interview, food tasting and food photography before bringing the home chefs on board.
Win envisions to recruit more home chefs to serve more customers, and to hopefully reach the corners of their target market consisting of working class Chinese individuals. With the additional funding, the team of four’s main goal of creating awareness about the brand could be materialised.
Focusing on content marketing, and on-ground promo, Win aspires to hit RM100k monthly sales. This may be difficult to achieve in the initial stages as there are similar platforms, but with the mentorship that comes with the winning prize and strategic planning, they might have a fighting chance yet.
When asked if Bayar is like Apple Pay with a social media function, co-founder Hannah agrees.
Working like an e-wallet, “Bayar aims to mimic the millennial generation and their habits. People can interact on it as users are able to see where their friends has dined in, with the ability of liking and commenting as well,” co-founder of Bayar, Hannah explained.
Think of it as Apple Pay overlapped with Foursquare.
Now with 100 pledge requests, the team is still looking for pledgers and are hoping to launch the beta app in three months. The team will then be able to monitor the behaviour of the beta users as they would be the key focus group when it comes to feedback and continuous improvement on the app.
“We’ve now recruited a CCO in America to come on board. The funding would be spread out to get developers on the team. It would also be split to fund operations like facilitating transfers through payment gateway, to fund salaries for the employed freelancers, the tech and legal requirements that would be involved in the progress of the app,” said Hannah to Vulcan Post.
On the pre-accelerator programme experience, Hannah recommended it to anyone who is at any stage of their startup. “For example, if one has an idea but don’t really know where to start, Alpha startups could be considered to solidify good ideas,” Hannah said.
Founder of Dobybox, Elmi believes his launderette service can ease the burden that comes with laundry. After his launderette service once had to take a last minute order over a weekend and fulfil it, he had a eureka moment. He thought of a solution of placing lockers that are accessible 24/7 for laundry to be dropped off. Elmi told Vulcan Post that he felt his ideas were validated as he found out that such systems were popular in other countries.
“I thought myself, if I had this issue, perhaps other launderettes are facing the same situation,” reflected Elmi. He took this laundry platform further by collaborating with laundry owners that have their own resources to provide vehicles in 2016. This worked hand in hand with the drop-off and pickup element of the platform.
How Dobybox works:
As of now, Dobybox can be found in Cyberjaya and parts of Kuala Lumpur. With the winnings, Elmi has plans to expand the network of lockers further into Kuala Lumpur, targeting high rise condominiums. He also plans to transform and up the security of the current lockers to be operated on smart locks using IoT technology.
The Winning Formula
So, what do these winning teams have that others do not? Honestly, these ideas are not new. But, as is slowly becoming clear, it’s not really about original ideas anymore. Execution is a lot more important, and Bikesh confirmed that. Speaking about the teams, he told us:
- They were not building products first and then finding problems for it during the bootcamp.
- They had very clear pain-points and opportunities lined up for the products to exist.
- They demonstrated they had the right team to get to the next milestone.
“Sometimes an early stage startup needs connections and access more than money. We’re glad that some of the mentors that dropped by not only gave advice but also helped open doors,” Bikesh said.
As the ecosystem continues to flourish, it seems that anyone who has an idea but don’t quite know how to solidify it would be able to benefit from a platform like 1337 Ventures, who are now focusing on game developing for their next programme.
Feature Image Credit: 1337 Ventures
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