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Has the COVID-19 pandemic fuelled Malaysia’s start-up ecosystem?

Has the COVID-19 pandemic fuelled Malaysia’s start-up ecosystem?
It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global businesses, from transportation and logistics to education and healthcare.

Despite business disruptions, globally there was a surge of new ideas and young start-ups who adapted quickly to the pandemic and found themselves in the mainstream marketplace in a very short span of time.

The United States, United Kingdom and Japan reported that new business registrations increased by 95%, 30% and 14% respectively in 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019. The number of start-ups in the technology industry grew by 20% compared to 2019, with growth rates peaking in the last quarter of 2020.

A similar trend can also be seen in Malaysia where new businesses are starting to emerge across various sectors including F&B, logistics, e-commerce, mental health, healthcare, and fintech, as a result of the pandemic.

The need for entrepreneurs and start-ups to build resilient economies
The global pandemic is a call for Malaysian entrepreneurs and start-ups to innovate and accelerate their businesses both in the tech and non-tech space.

One key benefit that start-ups hold, especially during times of rapid change, is the speed of adaptability and scalability, an area where conventional business models might be redundant. The lean organisation of start-ups enables them to pivot quickly, as faster and easier decision making allows for speed in processes and production. This gives them an added advantage to ensure business continuity.

In the current climate, where unemployment is on the rise, start-ups also hold the key to job creation and upskilling of the workforce. This is especially important for Malaysia as we move forward with the government’s MyDigital initiative that emphasises digital transformation and the adoption of the digital economy to become a high income nation.

In addition to economic and technology growth, start-ups foster a strong feeling of community. There is a positive and supportive culture in the local start-up scene, where information, networks and resources are shared, promoting equal growth opportunities for all. As we move into the post pandemic era, this sense of community allows for faster business growth, more adaptability and a positive work culture that contributes to building to better economic gains.

Creating the right ecosystem for local start-ups
One way to ensure business continuity for start-ups could be via business accelerators and exposure to funding opportunities at the early launch stages. In today’s climate where investors are more risk averse, business accelerators can assist start-ups and SMEs to build their capability through financial support, grants and access to industry advisors, helping to convert viable ideas into sustainable enterprises.

The role of mentorship and coaching is also often underestimated in the success of a start-up. Industry mentors and business coaches can give entrepreneurs the right guidance in formulating business strategies, understanding local and international market landscapes and forming the right partnerships, giving them a fresh perspective to address impending issues.

As the pandemic has rightly shown, building relevant skills and working with the right talents is ever so critical for the entrepreneur of today. Building talent development programmes that impart skills like machine learning, coding, digital marketing, fintech is another way to support aspirational start-ups to build the right teams to achieve their business goals.

Encouraging entrepreneurship at all levels
Considering the role that start-ups and entrepreneurs play in the country’s technology and economic growth, the entrepreneurial mindset needs to be nurtured at all levels, whether the start-up originates from a professional with a decade of experience or graduates who are just finishing university.

For instance, at Taylor’s University BizPod, we encounter student projects who have potential to become viable businesses. With BizPod, we want to bring that start-up culture to the campus and give students a head start into their own entrepreneurial journeys.

To nurture student ideas further, the university has developed an ecosystem where students can learn practical skills, gain business knowledge and have exposure to venture capitalists at the undergraduate level itself. For example, the Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace allows students to put their design skills to the test and innovate outside of the classroom. We also have partnerships with platforms like FutureLabs, where students can seek out mentorship opportunities with industry professionals. At BizPod, we also provide students an exposure to venture capitalists and investors to scale their business ideas further.

In fact, we are already seeing some of our graduate projects turning into successful enterprises within various sectors like technology and sustainability, which further highlights the benefits a right ecosystem can have for our local entrepreneurs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global economies quite extensively. That said, it has also opened doors for further innovation, giving birth to new ventures. As we move in a post-pandemic recovery phase, these ideas and innovations will form the backbone of the direction of growth we take as country in terms of technology, talent and revenue.

This article is attributed to Jessie Chong, Director of BizPod, Taylor’s University