10 Interesting Startups from Malaysia's Magic Accelerator

Malaysia’s MaGIC Accelerator Program (MAP) held its demo day this week where 50 startups from across Southeast Asia showcased their business ideas to investors and the media for the first time. It was the region’s largest D-day so far, having gathered over 150 investors in one room.

What was striking about the event wasn’t just that it was huge. It was that you could see how everyone was eagerly looking forward to the startups – as the first presenter took the stage, people were ready with their pens and notebooks, all eyes and ears. Perhaps this is because the accelerator program is unusual in that it focuses on creating regional startups.

"This program was modelled after Chile," said MaGIC CEO Cheryl Yeoh. "We didn’t want to copy what Silicon Valley is doing. Chile is like Malaysia, traditionally dependent on natural resources. It is in the midst of Latin America, just as Malaysia is in the midst of Southeast Asia. We wanted to play the regional aspect of it."

Magic CEO
MaGIC CEO Cheryl Yeoh gives her opening remarks at the MAP demo day.

"And what we learned from Chile is when they opened up their borders, the local entrepreneurs learned from the most successful entrepreneurs overseas, who came to Chile to found companies," she continued. "The cultural mingling and connections really raised the profile of local entrepreneurs. That’s the one, single lesson: if we want to up the game, we can’t just be creating a program for Malaysian entrepreneurs, we want a global program [that] puts Malaysia on the map."

Plucked out of a pool of over 600 applications from over 25 countries globally, the 50 startups that presented on Monday are targeting the Southeast Asian market of 650 million people.

The startup teams spent the last four months at the MaGIC Campus in Malaysia’s tech hub Cyberjaya, where they underwent rigorous mentoring and training to build and grow their products and make them investment-ready.

By demo day, Cheryl said most of the startups have seen significant growth, with some recording revenue in excess of US$3 million per year. Close to 20 percent of them have also raised funding, exceeding expectations.

After talking to a lot of investors in attendance, we’ve picked out our favorites in this first batch of MAP startups. It was tough since all of them are promising, but here’s our list (in no particular order):

BloomThis

Whether you want to surprise a loved one or simply design your home or workplace with flowers, BloomThis is your wingman.

The Malaysian startup wants to change the whole experience of sending and receiving flowers. It delivers specially handpicked flowers in a bespoke box with an element of surprise every Thursday. You will only know the flowers of the week the moment you unbox them.

Why Thursday? BloomThis founder Giden Lem said most of the imported flowers arrive in Malaysia on Wednesdays. Doing the deliveries the next day guarantees that the flowers will last three times longer than if they had been stored in a shop.

You may choose to get a one-off delivery or subscribe to weekly or biweekly deliveries. This subscription model allows BloomThis to predict demand, reduce flower waste, and offer better prices.

BloomThis just closed its US$200,000 seed funding round, which will give the company up to 18 months of runway.

Door2Door Doctor

Door2Door Doctor founder Prathaban Raju says hospital visits are nearly impossible for bedridden patients. He knows this first-hand not only because he’s witnessed it in his work as a doctor, but because his father was diagnosed with cancer. Being able to give his father the care he needed at home saved Prathaban and his wife money and time that they would have otherwise spent on frequent trips to the hospital.

This motivated Prathaban to pursue his business idea. Malaysia-based Door2Door Doctor is a platform that connects patients with healthcare providers through mobile health technology and logistics solutions.

The platform allows you to book a doctor or a nurse who will visit your home, check up on you, perform minor procedures, and provide round-the-clock care.

It also offers home physiotherapy and non-emergency medical transport.

AZStack

Millions of apps, whether B2B or B2C, need a private communication tool that’s fast, secure, and easy to use. This is where AZStack of Vietnam comes in. The service allows app developers to add messaging and peer-to-peer voice and video calls to their apps just by inserting a few lines of code. It does this through its cloud-based API, mobile SDK, and UI libraries.

Founded by Quang Mai Duy, AZStack is free to start, and developers will be charged based on usage.

The company has signed contracts with Viettel, the biggest telecom provider in Vietnam, and five other "big" clients with more than 500,000 active users in the country.

You may download a demo app here.

iKargo

iKargo is an Uber-esque service that connects people shipping items with transporters in Malaysia.

So rather than wasting time calling random numbers of different logistics companies and getting ripped off, you can simply post a shipment on iKargo and get a mover within minutes.

Here’s how it works: after you post a shipment and specify the requirements (such as location and time of delivery), transporters that fit those shipment needs will be notified about your posting via the iKargo app. The transporters will then bid for the shipment and once you accept a bid, a truck will come pick up your item and deliver it on time.

The shipment could be anything – food and beverage, furniture, or even animals.

UniSTAY

If you’re a student looking to rent out a place near your school or university, UniSTAY is your best bet.

The platform allows you to search for and book a place, free of charge. Deposit and rental fees will be paid directly to the property owner or hostel operator. Most of the properties listed on UniSTAY have fixed move-in and move-out dates that correspond with the academic calendar.

UniSTAY earns money by charging landlords a referral fee for every successful transaction.

Soon, the company plans to introduce a marketplace for secondhand items that students may wish to sell.

SPOT News

SPOT News’ business is pretty straightforward. It curates news for its app users in different Southeast Asian countries in the language they prefer. Currently, the app is available for download in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, and the company plans to launch it in all of the region in the next three years.

In Malaysia, its home market, SPOT News has had some impressive traction:

  • 75,000 monthly active users
  • 67 percent ratio of daily active users to monthly active users (this means an average
  • user of the app uses it 20 days out of 30 days in a month)
  • 5 million articles read per month
  • 20 million monthly pageviews

The company is in the process of raising its series A round of S$ 4 million (US$2.8 million).

Katsana

Photo taken from Malay Mail Online

Malaysia ranks sixth in the world in terms of car theft, with one car lost every 24 minutes. Less than one out of 10 stolen cars are ever recovered and returned to owners. Those grim statistics gave Syed Ahmad Fuqaha the idea for Katsana, a startup that offers GPS tracking and fuel monitoring systems for vehicles, with data analytics capabilities.

Katsana’s GPS tracking system allows users to trace the current position of their vehicles and retrieve the history of a car’s movement down to the smallest details. This means it can detect if a vehicle met a mishap, moved out of predefined area, or if its driver was speeding. The company’s fuel monitoring system, on the other hand, detects refuelling or a sudden drop in the fuel level in the car’s tank.

Ultimately, Fuqaha believes the strength of Katsana lies in its collection of data and its algorithms, which play a critical role in its analysis of driver behavior. This feature will certainly be interesting for Malaysia’s auto insurance sector, which is paying over an average of US$1 billion in claims per year.

Money Lover

If you want to save efficiently, you have to know where your money is going. You have to know how much money is coming in, how much is going out and when. Once you have a clear picture, you’ll know whether you’re spending beyond your means and where you can make some cuts.

Money Lover helps you do all that. The app allows you to track your spending over time and manage your monthly budget. You can set a budget in the app and throughout each day, log your purchases into it. Then, you can look back at your spending at the end of the month to see if it falls within or beyond your target.

Founder Ngo Xuan Huy created the app by himself when he was in university and used it for his own personal needs. When he published it on the Google Play Store, he was surprised to find that a lot of people were downloading it. In the next two years, he assembled a team together to do it full time.

The app Mint, from Silicon Valley, is similar and can be tied directly to your bank account and credit cards. Money Lover also plans to launch the account-monitoring feature and is now in talks with some banks.

Money Lover has a freemium plus subscription model. Although made in Vietnam, this app is going global.

The last time we talked to the founders in September, Money Lover has had 2.2 million downloads globally. Now it has about 2,500 new users daily.

Money Lover’s biggest market is Southeast Asia (namely Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia) where 40 percent of its users are based, followed by the US (12 percent) and Italy (10 percent).

TableApp

TableApp founder Benson Chang used to help his parents run one of their family restaurants in his early days. One of the biggest problems he spotted at the time was a lack of manpower to take reservations during peak periods. When the staff were busy serving diners, and the telephone rang, they simply didn’t have the time to pick it up. The result: a lost customer. Benson thought the best way to remedy this is to reduce telephone bookings, and instead deal with them online. TableApp was born.

TableApp provides instant restaurant reservations for free. For diners, this means no queue, no wait, and no hassle. For restaurant owners, it means lower labor costs.

The startup charges restaurants a monthly maintenance fee, with extra for every successful booking made. It has over 300 restaurants in Malaysia and Thailand on its platform at the moment.

Mobile9

Smartphone users in emerging markets, especially first-timers, usually have difficulty accessing mobile content due to devices with limited capabilities and expensive data bandwidth. Mobile9 wants to solve this problem.

The content discovery app lets users download localized apps, games, launcher themes, icon packs, chat stickers, ringtones, and more. It has 18 million unique visitors per month, most of them coming from India (50 percent), and Indonesia (15 percent).

Mobile9 earns through advertising and premium subscriptions.

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