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Futurise aims to unlock value in Malaysia’s digital economy

  • National Regulatory Sandbox a key initiative to engage ecosystem players
  • Malaysia’s embrace of Digital Economy & being epicenter of SEA attracts overseas interest

Mahadhir Aziz, acting CEO of Futurise says that everyone wants a piece of the thriving Southeast Asia market, with Malaysia ideally placed at its epicentre with its clear embrace of the Digital Economy.

One of the biggest challenges for startups, anywhere in the world, is to convince businesses to give them jobs that they can do better, applying digital technology. But because organizations have not scoped out such work before, there is frequently no ‘tender’ issued that innovative startups can then deliver on.

And then in the more open B2C space where consumers are totally open to trying new digital services, companies may come up against regulations, created for the Brick & Mortar world that gets in the way and may even kill their market. Its common challenges like this that make running digital based startups so difficult.

In attempting to come up with a solution to this common yet vexing challenge of the Digital Economy, Futurise Sdn Bhd has come up with a “kitchen”. At least that is what Mahadhir Aziz, acting CEO of Futurise, says in describing what Futurise, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cyberview Sdn Bhd, does.

The various food and spice ingredients and utensils that can be found in a kitchen, to Mahadhir, represent the different players who make up an ecosystem, from funders to academics, from government and regulations to innovators and businesses.

As a key driver for Cyberjaya’s development, not just its physical element but its heartbeat as well, Futurise is seen by Cyberview as a platform that can bring the various ecosystem players together to ideate, to co-create and introduce win-win scenarios into the Malaysian market.

Established last year, Futurise aims to help push out innovative digital services and products into the marketplace. And Old Economy regulations are a big hurdle to the speed at which innovators need to move.

Without regulations that paint a clear picture of the market, ambiguity and illegal behavior start to sprout as does an environment that stifles innovation. And while its sexy to throw out the Silicon Valley popularized style of ignoring outdated policies and focus on fast growth and market acceptance so that regulations has no choice but to adapt, it doesn’t always work that way. And even investors now want clarity on regulations before investing in any disruptive idea or entrepreneur.

And it is no coincidence that the first initiative Futurise has created is the National Regulatory Sandbox back in February 2018 whose goal is to bring relevant ecosystem players together, including regulators to identify hurdles in the market place that prevent innovators from solving consumer and business pain points. Regulations are a big part of the hurdles, but the hurdles can also be around technology and business models. Bringing the various stakeholders together under the National Regulatory Sandbox thus allow innovators to engage with regulators while focusing their energy and resources on finding a market fit for their product and validating business models.

The goal of the sandbox is to create a safe environment where pre-determined set of rules as agreed together with regulators will allow entrepreneurs to build, test their products and business models in a live environment with new regulations being tried out as well. These experiments will benefit both regulators and innovators.

And if you think it sounds fluffy and there is no market need, think again. “Futurise received more than 100 applications from 12 industries to be part of the National Regulatory Sandbox,” says Mahadhir.

Determined to start strong and show it can deliver, two proposals were chosen with one being around the Drone Economy.

To Mahadhir, who also sits on the newly created Malaysian Innovation and Policy Council, being able to help facilitate and accelerate the creation of new products, services and business models into the market goes hand in hand with job creation as well. And he is looking not just at Malaysian roles but regional ones based out of Malaysia.

“Southeast Asia is a thriving market. Everyone wants a piece of it and we are at its epicenter. International players want to come in as well, attracted by the country’s clear embrace of the Digital Economy,” he asserts.

The ongoing sandbox discussions around Malaysia’s fast emerging drone ecosystem with over 30 companies already delivering services to the market and with one of them, Aerodyne Sdn Bhd, already recognized as a Top 5 drone company in the world, will be an early litmus test of how well Futurise can deliver on its ambitions.

The need for clarity in regulations here is urgent as Malaysia’s current regulations are inadequate to support the fast developing Drone Economy in Malaysia which already is ranked 24th in the world by a specialist drone research outfit, Drone Industry Insights. Mahadhir expects a positive outcome from the regulatory sandbox to strongly propel Malaysia further up the rankings and create a more dynamic drone ecosystem.

To this end, Futurise and MDEC, together with Cyberview and MAGIC also played host to the inaugural  MyDroneX, a drone event that comprised conference, exhibition and showcase. Held on June 17th it was part of the Malaysia Tech Week celebrations. And while in the eyes of Malaysians, it was an interesting conference, to Millie Radovic, a market analyst at Drone Industry Insights, it made a loud statement about the thriving state of Malaysia’s drone ecosystem.

Around 90% of the time, invitations we get to speak at drone events do not materialize as the organisers cannot get enough support to carry off the event but Malaysia being able to carry this off is a huge sign to me that the drone ecosystem is taking off with various stakeholders involved here,” she says, adding that Asia is seen as the fastest growing drone market in the world.

To Mahadhir, this is just further encouragement that efforts Futurise makes to facilitate collaboration between the stakeholders in the drone ecosystem will unlock huge value and set the template for how they facilitate similar collaborations moving forward.

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