Inaugural Top in Tech Innovation 2021 winners will inspire peers, spur innovative mindset
By Karamjit Singh January 24, 2022
- Strong pool of hitherto unknown startup finalists hints at depth of ecosystem
- Ganesh Bangah: ‘I think we will be entering golden age of tech in Malaysia’
Impact. At a national level. That was what Premesh Chandran, co-founder and CEO of MalaysiaKini and I, wanted to create if we were to introduce a tech award.
Innovation. It may just about be the most used, and abused word in management and leadership lexicon but it is important. Innovation helps you differentiate. Innovation helps you create a better or even, a new way.
Inspire. We both knew there were some amazing stories out there and we wanted to create a platform that would tell those stories and motivate others to follow suit or to not give up in their journeys, whether those journeys are about academic researchers partnering with industry trying to create breakthroughs, or about an internal project team building a digital service and trying to get buy-in from a large Brick & Mortar company with long serving staff used to doing things the old way, or about a public sector agency trying to create a program or service that will have real impact and is not just about how many people attended their programs.
Startups. And of course it is about them as well.
If indeed the next wave of innovative, disruptive, unicorn startup winners will come from the 2020 downturn, then keep your eyes on the startup category winners, merit mentions and even the finalists from Digital News Asia and MalaysiaKini’s inaugural Top in Tech Innovation Awards 2021 which were just concluded on 20th Jan.
Timing. DNA hits its 10th anniversary on 14 May this year, and I have been wondering if it was worth doing something different to take things to another level – to shake me out of my comfort zone. And so you have the Top in Tech Innovation Awards.
Another key motivator for Prem and me, was to create a platform that would offer strong visibility to all innovative startups and give them the opportunity to open doors to new possibilities.
Not impartial role but all in, to see Malaysia succeed as a Digital Economy
“These awards are very meaningful to us because we want to showcase all the outstanding contributions that the recipients have made to the community and economy through digital adoption and innovative thinking, in the midst of an unprecedented socioeconomic crisis,” Prem said.
We are in synch here. Knowing that there are many leaders who have responded with courage and conviction in the face of the pandemic by leveraging technology to create positive impact, we therefore must play our role as well. Not just as media, playing an impartial role.
Both Prem and I are passionate and long involved participants in our digital ecosystem. We are not impartial. We are all in. We want to see Malaysia move up and become one of the leading digital economies in the world.
Hence the broad scope of our categories, covering startups, Brick & Mortar companies, academic institutions and public sector agencies, at both the national and state level. Top in Tech will recognise their innovative achievements and inspire others to adopt a similar positive and innovative mindset.
‘I think we will be entering a golden age of technology in Malaysia’
This door opening to new opportunities that I spoke of earlier will also happen by tapping the experience and network of the respective judges. We know building innovative solutions and services is not easy, which is why for Top in Tech, our judges will take the extra step to help finalists, beyond just offering constructive criticism and suggestions during the final pitch.
That opening of doors may just happen sooner than either Prem or me expected as one of our judges hinted to me to watch out for an investment news coming regarding one of the finalists!
And if the list of some of the startups, especially, in our three startup categories has left you wondering who they are, you are not alone! Even ecosystem leaders and seasoned tech journalists were left scratching their heads as many of the finalists were unknown to them. And that’s a good thing!
“It means there is depth beginning to form in our ecosystem with so many promising startups,” Elain Lockman tells me. Elain was a judge for the Young Innovator category, sponsored by Asia Pacific University.
Ganesh Bangah Kumar (pic), our Lead Judge for the Most Innovative Startup category, concurs.
Describing all the finalists as very impressive, with “immense traction” considering the short time they have been in existence, he says, “I’ve never seen new startups this impressive.”
Coming from a respected ecosystem leader who at the young age of 42, has already chalked up over 2 decades of entrepreneurial experience, that is high praise indeed.
But Ganesh had more to say. “If this growth in new startups continues. I think we will be entering a golden age of technology in Malaysia.”
Exciting times ahead for the ecosystem. I’m sure Dr Adham Baba, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) for Malaysia will be especially pleased to hear this. With a target of creating five unicorns by 2024, Mosti has come in to support our Top in Tech Innovation Awards.
In his speech, Adham said that the recognition of the Awards to companies, agencies and individuals who bring positive socio-economic impact to society is timely as it can serve as the motivator for the industry community and others to always be mindful of innovation.
With Malaysian Research Accelerator for Technology and Innovation (MRANTI) as our Innovation Partner, Syed Zulkifli Ismail, Vice President, CEO’s office, Technology Park Malaysia, stressed on the importance of innovation in his welcome speech. “Driven by the technology revolution, the future of the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators has just begun. So let us create more opportunities out there for those who have the desire to invent and innovate.”
Huge fillip in credibility thanks to peerless group of judges
As a new award in the ecosystem, credibility takes time to build, especially since Top in Tech Innovation Awards are given only on merit with zero commercial influence. And yet, we received a huge boost of credibility thanks to having a peerless group of innovative leaders from Corporate Malaysia who led the judging in their respective award categories. Prem and I served as Facilitating Judges, splitting duty across the various categories:
1) Most Promising: Led by Dr Sivapalan Vivekarajah, Senior Partner & Co-Founder, ScaleUp Malaysia Accelerator with fellow judges:
-Dr Melissa Foo, Head, Sunway iLabs Venture
-Lavinie Thiruchelvam, Founder & CEO, Babydash Sdn Bhd
2) Best Pivot: Led by Joel Neoh, Co-Founder, Fave with fellow judges:
-Lennise Ng, CEO & Co-Founder, Dropee Sdn Bhd
-Jason Tan Yik Long, CFO and Co-Founder, Rainforest Life Pte Ltd
3) Most Innovative: Led by Ganesh Kumar Bangah, Executive Chairman, Commerce.Asia with fellow judges:
-Mohd Safuan Mohd Zairi, Chief Ecosystem Development Officer, Malaysian Research Accelerator for Technology and Innovation (MRANTI)
-Professor Dato’ Dr Halimah Badioze Zaman, Chairholder/ Emeritus Professor, Institute of Informatics and Computing in Energy (IICE), UNITEN
4) Best Brick & Mortar Adoption: Led by Raja Teh Maimunah, Managing Director Wholesale Banking, Ambank Group with fellow judges:
-Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi, Senior Advisor, ASEAN Advisory Singapore
-Richard Wong, Founder, Vistage Malaysia
5) Most Impactful Public Sector Agency Driving Digital Adoption: Led by Wong Siew Hai, President, Malaysia Semiconductor Industry Association with fellow judges:
-Dr Wong Lai Sum, Former CEO of MATRADE
-Sharizal Shaarani, Director & Co-Founder, Zer0Hunger Sdn Bhd
6) Most Impactful Academia-Industry Collaboration: Led by Thillai Raj, Senior Technology Advisor, Wise Al with fellow judges:
-Naguib Mohd Nor, CEO, Strand Aerospace Malaysia
-Nik Amlizan, CEO, Kumpulan Wang Persaraan [KWAP]
-Tay Kay Luan, past Vice Chancellor, International University Malaya Wales
7) The Young Innovator of the Year: Led by Thillai Raj, Senior Technology Advisor, Wise Al with fellow judges:
-Sharala Axryd, Founder and CEO, The Center of Applied Data Science (CADS)
-Elain Lockman, CEO & Co-Founder, Ata Plus Sdn Bhd
8) Innovator of The Year: Panel judges led by Afzal Abdul Rahim, Chief Executive Officer, TIME dotcom Bhd with fellow judges:
-Sharala Axryd, Founder and CEO, The Center of Applied Data Science (CADS)
-Suresh Thiru, Start-up Advisor, Angel Investor
In choosing the vendor for the trophy, we opted for social enterprise Biji-Biji Initiative and challenged them to come up with a cool trophy made from recycled material, and they did not disappoint us with a design of an arm holding a gear to represent the experimentation that needs to happen in the road to innovation. We had both male and female arms.
Besides the custom trophy, winners received:
* Ad space worth RM30,000 from Malaysiakini and Digital News Asia
- Access to programs offered by Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation that include:
Equidam Valuation Report
Green Lane for funding programmes
Free access packages for the Mentor+ platforms
Market access to GAIN programmes
- Products sponsored by Oppo Malaysia.
Congratulations to all Winners, Merit Mentions and Finalists!
1) Top In Tech Innovation Awards 2021 Innovator of the Year: Johnson Lam Hooi Liang for
Merit Mention: Cikgu Muhammad Haris bin Harun for MyKSSR
2) Most Promising Startup: Proficient Software Solution
Merit Mention: Servedeck Innovation
3) Most Promising Growth Company: BloomThis Flora
Merit Mentions: - EasyParcel
- Innov8tif Solutions
4) Best Pivot Startup: Go Class for ModernLMS
5) Best Pivot Growth Company: Meraque Services
6) Most Innovative Startup: Pandai Education
Merit Mention: Ticket2U
7) Most Innovative Growth Company: BeliGas
Merit Mention: SS Rõver
8) Best Brick & Mortar Adoption: Manulife Insurance
Merit Mention: Skynet Worldwide
9) Most Impactful Public Sector Agency Driving Digital Adoption for Federal Level: Employees Provident Fund (EPF)
Merit Mention for Federal Level: Halal Development Corporation Berhad
Merit Mention for State Level: University Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS)
10) Most Impactful Academia-Industry Collaboration: NANOCAT, University of Malaya
Merit Mention: Forward School
11) Young Innovator of The Year: Team S.A.T for Enhance
Merit Mention: - Brandon Chin Min Qiao for Project Leo
- Team Backstreet for PL Detector (People Limitation Detector)
Both DNA and MalaysiaKini urge all of you to continue to create dynamic and positive impact in the business landscape and wider society through technology based innovation. No matter if you are a new startup, a micro SME, SME, or a large company, all of your innovation stories matter. Pursue your outstanding innovations and inspire others in your journey and do consider taking part in this year’s Top in Tech Innovation Awards!