Week in Review: Healthy to debate state of startup ecosystem

  • At Mobile World Congress, it’s all about 5G, IoT and smart devices while wearables take back seat
  • Indonesia reaffirms commitment to use open data, tech to better serve citizens


IT was only yesterday that my colleague Anushia Kandasivam asked me on air, during DNA’s fortnightly Tech Talk hour on BFM, for my thoughts on the maturity of Malaysia’s startup ecosystem. She recalled that MaGIC CEO, Ashran Ghazi scored it a 7.5 out of 10 but he was comparing it with neighbouring ecosystem’s in South-East Asia (SEA). I would score the ecosystem at slightly above average at 5.5 on a global basis, not just in SEA.

And then today, another colleague, Sharmila Ganapathy-Wallace wrote a piece about what Chevy Beh, founder and CEO of BookDoc thought about the startup ecosystem – and Beh was unforgiving in his assessment, declaring that the ecosystem has vanished and zooming in, in particular on the lack of results so far.

He was especially critical of MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre), not in terms of their efforts, but specifically pointing to the lack of outcome from their efforts, especially from a funding standpoint. His contention seems to be that if the programmes by MaGIC were impactful, the startups would have been able to raise serious funding rounds.

Beh also seems to expect that the likes of Khazanah National Bhd, the sovereign wealth fund of Malaysia, should invest big in homegrown startups as well instead of only investing in overseas based ones. He feels the government has to demonstrate its commitment through making serious funding investments into home grown startups. Failing which, Beh thinks Malaysia can also forget about its digital economy ambitions.

While I don’t agree with his criteria for judging the ecosystem so poorly and his critique of MaGIC, I totally commend him for having the courage and conviction for going on the record with his frustrations/thoughts. I am sure his opinion will generate much discussion across the ecosystem. And that’s a healthy thing to keep the conversations grounded.

Another healthy development is happening in Indonesia where the government is determined to start using more data in helping it make decisions. It has also been honest in admitting that the efforts to push towards open data and the harnessing of technology remains sluggish and incomplete but that it is determined to move forward.

As its Minister of National Development Planning, Bambang Brodjonegoro, acknowledged – the government needs to act faster to meet citizens demands.

“The ability of policymakers to take advantage of various data sources, including digital and social data, can help the government to make decisions faster, and more accurately.”

Even in Malaysia, when I interviewed a senior civil servant in December, I heard the same thing about the desire of government to use data more extensively to help it make better decisions relevant to citizens. Hopefully both governments can execute well and stay the course.

On the telco scene though, it seems like the industry is looking to chart a new course from 4G to 5G. As my colleague Chong Jinn Xiung, reported from Barcelona where Mobile World Congress just ended, 5G was hot as was Internet of Things, which telcos and vendors tout will be a seamless experience when delivered over 5G. Er, that’s what we were promised about 4G as well and my own 4G experience has been below average to say the least.

Here’s hoping the Malaysian regulator comes down hard on average to below average 4G services delivered by the operators here.

Speaking of regulators, I urge you to read the interesting compilation of 2016 legal cases in Malaysia around the world of digital that our Digerati50, Foong Cheng Leong has painstakingly researched and put together for our reading pleasure.

I would love to read about the Singapore experience as well. Hopefully, I can find someone who has done similar research over there. Do drop me a line if you know of someone.

And with that, I wish you a restful weekend and a productive week after.

Editor's Picks:

Emerging startup hotspot? Look again says BookDoc founder Chevy Beh

MWC 2017 was all about 5G and IoT

Indonesia promotes the use of data for policymaking

Buatkontrak.com comes to the aid of Indonesian SMEs

Bread & Kaya (Part 2): 2016 Cyberlaw cases – Electronic evidence, news portals and legislation

Telco battleground 2016: Good year for Maxis and Digi, not so for Celcom

KlikFix offers on-demand gadget repair solutions

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