BootstrapAccelerator bets on Malaysia as its Asian hub
By Karamjit Singh July 12, 2013
- Collaboration between MAD Incubator and BootstrapLabs in Silicon Valley
- Takes 10% stake in each startup that goes through its one-year programme
ADDING to the robustness of our ecosystem, last week saw the official opening of BootstrapAccelerator Asia in Cyberjaya with three startups, all Malaysian, making up the pioneer batch.
The accelerator is touted as the first in South-East Asia with a Silicon Valley Fast Track programme for its most promising candidates. This is via BootstrapLabs, a Silicon Valley-based fund that will help the startups establish themselves in the Valley and plug into that ecosystem to accelerate their growth.
They will soon be joined by others though, as a unique aspect of BootstrapAccelerator is the fact that it will have a rolling monthly intake, as opposed to others which tend to have a yearly or quarterly intake.
The philosophy behind this is that ideas and the passion to launch a startup can ignite an entrepreneur at any time. It does not make sense to tell someone they cannot take part in an accelerator programme because they missed the yearly or quarterly intake.
“Our focus though will always be on quality,” says Benjamin Levy, who is cofounder with Andrew Wong. Levy is also a partner in BootstrapLabs.
To emphasise this point, Levy pointed out that they received 30 requests from startups from around the world to join Bootstrap Accelerator. A further 39 requests came from individuals with what they describe as ‘ideation stage’ applications, which means that the entrepreneurs are seeking help to sharpen and test the validity of their ideas before trying to launch a company around them.
In fact, Bootstrap Accelerator has invited six entrepreneurs to join its ideation programme for one month. For startups that join the year-long programme, BootstrapAccelerator will take a 10% upfront stake in each company.
“There is no guarantee of success but we will try our best to help each company,” promises Levy, who says he will be coming to Kuala Lumpur regularly.
“We hope this is the start of something exciting here in Malaysia and we are very focused on creating success stories from the first batch of entrepreneurs in this year-long accelerator, as their success will create more interest … in our programme,” he adds.
Ng Wan Peng, chief operating officer of Malaysia’s national ICT custodian the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), also believes in the importance of creating success stories from this programme.
“We hope startups can leverage on this accelerator and grow regionally, if not globally, and in the process, create some success stories,” she says.
For Wong, the launch of BootstrapAccelerator is the culmination of a three-year dream.
“I was never interested in launching an accelerator just for the sake of it,” says Wong (pic, right), who is founder of MAD (Make A Difference) Incubator. “I wanted to create something that made sense for Malaysia and that could be replicated across South-East Asia.”
Yet, he has found more than that, he says. He has found in BootstrapLabs the ideal partner, with Levy (pic, left) saying both sides share the same passion for wanting to help entrepreneurs grow their business and scale it in a sustainable manner.
“Wong deeply understands the environment here and together we can do a lot to help the startups that come into our programme,” he says.
In BootstrapAccelerator, Wong believes he has helped created a programme that will help its best graduates get a footing in the Silicon Valley. And with Kuala Lumpur as the Asian hub for the accelerator, Levy says they will not create any more accelerators in Asia.
The idea is to get entrepreneurs from Asia and indeed the world, to come and spend a year in Cyberjaya, immersing themselves in the Malaysian startup ecosystem while growing their idea or startup to the stage where they can create what Levy calls ‘The Minimum Delightful Product’ that will appeal to customers.
With a focus on execution, startups will have access to the network of the founders of BootstrapLabs – Europeans who have relocated to Silicon Valley. The cross-continent networks formed by them will be helpful to Asian-based startups which want to expand to Europe and the United States.
Another unique aspect of the accelerator is that you won’t find a list of mentors on the portal, typically a key attraction of any accelerator.
“We believe that is not the right way to go as having a premier list of mentors, while looking good, may not be what a startup needs,” says Levy.
BootstrapAccelerator believes that the needs of each startup are situational and that the mentors a startup needs when it is trying to build its product will be very different to when it needs market intelligence, or when it wants a go-to-market strategy.
“Through our network, we will identify and reach out to the ideal mentor for your particular needs,” says Levy.
Both Wong and Levy believe that this practical approach will add more value to their stable of accelerator companies, than having a big-name mentor who may not be the right fit.
While the first three companies into the programme are Malaysian – MyMobileUniversity, iPointi and Shoppertise – the two cofounders say it is a matter of time before startups from around the world are taken in.
And the rule of thumb here is that they have to spend at least six months on site at the Cyberjaya accelerator, which incidentally used to be the MDeC incubator located at Multimedia University.
“One of the value-adds of any accelerator is the sharing and relationships that are built between the startups there, and in that sense we are no different. This coming together where they all have a common purpose of building the next great startup is an important time for them to support and inspire each other,” says Wong.
There is also a more practical reason. The companies need to be incorporated in Malaysia to be able to have access to the various government grants that do not limit their support to Malaysian-owned companies.
And, it is only by being based in Cyberjaya can they tap into the various companies that are clustered there.
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