AirAsia cofounders launch SEA startup incubator, accelerator

  • May get AirAsia or Tune Group to invest in venture backed by Tony Fernandes, etc.
  • Fernandes says Tune Labs wants ‘to unleash’ full potential of SEA entrepreneurs
AirAsia cofounders launch SEA startup incubator, accelerator

THREE of Malaysia’s top entrepreneurs – Tony Fernandes, Kamarudin Meranun and Lim Kian Onn – have launched their latest venture, Tune Labs: A startup incubator and accelerator programme that they said would identify, mentor and fund entrepreneurs from across South-East Asia.
The three will collectively invest RM5 million (US$1.4 million) in Tune Labs as initial capital, with Fernandes, Kamarudin and Lim holding a 35%, 35% and 30% stake, respectively.
Tune Labs will take a stake in successful startups, the amount of which would be determined on a case-by-case basis, according to Fernandes.
While an initial fund of RM5 million may seem like small potatoes, Fernandes – the cofounder of AirAsia – argued that funding would not be a major concern for Tune Labs.
“We can’t expect monetisation to appear very quickly. So in the initial stage, it will be more capital going in.
“I am sure that if we are successful, other people will put capital into this anyway,” he told a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur this morning (April 10).
According to Fernandes, Tune Labs will look at various options whenever it requires additional funds.
In fact, one of the options he has in mind is to have AirAsia or the Tune Group invest in Tune Labs. AirAsia is a subsidiary of Tune Group, also founded by Fernandes and Kamarudin.
“I may ask along the way – we may ask Tune (Group) or AirAsia to contribute, but that’s up to their respective boards,” he added.
Two-pronged approach
The official line is that Tune Labs will support aspiring entrepreneurs achieve their vision of creating market-leading, innovative businesses, with a particular focus on the travel, payments and retail verticals.
It offers two distinct paths for applicants to develop and cultivate their ideas.
The first is an incubator programme that will be conducted thrice yearly. This is a 12-week startup bootcamp for applicants with early-stage ideas that have not been validated.
Under this programme, successful applicants will be offered the opportunity to work closely with the Tune Labs founders and their partners to develop and validate their ideas, and subsequently, to develop a viable proposition with a view to showcasing their products or services at a demonstration day at the end of the programme.
The second is an accelerator programme, in which Tune Labs will take validated ideas and business plans, and expedite their market entry by enabling access to capital and partnerships that are sourced and introduced by the three Tune Labs founders.
Lessons from building AirAsia
Fernandes said that one of the main drivers to set up Tune Labs was to unleash the full potential of South-East Asian entrepreneurs.
“It has always been a personal goal of mine to promote and grow the startup scene in South-East Asia. There is a lot of talent in the region which, to date, has lacked the access and opportunities that have been readily available to budding entrepreneurs in the West.
“Through Tune Labs, my partners and I seek to provide the guidance and mentorship that we found hard to come by in the early days of building AirAsia.
“[We] envisage a structured environment to encourage, validate and ultimately implement exciting, new ideas that will hopefully revolutionise and change the way we go about our everyday lives,” he added.
Kamarudin, also a cofounder of AirAsia, said that a key obstacle to many new businesses is the difficulty or inability to raise capital in order to access markets and achieve growth.
“As such, my partners and I are committed to seed, nurture and develop the initial opportunities that will be housed under the venture,” he said in a statement issued at the media briefing.
Lim himself founded Libra Capital Group in 1994 and cofounded ECM Libra Group in 2002, and is also a founding director and shareholder of Tune Hotels, Tune Money and AirAsia X.
He said that Tune Labs will allow aspiring entrepreneurs to concentrate solely on developing and growing their ideas.
“The ability to utilise the wider group’s assets, coupled with essentials like office space, finance and legal [resources], will significantly reduce costs and improve management focus,” Lim said in a statement.
Startup ideas will be vetted by Arun Verma and Gareth Lim, who are the principals of Tune Labs.
Related Stories:
Axiata gets into startup game via US$30mil fund with Mavcap
TM, MDeC and StartupMalaysia kick off ‘corporate’ accelerator
MaGIC launches its ASEAN accelerator programme
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