Digi makes US$63K equity funding in three Malaysian startups

  • First batch of startups graduating from its Digi Accelerate programme
  • Funding to help these startups scale up and reach regional market
Digi makes US$63K equity funding in three Malaysian startups

DIGI Telecommunications Sdn Bhd said it will be investing more than RM250,000 (about US$63,000 at current rates) in total in equity funding in GrabGas, Local Usher and Vase.
The company declined to give a breakdown of each investment and the amount in equity it will be getting, but it would be up to RM100,000 each for between 5% and 10% equity, a spokesperson said.
The three startups graduated from the company’s maiden Digi Accelerate programme on Aug 19, Digi said in a statement.
The programme closed with a Demo Day in Bangkok, which saw the startups join teams from Myanmar and Thailand in a competitive pitch session to 65 local and international venture capitalists, it added.
“They have done a lot of work in the past four months to validate their business models, and now the real challenge is to be single-minded on building a repeatable, scalable and sustainable business beyond borders,” said Digi chief digital officer Praveen Rajan.
“The ambition should be to build traction and generate revenue in the first year – then they’re on to something potentially big,” added Praveen, who also heads Digi-X, the telco’s innovation lab that is exploring new digital services for its 12.3 million customers.
The three startups are:
Discover and book unique experiences: Local Usher is a platform to discover and book unique recreational experiences in Malaysia, now looking to expand into Asean. Launched in August 2015, it has grown tenfold in the last six months, and is already recording a positive cash flow, according to Digi.
On-demand gas delivery: GrabGas is a web and smartphone-based on-demand cooking gas delivery service which addresses a real gap in Malaysia. Launched in April 2016, it has grown more than 12-fold with its services currently covering Petaling Jaya, Puchong and Subang Jaya and is averaging 65 orders a day.
Market research on demand: Vase is a centralised portal for conducting surveys and providing actionable on-demand insights for its clients. The company launched in June 2016 and has grown its total respondent base by 11-fold in the past three months, Digi said.
Praveen said that Digi-X will continue to provide both funding and hands-on support for these startups, including commercialisation opportunities with Digi and its parent company Telenor, tapping into 200 million potential customers globally.
During the Digi Accelerate bootcamp in Bangkok, the three teams spent four months learning from Silicon Valley experts, receiving direct mentorship from established regional technopreneurs and pitched to global and regional venture capitalists.
“Joining the accelerator really helped us gain insights and connections in markets outside of Malaysia,” said GrabGas cofounder and chief operating officer Jeson Lee.
“The accelerator has helped us build the foundation for our market entry into Thailand and other possible Asian markets. We now have an idea of who to approach and how to make GrabGas a market fit for the locals,” he added.
Vase Technologies cofounder and chief executive officer Julie Ng said, “Through the accelerator, we met a lot of amazing people who provided us with great feedback on our product, both from a user and development perspective.”
Local Usher cofounder Sabrina Cheng said, “We learned important, practical tips on how to scale our business, and also gained access to a larger customer market.
“Both aspects are crucial for a startup like us which wants … to expand our business into Asean,” she added.
In the past three months since its inception, Digi-X has been broadening its involvement in the startup ecosystem with Digi Incub8, its pre-accelerator programme, and Digi Accelerate.
It recently launched an ideation lab with the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and ride-hailing startup Uber to help Asean startups grow their business ideas.
It also committed to partner the Ministry of Education (MoE) and national ICT custodian Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) in the #mydigitalmaker movement, which seeks to expose Malaysian youth to the creative and innovative aspects of digital technology.
Related Stories:
Digi launches maiden accelerator programme
Digi launches incubator, Telenor CEO says it’s all part of the plan
GrabGas wants to ‘Uberise’ the gas delivery industry
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