Gobi Partners, Sunway Group announce Final Four winners of its sports-meets-startups SuperSeed II Championship

  • The final winners are: MyCash Online, Speedhome, Lokein and StixFresh
  • Winners in line for up to US$3.6 mil in funding; spot on iLab’s 2021 accelerator

(front row, L to R): Evan Cheah, executive vice president, President's Office, Sunway Group, Thomas G. Tsao chairman of Gobi Partners, Thomas G. Tsao, Chew Chee Kin, group director for Sunway, Matt Van Leeuwen, CIO Sunway Group, Gopi Ganesalingam, vice president, global growth, MDEC and Jamaludin Bujang, managing director, Gobi Partners. (back row, L to R): Wan Mohd Hafiz, CEO, Lokein, Mehedi Hassan, CEO MyCash Online, Wong Whei Meng, CEO Speedhome & Zhafri Zainuddin, founder, StixFresh.

Regional venture capital firm Gobi Partners, together with Sunway Group, announced, yesterday, the four winners of its SuperSeed II Championship. The virtual pitching competition, held from May to August of 2020, adopted a unique, believed to be first of its kind format akin to a sports-style tournament, with single-elimination rounds leading up to the final four winners.

Aimed at early-stage Malaysian companies, the SuperSeed II Championship offers a coveted prize of up to US$3.63 million (RM15 million) in funding (subject to due diligence), as well as additional prizes that include a potential grant from Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC); a wild card entry into Sunway iLab’s Super Accelerator Programme; cloud credits and a CXO membership from Alibaba Cloud; and, an opportunity to attend an exclusive entrepreneurship programme curated by the Alibaba Business School.

“The pandemic has hit all of us hard, and Gobi, together with our esteemed partners, Sunway and Malaysian Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap), wanted to give early-stage companies in Malaysia a fighting chance to win funding that would help them navigate through these tough times,” says Gobi Partners chairman and founding partner Thomas G. Tsao.

“We were amazed by the overwhelming response - over 200 startups from 10 countries, operating in a variety of industries entered the competition. Final Four, will now get the opportunity to be a part of our portfolio under the SuperSeed Fund II, which was launched last year.”

The final four winners are: MyCash Online, a digital wallet for unbanked migrant workers; Speedhome, the property transactional platform that allows tenants to rent properties without a deposit; Lokein, a "social hype community e-commerce marketplace” for customers to securely buy and sell pre-owned and vintage goods; and StixFresh, an all-natural, safe sticker with plant-based compounds that significantly increases the shelf life of fruits by up to 14 days.

 

Overcoming difficulty

The SuperSeed Fund II is aimed at startups in key verticals in the Malaysian entrepreneurial scene, such as agritech, AI, Big Data, cloud services, e-commerce, fintech, Internet of Things (IoT), the Circular Economy as well as TaqwaTech.

Gobi Partners is targeting 25-30 investments for this fund, and the median ticket size is approximately US$250,000 with Sunway as a key partner.

The four winning startups will now be undergoing due diligence by Gobi’s investment team. They will also be joining Sunway iLabs’ next Super Accelerator cohort, which begins in Q1 2021.

The SuperSeed II Championship adopts a unique competition format, which Tsao, an American, likens to the March Madness knockout rounds of the US college basketball season.

The concept came to life amidst the wake of Covid-19 and the ensuing movement control order (MCO) period. “It was a difficult time, so we wanted to do something to really help entrepreneurs and to act as a boost to the ecosystem. We figured we had to do something online only, because nobody could meet,” Tsao tells Digital News Asia.

The idea germinated among Gobi’s team members, and quickly got accepted when Gobi Partners reached out to their partners: MDEC, Sunway and Mavcap.

The competition came together very quickly after that. “It’s a real credit to our team, that they were able to do this massive undertaking, which is not easy to do in such a short time,” Tsao says.

It was not without some hiccups with glitches during the voting process. “That’s something we’ve learned, and if we’re to do it again, I think it will be a lot smoother. But we were very encouraged and pleasantly surprised by the amount of public participation, which is something we want to continue to encourage,” he says, adding that their goal is to have the competition again next year.

 

Quickly adapting

As for the competing startups, Tsao says that they were able to adapt really quickly to the new, unique format. “This one is very direct: you know it’s a knockout style and who your direct competition is. You have to be better than that startup on that particular day,” he says.

“There are pros and cons to that approach, but we thought it was very interesting to try.”

What were those pros and cons? Tsao says that sometimes two really great companies meet each other and one would have to be eliminated. “There were some really deserving companies that got knocked out that would’ve otherwise advanced if it was the old style [of pitching competitions].”

This format, however, simulates what startups are constantly facing. “Every investor, when they make a decision, has a huge pipeline. They’re almost forced-ranking all their deals anyway. I think this gives startups a taste of the competitive nature of the allocation of capital,” Tsao explains.

The winners seem to think highly of the competition. MyCash Online cofounder and chief executive officer Mehedi Hassan says that the SuperSeed II Championship has been a “very good experience.”

“Funding became very challenging during Covid-19. The type of funding and support that Gobi Partners is bringing helps alleviate and elevate us to the next level,” he says.

While MyCash Online faced stiff competition in their road to victory, Mehedi says that the overall experience has been insightful. “We got to know some good companies, and some of the judges are very keen to explore things with us in the future,” he says.

Ultimately, Tsao feels that the competition has done what it was set out to do. “To act as a filtering, vetting process, so that the best startups could make it to the end. I believe that’s what it did,” he concludes.

 

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