Khazanah’s KNEO Demo Day sees three winners
By Kiranjit Kaur Sidhu May 15, 2018
- Winners include organic farming, pet sitting and rural job search solution
- 1337 Ventures, WTF Accelerator and CodeAr.my support final 30 participants
It is not every day that you witness startups which are validated by country’s top accelerators competing against each other. The Khazanah Nasional Entrepreneurship Outreach (KNEO) programme organised a Demo Day where 12 startups from 1337 Ventures, CodeAr.my and WTF Accelerator pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.
Khazanah Nasional Bhd organised the event yesterday in Kuala Lumpur to mark the end of the intense 28-week KNEO (in case you want to pronounce this, the K is silent) programme. The programme’s 30 participating startups, divided into groups of 10 into each of the three accelerators, were given a mobilisation grant of RM20,000 and the opportunity to learn from industry experts and be mentored by successful startup founders and other business leaders. The 30 startups were chosen from a field of over 500 aspiring entrepreneurs.
Tengku Azmil Zahruddin, deputy managing director of Khazanah, shared that the Demo Day was the culmination of all the hard work the startups put in throughout the span of the programme. “The participants are testimony to the entrepreneurial drive and talent in Malaysia. We saw a great diversity of ideas, as well as passion and commitment to succeed during the KNEO programme.”
Three startups in particular impressed the judging panel to emerge winners, receiving US$7,600 (RM30,000) in additional funding each. The three are Homegrown, an organic produce and aquaponics company, SolviePro, a portal connecting workers and businesses in rural areas and JomPaw, an online pet boarding service provider.
The other startups that made it for the Demo Day were Pod, TrackerHero, FinC, Serdang Cendol, BESC, Placento, ZACC Homes and Bereev. The judging panel comprised of Mohd Ridzwan (Reez) Nordin, Venture Partner from Monk’s Hill Ventures, Fadzarudin Anuar, cofounder and CEO of FashionValet, Xelia Tong, vice president of investments (CIP 300) in Cradle, Dr Melissa Foo, vice president of social innovation at National Innovation Agency Malaysia and Karamjit Singh, Digital News Asia founder.
One of the winning startups, Homegrown Farms from 1337 Ventures, aims to expand their business of organic urban farming from Broga, Semenyih to the rooftops of Kuala Lumpur. In addition to providing aquaponics balcony units, the company is looking to introduce tech into their urban farms with the use of IoT sensors.
Homegrown is aiming to raise US$ 253,000 (RM1 million) in funds. The founder or as he quips the chief “farming” officer of Homegrown, Michael Christian Simon shares that the KNEO journey has been invaluable in terms of gaining insights and contacts.
“We have met a lot of people throughout the KNEO journey which include possible investors and friends in Khazanah who will guide us on our journey forward,” he shares.
Breaking into the relatively untapped market of pet boarding and sitting, JomPaw’s cofounder and CEO, Agnez Lim describes the win as unexpected and humbling. She says, “Even after joining accelerators outside Malaysia, we realised the need for a localised accelerator concept and KNEO was the perfect fit.”
Since there is no market leader for pet care within the Southeast Asian region, JowPaw wants to capitalise its first mover advantage and quickly grow its business. During the pitching session, Agnez shared that the company’s competitive edge over a competitor such as pet boarding startup, PetBacker, was that “We emphasise and focus on trust by ensuring that our sitters go through proper screening processes before taking them onboard.”
As for SolviePro, it is in the business of connecting students in search of part-time work to companies in search of workers and vice versa. The company focusses on rural areas outside the already saturated and competitive job market of the Klang Valley.
The founder of SolviePro, Abdul Haiy Halid explains that the KNEO programme has played a significant role in troubleshooting areas for improvement and providing support for business functions.
“In addition to the strong fundamentals we have gained, the KNEO programme has fostered close-knit friendships amongst members of the cohort which I hope will continue beyond the programme.”