Even before the startup ‘boom’, the Malaysian government worked towards fostering a digital-focused country. In 1996, the Malaysia Economy Digital Corporation (MDEC) was launched to pioneer the transformation of Malaysia’s digital economy with ‘Vision 2020’.
To complement this, Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammad established the MSC Malaysia (Multimedia Super Corridor) – a special economic zone and high technology business district in Selangor. He envisions MSC Malaysia as a “paramount” platform to accelerate the country’s digital progression.
“MSC is paramount to leapfrog (Malaysia) into the 21st century and to achieve Malaysia’s Vision 2020, the MSC was created to endeavour the best environment to harness the full potential of the multimedia without any artificial limits.” – Dr. Mahatir Mohammad.
In 2003, the Cradle Fund was established. It is an early stage startup influencer incorporated under the Ministry of Finance (MOF) Malaysia. At first, it provided government grants for startups but has recently expanded into venture investments and private equity. In 2017, Cradle Fund intends to invest in 13 startups through Direct Equity 800 (DEQ800) – its newest investment product, focusing on local, early-stage startups.
Perhaps the most pertinent contribution the Malaysian government has made to the startup ecosystem is through MaGIC – the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre launched in 2014. It is Southeast Asia’s largest government-backed accelerator program positioning Malaysia as the startup capital of the region.
In addition to nurturing domestic startups, Malaysian government policies also allow foreigners to establish startups with minimal friction. Open immigration and certain tax incentives enable investors and entrepreneurs to establish themselves in Malaysia and then expand across the region.