Malaysia

Notable Startups

Grab

Ride-booking companies are flourishing across the world and Southeast Asia is no exception. Uber and Rocket Internet are all fighting to gain a solid footing in the region but neither have been able to replicate the success of Malaysian startup GrabTaxi. The startup recently joined the small handful of “unicorn” companies of Asia, with an estimated valuation of $1 billon. It is no surprise that it is “Southeast Asia’s leading ride-hailing platform”.

In 2011, founder Anthony Tan places second in the Harvard Business School Competition. Riding off this success, he creates MyTeksi (the original name) the following year in Kuala Lumpur launching in June 2012.

Initially, Tan had to approach taxi companies door-by-door to on-board them. From there it only took one year for the app to reach 10,000 bookings daily and one more to expand to 6 neighbouring countries. Now, Grab operates in 55 cities with 350,000 registered drivers and 11 million passengers to date.

Honestbee

Honestbee’s vision is to become “the world’s most convenient services marketplace”. It currently markets itself as “Asia’s leading online concierge and delivery service” focusing on fresh food and groceries. Within its first year of operations, they raised US$15 million in seed round funding led by Formation 8. This has allowed them to grow rapidly, now covering 8 major cities in Southeast Asia. Honestbee is partnered with 112 stores and has provided jobs focusing on fresh food and groceries. Within its first year of operations, they raised US$15 million in seed round funding led by Formation 8. This has allowed them to grow rapidly, now covering 8 major cities in South East Asia. Honestbee is partnered with 112 stores and has provided jobs over 2,300 drivers – ‘shopper bees’.

Now, Honestbee aims to maximise its focus on convenience by entering the food delivery arm. This positions them to compete head-to-head with ‘well-established’ startups like foodpanda and Grain. The point of difference for Honestbee is that it holds no inventory, meaning that the “shopper bees” need to scour local supermarkets to source their products. This marks the beginning of Honestbee’s shift towards a logistics-focused business.

Carousell

Malaysia’s propensity for shopping is enormous and startups including Carousell are fuelling this popularity. The peer-to-peer mobile marketplace allows consumers to buy or sell their products. Their simple “Snap to Sell. Chat to Buy” business model simplifies the customer’s shopping journey and is undoubtedly an attribute to their success.

Alexey Samkov, head of projects at Deliveroo, notes that Carousell is effectively “activating idle consumer inventory, unlocking new household wealth and addressing the huge problem of waste that plagues our consumption-driven economy”.

There are over 70 new listings made every minute amounting to a staggering 57 million products listed to date. Carousell has since secured multiple investment rounds from well-known VCs such as Rakuten, Golden Gate Ventures, 500 Startups and Sequoia India. Most recently, in August 2016, they raised US$35 million for their series B funding round. With its latest expansion to Australia, Carousell now operates in seven countries in the region including the e-commerce hubs Malaysia and Indonesia.

Catcha Group

Catcha Group is an international internet company with a portfolio that includes many well-known public and privately listed companies. They are one of the largest investors in the digital sector, most notably in the emerging markets of Southeast Asian countries. Catcha’s corporate strategy comes down to three core components.

First, they do not consider themselves as a traditional investment group pioneering a new form of business that they refer to as “venture equity”. As CEO Patrick Grove states,

“Not only do we start companies, we also invest in them and we drive them…We call it venture equity”.

Second, they look at what works in Western countries and adapts them to fit the markets of Eastern countries. Grove comments

“We like to bet on ideas where the concept is already proven…Our only risk is executing risk…we don’t like to bet on idea risk”.

Last, Catcha grows through acquisition rather than creation to stay ahead of the curve. In an interview with BRW Grove states,

“In an industry that moves so fast, the way to get market share fast is to acquire rather than start from scratch”

The three notable portfolio companies within the Catcha Group are iCarAsia, iProperty and iflix.

iCarAsia is the region’s “largest and leading network of automotive sites” with many brands under its name. These include One2car.com, Autospin.com and Thaicar.com in Thailand, Mobil123.com in Indonesia and Carlist.my and LiveLifeDrive.com in Malaysia. As a result, the iCarAsia network reaches 7.6 million car buyers and enthusiasts across the region every month. With this success, iCarAsia listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) in 2012.

Similar to iCarAsia, iProperty is an “online network of real estate sites, events and experiences”. It was one of the earlier companies to IPO, listing on the ASX in 2007 achieving a MYR1 billion milestone in market capitalisation. The following year, it was added to the S&P/ASX300.

The Netflix craze that has swept across Western countries has also arrived in Asia in the form of iflix. This subscription-based video-on-demand concept has enjoyed the same popularity in Eastern countries with over 5 million subscribers as of May 2017. There are 19 countries currently using iflix – mainly in Southeast Asia and Middle Eastern countries.