Sunway iLabs launches Super Accelerator with partners

Sunway Innovation Labs (Sunway ) has helped position Sunway City as a testbed for new tech innovations through its programme and makerspace initiative. Some examples of these are an automated zoo management system for Sunway Lagoon, a Covid-19 testing pod for Sunway Medical Centre and e-commerce enabling for Sunway Malls.

In a similar vein to help startups commercialise their products and services, Sunway iLabs has launched its latest accelerator programme supported by Sunway Group, SunSEA Capital and the regional venture capital firm Gobi Partners through its SuperSeed Fund II, hence Sunway calling it a Super Accelerator.

Led by Sunway Group chief innovation officer and Sunway iLabs director Matthijs Van Leeuwen (Matt), the programme will provide selected startups up to US$23,300 (RM100,000) of seed funding and assist them in getting follow-up funding. The four-month programme, consisting of a one-month pre-accelerator and three-month accelerator, is for early-stage startups and focuses on delivering value within five key verticals – Smart Cities, Edutech, Digital Health, Food and Agritech and e-Commerce.

According to Matt, the accelerator can accommodate up to 30 participants. “We will assess during the one-month pre-accelerator whether the startups have the right fit for our programme and if we can add value through our testbeds in Sunway Group or through our network. We will also be assessing the team, innovation, business model, and the market opportunity they are aiming for.”

In the post-Covid 19 period, those opportunities can be global in scope says Gobi Partners chairman and founding partner Thomas Tsao. “Gobi is helping early-stage Malaysian startups embrace innovation and compete in this new environment. We look forward to supporting the Sunway iLabs Super Accelerator programme with mentorship and resources for local companies to go global.”

Jamaludin Bujang, Gobi Partners managing director, Malaysia, reckons: “It is important for startups to adopt a global mindset when building their businesses and we have the resources to help open doors for companies to enter new markets.”

For startups that get into the programme Jamaludin also waves the potential of further support. “Gobi Partners will also support the subsequent financing through the Malaysia SuperSeed Fund II to give select startups the necessary funds they need to scale up after the Super Accelerator programme.”

RM100k each for 5 startups with potential to grow with Sunway’s smart city ecosystem

As for the quantum of funding, Matt says: “We will invest up to RM100,000 each in five startups that will be selected from the 30 startups enrolled in the programme. The funding is divided into two tranches: US$11,650 (RM50,000) immediately upon acceptance into the three-month accelerator, and another RM50,000 after graduation and passing of the KPIs set during the programme.” In its inaugural batch Sunway invested RM50,000 each into four startups.

The standout feature of this funding is its structure where funding will be done via convertible notes which is recognised as a more startup-friendly investment instrument. This method was also mentioned in the recent Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2020 as being preferred to fixed equity percentage. “So we are essentially deferring the valuation to the next round investors, which typically are institutional investors. This also means we can be more flexible in terms of stage of startup that enroll in the programme,” Matt explains, adding that iLabs is on the lookout for startups with minimum viable product or market ready solutions.

Embracing and leading the new normal due to Covid-19, the programme will be mostly delivered virtually through iLabs Dojo – a newly developed online learning and training platform. Interviews, pitching, mentoring and business meetings will be conducted via video conferencing.

Participating startups can also look forward to academic support from Sunway University in talent recruitment and research and development opportunities. “We will work closely with the founders and help set clear milestones as we are not looking for short-term investments with quick exits, but long-term collaborations with companies keen to grow together with us in our smart city and ecosystem,” says Matt.

Focus on quality to create robust, scalable businesses

Alumni from the first iLab accelerator tell DNA that they found the experience helpful with the role of mentors and the Sunway ecosystem highly valued.

Francesco Argento, founder of corporate training company Ezyspark Sdn Bhd highlights access to MBA students (from Sunway University) for some research and insights as being useful to him. “The exposure to Sunway’s HR department for initial feedback on the platform and of course the mentoring from Matt himself and other partners was helpful as well.” Francesco is still exploring possible collaborations with some parties, thanks to the introductions made by iLabs.

For e-commerce enabler Kim Yoong Wong of Red Dino Sdn Bhd, “The key takeaways from the accelerator held by both iLab and NEXEA would be mentorship, insights and continuous support.”

Praising mentors for the close attention they paid to the progress and challenges he faced, Kim adds: “Their advice helped us in our growth. As founders, we learned to manage our team, goals and business as well as the ability and importance of making hard decisions.”

Kim was also introduced to Sunway Mall for possible collaboration and generated some sales thanks to introductions made by his mentors.

Both Kim and Francesco received investments of RM50,000 from iLabs.

Matt emphasizes to DNA that iLabs and its partners want to emphasise quality rather than quantity and focus on nurturing startups within their areas of expertise to create robust and scalable businesses.

More than 25 start-up companies graduated from Sunway iLabs in a previous accelerator batch, including Red Dino, Ezyspark, Jobworks and JomRun. JomRun has since grown to become the largest running platform in Malaysia, having also expanded regionally into Indonesia, Cambodia and Singapore. Its founder Chang Yi Hern, a graduate from Oxford University, was recently recognised as one of Malaysia’s top entrepreneurs by Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia in 2020.

Registration opens from 1 July 2020 to 21 August 2020. To register or for more information, visit https://innovationlabs.sunway.edu.my/accelerator/.

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