The inaugural MaGIC Accelerator Program, which drew Asean-focused startups and social enterprises from 12 countries, stressed three factors: mentors and curriculum, tracking milestones and — at Demo Day — introduction of potential investors.
HAVING personally completed two accelerators myself when working on my startups in the US, I’ve learned that while Demo Day is certainly the highlight of the programme, it’s the six months post-Demo Day that makes or breaks most startups — whether or not you manage to raise funds, run out of money or find a way to generate revenue.
At MaGIC, we consciously modelled our accelerator after another government-funded programme called Startup Chile.
Like Malaysia, Chile is a resource-rich country within a larger region that’s trying to take itself to the next level via innovation and entrepreneurship. Our team spent two weeks taking a leaf out of their playbook and adopted it to the Asean context, giving rise to the inaugural cohort of MaGIC Accelerator Program (MAP) in July 2015.
It has now been four months since we launched MAP, Asia’s largest accelerator with 50 Asean-focused startups from 12 countries, not too mention 25 Malaysian social enterprises (SEs) looking at social and environmental issues.
We received over 1,000 applications from 26 countries from around the world, including the Czech Republic and Uruguay with an admission rate of around 7%. We were also heartened by the significant participation from Sabah and Sarawak.
The programme culminated with an Investor Demo Day on Nov 16-17, for the Asean and SE tracks respectively. Over 100 investors and partners from around the region attended as selected startups and SEs pitched on stage to raise funding or invite partnerships.
We designed the programme to have multiple levels of support. Ultimately, acceleration relies on three primary factors: mentors and curriculum, tracking milestones and introduction to potential investors/partners.
For MAP, we engaged 100-plus mentors with 18 weeks’ worth of content including classes, workshops, office hours and pitching sessions. Some of the more prominent mentors included Anthony Tan, founder of Grabtaxi; Erman Akinci of Catcha Group; Adrian Vanzyl, CEO of Ardent Capital; Hans-Peter Ressel, managing director of Lazada; Kai Kux, MD of AVG; Mark Chang of Jobstreet; Joel Neoh, founder of KFIT; Khailee Ng, managing partner of 500 Startups.
In terms of milestones and tracking, we made every startup pin down one primary growth metric to be tracked on a weekly basis. Any accelerator only works when there is real growth in meaningful KPIs. In addition, we started introducing investor and corporate partners halfway through the programme to maximise touch points with the startups.
MaGIC initiated multiple route-to-market days with corporate partners such as telcos, banks and conglomerates to facilitate business development conversations with MAP participants.
Even though we are not running the programme as a business, we place exceptional importance on driving real market demand value via real growth and acceleration. MAP Asean aims to prepare startups to be investment-ready.
MAP SE’s current objective is to inspire a movement and build awareness around social enterprises, ensuring that high-potential social enterprises grow into Malaysian success stories in the near future. This will subsequently inspire a movement that will contribute towards the development of the social entrepreneurship space.
We have also focused on building an inclusive environment to further enhance the eco-system. Encouraging a “give-back” culture is one key example of this, where cohort share knowledge with local communities and inspire future entrepreneurs.
Your product’s “traction over time” or progress is the most important thing. Your pitch deck, wireframes or business plan could have gotten you into an accelerator, but at D-Day, you have to present to a global group of potential investors. It puts you on a platform that could make or break you.
The other thing to consider is the marathon after the sprint. Startups build and chase their metrics so hard in time for Demo Day, but it takes tenacity to keep running the race to build a sustainable and profitable business. For MAP startups, I hope they keep the momentum going and capitalise on the connections established during the programme.
In closing, I’d like to list the 10 core tenets I shared with MAP participants, which may help in any founder’s startup journey:
1.Be a purpose-driven founder: Remember why you’re here. Why you’re building this company
2.Focus on doing one thing really really well, one at a time
3.Be insanely optmistic about possibilities but be grounded and practical.
4.Stay humble: Always be curious and eager to learn.
5.Dare to fail: Be diligent about experimenting with different strategies and methods every week. Double down on those that work
and cut out those that don’t
6.Hustle and try harder: Two of the most valuable characteristics of a great founder is resourcefulness and persistence. There are always 10 different ways of achieving something.
7.Pay it forward: Give before you take.
8.When in doubt, always care. Your platoon’s problem is your problem. Their success is your success.
9. Personal growth is just as important, if not more important than company growth.
10. Don’t miss the forest for the trees.