Silicon Valley has long been known as a hub for high-tech innovation. The southern part of the Bay Area is home to many of the world’s largest companies and thousands of startups including Facebook, Google and eBay.
But Silicon Valley was not an overnight success story. It took decades of government funding and support to make it the vibrant tech cluster it is today.
Policymakers play an important role in supporting the growth of a startup ecosystem. Be it in funding research and technologies or in building infrastructure, government help create ideal conditions for innovation and commercialisation.
In Malaysia, the government has announced various initiatives, including financial allocations, over the years to groom entrepreneurship and support the startup ecosystem.
In the Budget 2015 speech, the Prime Minister noted the government’s aspiration to position Malaysia as a choice location for startups in the region.
And among its efforts to achieve this target is the establishment of Malaysian Global Innovation & Creative Centre (MaGIC) to create a more conducive ecosystem for startups.
One of the most crucial ingredients for the development of startups is funding and several government agencies have been established to dispense pre-seed and seed funding to enable startups to transform ideas into commercially viable products and ventures.
These agencies include not-for-profit organisation Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd and venture capital company Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (MAVCAP), both under the purview of the Finance Ministry.
As a VC, Mavcap makes direct investments with fund size ranging from RM1mil to RM20mil and participates actively in the management and operations of these companies.
Mavcap also invests through its Outsource Partners Programmes, whereby it allocates capital to other VC fund management companies to invest in high-growth businesses.
Cradle offers a maximum seed funding of up to RM500,000 to help technology companies attain commercialisation.
The government has also introduced tax breaks to encourage private investments in startups as well as promote the setting up of high-tech companies in Malaysia.
For example, the Angel Tax Incentive allows angel investors who have invested in early-stage startups to qualify for tax exemption. This would indirectly see more fund flows to startups and also encourage eligible angels to participate in the ecosystem.
There are incentives for ventures that have obtained MSC Status including a 100% investment tax allowance and duty-free importation of multimedia equipment.
Various programmes have also been initiated to build entrepreneurial and technical skills as well as encourage interest among the local community to venture into the startup scene.
MaGIC recently launched its partnership with Stanford University, which, among its programmes, would send entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley for a two-week immersion programme.
The partnership will also see an exchange programme whereby local entrepreneurs will be able to learn from the Stamford faculty on marketing and commercialising their ideas.
Another significant component of the partnership is the “Faculty Train Faculty” Programme where faculty members from 14 local universities will be sent to Stanford over the next three years to help them develop impactful and creative entrepreneurship programs in their respective universities.
Early this year, MDeC announced its MSC Malaysia Startup Accelerator Lite programme to help early-stage ICT startups map out and accelerate their goals.
MDeC is also working with partners such as JFDI Asia, a regional startup accelerator, to help mature and globalise the local startup community.
Government agencies are actively seeking partnerships with startup communities and small and medium companies in other countries to provide local startups with an opportunity to learn from and potentially partner with startups abroad as well as explore other markets.
>This is the sixth instalment of MetroBiz’s tie-up with Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) to explore startup ecosystems.