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Malaysia’s GAIN tech firms poised for global impact

In 2015, the Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) developed and introduced the Global Acceleration & Innovation Network (GAIN) program. It is designed to catalyse the expansion of Malaysian and Malaysia-based technology companies.

Companies selected for the GAIN programme need to have a very good, scalable business model, which is based on a digital platform and energised by vision, determination, the right team and of course the passion to expand globally.

The effectiveness of the GAIN platform is powered by four pillars: market access, mentorship, visibility, and access to finance/investment matching for expansion.

Malaysia’s digital economy has contributed 18.3% of overall GDP in 2017, according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM). Entrusted to lead Malaysia’s digital economy, MDEC’s key aims include fast-tracking notable homegrown tech companies into regional and global markets.

This year, the country has seen many of its tech companies move up to a new plateau.

The new plateau

Malaysia’s current digital economy is mature. It has a diverse set of companies on the GAIN platform across sectors that include cloud, big data, IoT, e-commerce, cybersecurity, drone technology, robotics, finance and fintech.

This year, the programme continues to perform well and the companies are expanding within and beyond ASEAN. Moreover, the government is looking into market immersions and market access into the Middle East, Eastern Europe, India, China, and Australia as well as into innovation and funding capacity in Japan and the US.

In the last three months, MDEC has seen local tech companies taking off into wider arenas.

In terms of numbers, 150 companies were studied; their final revenues in 2014, then in 2017 and so on were measured. It was found that the average revenue Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for a tech company was 16%, while companies on the GAIN programme were growing at 170% CAGR over three years.

The export revenue showed that ‘normal’ tech companies were growing at 27% CAGR, while the GAIN companies were growing at 47%. These numbers are expected to grow as they expand into more countries.

Paying it forward

The critical shift in mindset is owed largely to the Silicon Valley Immersion programme. Indeed, this programme has proved to be a key pivot in effecting this mindset change.

MDEC has facilitated the immersion programme, which is run by entrepreneurs, for three years. The aim was to echo and build on the ‘thinking’ behind Silicon Valley’s innovative, entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Around 65-70 local entrepreneurs are taken to Silicon Valley, where they learn how the ecosystem works, how the thinking works, how ‘paying it forwards’ works, how to cultivate talent and innovation, how to develop business models, and so forth. They bring the knowledge and information they’ve gathered into the Malaysian ecosystem.

This is another key move in the GAIN programme: these entrepreneurs build on their Silicon Valley experience they have learned how mentorship can be done effectively and efficiently for the mutual benefit of both parties.

Today, these entrepreneurs have become mentors to start-ups, and some have even invested in up and coming concerns.

Mentoring is fuelled by the power of “paying it forward”. The mentors help the start-ups avoid mistakes, offer insights, and open doors for them. In turn, the mentors learn from helping these new start-ups.

Some ‘old-school’ mentors start looking at the digital platforms being created and start applying them to disrupt themselves (some even acquire these companies) after speaking with the younger entrepreneurs.

Storytelling and the global arena

The next chapter of a company’s growth story demands to respond to the overpowering need to stand out from the crowd. This continues to be challenging for most companies throughout their life cycle – the pressure to adapt.

Visibility is powered by storytelling. Powerful brands cannot be built without addressing the challenge of finding and telling a story.

One of MDEC’s key aims in leading Malaysia’s digital economy includes helping homegrown tech companies grow into global tech icons. A great deal of this comes back to storytelling as a key driver of visibility. The aim is to continue to turn the tide by telling the great stories of what we have to offer – globally and locally.

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