A brilliant start for startups

The toughest challenge for new technology-based companies is hiring the best to stay relevant. To ensure that they remain in the game, some companies are going for the most skilled employees, offering them six figure salaries to ensure they stay on board. In most cases, it works, though some do move on.

The talent war among the bigger players has become competitive as the rival companies try their best to retain their top employees. In such a scenario, how can startups or emerging companies compete?

One answer is to ensure that they inject innovation into the whole equation. Still, this alone may not be enough for smaller companies; they have to work harder to attract high-quality people using a range of creative hiring strategies.

Talent War Among Startups

Here, the competition is not among giants but startups looking for the opportunity.

If your startup can’t attract talent, it won’t succeed. Hence, today’s startups must think “outside the box” with innovating hiring approaches and finding ways to use the challenge to move up the ladder.

Winning the talent wars may not be easy. Any startup that wants to survive will want to hire the best talent and retain their talented employees.

Smart entrepreneurs know that the only way to capture the attention of investors is to come up with brilliant innovations.

Investors like to back startups that have a knack of recruiting the best and talented individuals.

Potential investments will pour in to startups that are technically smart and have the ability to project their vision.

Steve Jobs famously stormed around Apple, terrorising his employees. But the vast majority of startup founders are not Steve Jobs. They don’t have his brains or his billions, so they better have some people skills.

Cyberjaya Startups and Their Perspective

How do Malaysian startups compare to those in other developing countries?

Malaysia has its own programmes to develop and fund startups. One of them is the 1337 accelerator (pronounced leet accelerator), formed to fund aspiring new and existing startups in the application development space.

If the startups are pushing boundaries and think their ideas are groundbreaking, then the accelerator programme is ready to fund them and take them to the next level.

1337 Ventures Sdn Bhd CEO Bikesk Lakhmichand, who has been in the training industry working with people who are actually into innovations, said if the product is compelling the funds can be allocated for marketing.

“There are mentors to see startups succeed and if you are picked for the three-month programme, it means we believe in what you have. Part of the funds would go towards marketing initiatives in the current stage,” he said during a Media “Chit-Chat” with Cyberjaya Startups organised by Cyberview Sdn Bhd (CSB).

Accompanying Lakhmichand on stage was Md Nazri Tumin, CSB head of technology hub development division who spoke on the importance of this programme and the role of Cyberview.

“In this accelerator programme that we are jointly involved, startups are required to follow procedures and structures put before them. They are the same for all participants and each team will work on their project for three months,’’ said Md Nazri.

He added that each team must work and complete their project within the deadline failing which they have to pay a penalty and move out.

“It is their business and therefore they must ensure that their ideas are commercially viable,’’ he reiterated.

The seed funding of RM50,000 per team is available for the next five years and successful startups would move into the labs in Cyberjaya where they are mentored from day one until the members become successful techno-entrepreneurs.

The programme has been narrowed down to five teams. It began with 150 applicants, and then filtered to 45.

“We have the best five startups that we believe have the apps that are ready to take the world and not just be a regional champion,” said Lakhmichand. The five:

• Tide Analyt ics whic h launched a visual driven analytics for retailers and malls;
• WaryBee with their personal safety wearables;
• Agent RX sneaking into the IOS app store taking espionage to a whole new graphically vivid level;
• Onz is a one-stop social network connecting sports players from all sports; and
• Visual Math Studio which launched its pilot app and virtual fractions tutor — Zap Zap Fractions.

According to Visual Maths Studio founder Ng Wei Chong, a former math tutor and engineer by profession, their pilot app is designed to help primary school children learn fractions in a whole new visual and exciting way. “Which kid would not love blasting through asteroids while figuring out visual math puzzles?,” said Ng.

He said Zap Zap Fractions is the most fun and simple way to learn the basics of fractions.

“Maths need not be alien to children anymore when it is made visually friendly,” added Joanne Soon Mei Chuen, who is the co-founder and formerly creative head of one of the country’s digital agencies, VLT Kuala Lumpur.

Moving in the Right Direction

So, there seems to be a few Malaysian startups ready to rock the world with their innovations.

Still, some questions are bound to crop up. Will these companies merely cause a ripple and fade away if no potential investors come forward?

Are our startups talented enough to move in the area of creative and content direction, ready to pitch their winning ideas to Silicon Valley investors and incubators?

Time will tell if they can break into the brave world of entrepreneurship.

Looking at the success rate thus far, Lakhmichand said 1337 Accelerator may expand beyond Cyberjaya to interest more startups in other locations.