The making of Malaysia’s next 5 unicorns

100 Soonicorns is an ecosystem-driven catalyst that helps prepare local start-ups to become unicorns 

AN INTERESTING collaboration is underway to groom the next unicorns of Malaysia. 

The programme, called 100 Soonicorns, is a joint effort by ScaleUp Accelerator Sdn Bhd and Proficeo Consultants Sdn Bhd. Their aim: To create five unicorns by 2025. 

The programme is held in partnership with Penjana Kapital Sdn Bhd and Malaysia Digital Economy Corp Sdn Bhd (MDEC). 

It is an ecosystem-driven catalyst that will prime local start-ups as they navigate their challenge-riddled journey to becoming unicorns, according to a statement. 

Coined from the phrase “soon-to-be unicorns”, Soonicorns are start-ups with a growth potential to become unicorns. Soonicorns are typically technology-based start-ups that display exponential scaling prospects and have received funding from an angel investor or venture capitalist. 

To participate, invited start-ups need to have raised at least US$1 million (RM4.73 million) from a venture capital firm or institutional investor; or have generated US$2 million in revenue over the last 12 months. 

ScaleUp Malaysia managing partner Andre Sequerah said that with more than 2,500 active start-ups, the Malaysian entrepreneurship landscape is vibrant and has enormous potential to build disruptive businesses that are resilient, sustainable and poised to be the nation’s unicorns of tomorrow. 

“This joint programme will enable us to take budding Soonicorns on our radar and mould them into unicorns through a structured, pragmatic and targeted programme,” he said. 

“The higher you climb, the more obstacles you face and the lonelier the journey. The margin between success and failure is slim and without both guidance and peer support, start-ups either become stagnant or deteriorate over time. The 100 Soonicorns programme will help bolster these start-ups, providing them with the necessary support from resources as well as peers to steer them as they make their way to the top,” he added. 

ScaleUp Malaysia is an accelerator that focuses exclusively on growth-stage companies in Malaysia — helping them position their business for exponential growth. ScaleUp Malaysia is founded by a team of experienced entrepreneurs, professionals and seasoned investors. 

Proficeo Consultants chief evangelist Dr Sivapalan Vivekarajah said 100 Soonicorns will act as a catalyst of growth for the start-up ecosystem and a springboard of success for these high-potential start-ups that will uncover new economic opportunities for the nation. 

The programme will also highlight these start-ups as Malaysia’s most promising companies, placing them in the spotlight of global investors. 

“With the stakes high for these late-stage start-ups, the tailored guidance offered through 100 Soonicorns will provide our local start-ups with every opportunity for success,” he said. 

100 Soonicorns will be executed in three phases. The first phase will see the team identifying the top 100 start-ups in Malaysia with the propensity to become unicorns. The start-ups will then be nurtured via a founders-supporting- founders syllabus which includes structured problem-solving, capacity development sessions, networking and like-minded peer-to-peer support, in the second phase. Finally, 20 start-ups out of the 100 will be selected to go on to receive tailored learning, mentoring, regulatory assistance and funding from investors, government agencies and other eco-system players.

“We have always believed that developing an ecosystem requires more than just financial capital. 100 Soonicorns is an initiative that provides the right stimulus to help up-and-coming entrepreneurs maximise their potential through a very exclusive programme designed to meet their needs,” said Penjana Kapital CEO Taufiq Iskandar. 

In the same statement, MDEC CEO Mahadhir Aziz said it is committed to the national goal of creating five unicorns by 2025 and the recent rollout of the Malaysia Digital (MD) national strategic initiative will further catalyse this effort. 

“MD seeks to increase overall ecosystem value, providing targeted assistance and resources that Soonicorns need, in their final push towards unicorn status. Private-public effective collaborations such as this will be the key,” he said. 

Two cohorts of the 100 Soonicorns programme will kick off in the first quarter of 2023 with 16 start-up CEOs in each cohort. By the end of 2023, 100 Soonicoorns will be running six cohorts and supporting 100 CEOs. TMR 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition