KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — Digi.com Bhd, one of the top mobile operators in Malaysia, has launched Digi Accelerate, its maiden accelerator programme in which the two winning startups would be able to get up to RM100,000 in seed funding each.
This will come after a four-month bootcamp in Bangkok.
Digi chief executive officer Albern Murty said the programme goes very well with the company’s direction.
“We are a telecommunications company, and we are going to be a digital telco going forward. That means we are going to make the biggest and fastest changes in terms of how we do business,” he said.
“For us, this is something that we naturally want to do – this is not a PR (public relations) position only. This something we really believe in.
“We see the programme as an opportunity for Malaysian startups to use as a springboard,” he said at the launch of Digi Accelerate in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
From now until April 17, interested startups can submit their business proposals to the company via the Digi Accelerate website.
The names of the top 12 startups will be announced on April 22, and they will need to pitch their ideas on April 28. The two winning teams will be announced on that same day.
The winning startups will then have a few days’ break before heading to Bangkok for the four-month bootcamp, from May to August.
After these startups have gone through the programme, they will be in position to secure up to RM100,000 in seed funding from Digi.
“The seed funding is basically equal to an equity stake of between five and 10 per cent,” said Albern.
For Digi, a company with a market capitalisation of over RM38 billion and annual revenue of approximately RM7 billion, the seed funding of RM100,000 seems a tad underdone.
While the amount may appear small to some, Albern believes that Digi Accelerate offers startups an opportunity that many other programmes cannot offer: Regional and even global exposure.
Digi, part of Norway’s Telenor Group, will be partnering with its sister-companies in the region: Thailand’s dtac and Telenor Myanmar.
During the four-month bootcamp, which will also be attended by startups from Thailand and Myanmar, winners will attend workshops with Silicon Valley experts, and receive one-on-one mentoring with successful entrepreneurs in the region.
They will also get to pitch to global and regional venture capitalists, according to Digi.
“They will also have potential commercialisation opportunities with Digi and the Telenor Group. This opens the door to 200 million customers globally,” Albern declared.
He said that Digi, dtac and Telenor Myanmar have committed to collectively investing about RM10 million annually for the programme. He did not say how much Digi is investing.
“The total investment, which is a combination of cash and kind, is approximately RM10 million. It is not just about sending the startups there (to Bangkok), but it is also our guys going back and forth to ensure that the programme is in place,” said Albern.
More importantly, having only two winners also means that Digi would be able to give each sufficient attention.
“We want to ensure that we are able to carry these companies through the process. Again, it is not a ‘here’s the seed funding, good luck, if you succeed, come see me again’ sort of contract,” said Albern.
Digi is not the only Malaysian mobile operator that has jumped on the startup bandwagon.
In late 2014, Axiata Group Bhd, a regional telecommunications group which owns mobile operators like Celcom Axiata Bhd in Malaysia and XL Axiata in Indonesia, started working with Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap) on its own programme. — Digital News Asia
* This article was first published here.