Ecosystem, Starting up

Malaysia’s Tech Startup Ecosystem – Who, Where, What


I’ve been to Malaysia a few times and have been wowed by the level of entrepreneurial activity there (it was enough to make me question my nationality, haha). If you are there for the first time or just want to get involved in the community, here’s a primer to the Malaysia ecosystem players.

(This is by no means an exhaustive list, just sharing what I know!)

People You Should Meet

There are plenty of folks to meet in Malaysia. Some are very prominent and hence difficult to get an audience with, some are…hmmm let’s just say that you shouldn’t focus time on them. Here are 3 of my favorite community-minded folks in Malaysia.

Laís de Oliveira
Lais is the founder of 8spaces, director of StartupGrind Malaysia and all-around awesome lady. Her love for the Malaysian tech startup community is so prevalent that she has become one of the must-meet folks if you visit Malaysia in a short 2 years she’s been in town. What I really respect Lais for is how she puts her money where her mouth is – sometimes having to pay from her own pocket for community events.

Curry Khoo 
Kah Lee, or Curry, is the founder of TE4P and the community builder down in Penang. He may come across as a brash, loud and inappropriate guy to some, but hang out with him enough and you’ll know that this guy really has his heart at the right place. Just listening to his plans for The Coding Shophouse, a project to let anyone to learn to code, and Wisma Yeap Chor Ee, an IoT-focused accelerator and you see what I mean. This guy’s passion for the Penang community is so strong that it got me really pumped up for Penang, and I’m not even Malaysian. 😅

Heislyc Loh
Heislyc founded StartupMamak, a 4000-member community for technology start-up entrepreneurs. He is also the Co-Director of the Malaysian chapter of Founder Institute and the Brand Ambassador for AngelHack, a global hackathon movement. Heislyc struck me as a very humble guy who’s passionate about bringing the tech community together.


If you want to be an entrepreneur in Malaysia, make MaGIC your first stop to finding out everything you need. MaGIC, short for Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre, is a government-related organization set out to make Malaysia the startup capital of Asia. They run many events, workshops, overseas trips for startups, and an accelerator program. Some of their programs are open to foreigners too. I really like the team at MaGIC, those folks are passionate about what they do, are making an impact, and are very friendly people.

The Founder Institute 
The Founder Institute is the world’s largest entrepreneur training and startup launch program. Based in Silicon Valley and with chapters across 50 countries, the Founder Institute has chapters in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

1337 Accelerator 
The 1337 Accelerator (pronounced leet accelerator) was formed to fund aspiring new and existing startups in the app development space. Apart from the seed funding up to RM50,000, teams also receive mentoring from our panel of industry experts and office space during the 3 month program.

WTF Accelerator 
WatchTower and Friends (WTF) accelerator, an initiative by Cyberview, is a company that has a vision of building a startup ecosystem that will raise an ever growing number of successful startups. (The name WatchTower and Friends is inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s song ‘All Along The Watchtower’.) Their portfolio startup includes The Lorry, an Uber for lorries platform, and Scholar Deck, a platform for students to discover scholarships in Malaysia.


500 Startups/500 Durians 
Probably needs no introduction (but I will include one anyway), 500 Startups is a seed fund and startup accelerator program that focuses on helping startups succeed w/ usable design, customer-focused metrics, and scalable distribution. 500 Durians is 500 Startups’ micro fund for investing in SEA. So far, they have invested in 40 startups in this region.

Catcha Group
Catcha Group is an investment firm that not only provides capital to a few of the most promising technology companies in Southeast Asia, but also helps them grow and flourish. They also add value to their portfolio companies by providing a structured platform that transmits knowledge of strategy, management, and operations. Their prominent portfolio companies include iProperty Group, Ensogo, iflix, and iCarAsia.

Short for Malaysia Venture Capital Management Berhad, MAVCAP supports seed, start-up early stage to late stage companies in the ICT industry as well as other high-growth industries. They recently establish a MYR 100 million ($30 million) venture capital fund named Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (ADIF) with Axiata Group Berhad.


DrinkEntrepreneurs is a laid back monthly event where entrepreneurs and budding entrepreneurs come together to meet and have a great time.

Startup Grind
Startup Grind is a global startup community designed to inspire and connect entrepreneurs through outstanding meetups. Their next meetup is happening on 26th Oct and will feature Derek Anderson, founder of Startup Grind.

This community aims to level up technical, design, creative, social, and entrepreneurial skills in the Klang Valley. Each meetup focuses on a different topic, including Edutech, VR, and IoT.

StartupMamak is a community for tech startup explorers, talents and founders to exchange knowledge and connections. We usually meet once a quarter and provide exclusive discounts to startup-related events.

TE4P – Tech Event 4 Penang 
This community brings you the coolest tech events in Penang. Next event on their calendar is the Startup Weekend Georgetown, happening on the 16 – 18 Oct.

Co-Working Spaces

The Co – 8 Lengkok Abdullah, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Community oriented coworking spaces with meeting rooms and office suites located at The Row in KL and Bangsar.

Fluent Space – A-10-03, Plaza Taragon Kelana, No 3, Jalan SS 6/6, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Coworking space for independents, freelancers and small teams.

The Nest – 7 Jalan Derumun, Damansara Heights, 50490 Kuala Lumpur
The Nest is a coworking space for passionate entrepreneurs from all over the world who want to build amazing companies in an inspiring environment.

Nook – 9, Jalan Riong, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Nook is an open plan space located atop a hill, overlooking lush green surroundings – the perfect setting for collaboration, creativity and all the other things you need to get your mojo going (including free flow of coffee and tea).

To find more co-working spaces, such as this cat cafe, check out 8spaces! 8spaces is a community-driven platform where you can discover, choose and book amazing spaces in Kuala Lumpur. (I’m not paid to write this. I just really like what Lais, the founder of 8spaces, is doing :))


Picture credits to Cheryl Yeoh and MaGIC.


Tan is passionate about helping people make a living doing what they love. Currently working at Facebook as a Marketing Associate, Elisha is also the organizer of TechLadies, an initiative teaching women how to code.

Prior to working at Facebook, she founded Learnemy, an online marketplace where you can find in-person classes taught by local experts and enthusiasts.

Marketing, Personal

What I Learned From Using Twitter Ads


I’ve recently begun searching for a job again.

On top of the usual job boards and applying directly at the companies’ sites, I took a more proactive way by putting ads on myself. Because in the tech startup industry, positions can be carved for the right person – it isn’t a must for me to wait for the right opportunity to show up.

Here’s a sample of the tweets, and they all go to a page with my resume.

Twitter ads are a cheap way of getting traffic, I spent between $0.07 – $0.35 per link click. It’s definitely something a marketer should consider when it comes to paid traffic. In terms of results, I did get a few emails on potential career opportunities and some buzz from Twitter users.

If you do try Twitter ads for yourself, here are some lessons I’ve learned on using Twitter ads.

Optimize Your Landing Pages For Mobile

Twitter is available on web and mobile. However, a large percentage of my ads were clicked on by users on mobile, which caught me by surprised.

My landing page was initially not optimized for mobile and that probably costs me some leads. If you are going to put ads on Twitter, you definitely want to make sure your landing page looks good on mobile.

Add A CTA In Your Ad Copy

I’ve read it from somewhere that adding a CTA in your tweet improves its spreadability. This is also true for ads. Adding a CTA isn’t complicated – all you need to do is to put a “Please RT” or something similar. When I change my ad copy from this:

“I’m looking for a job! Let me help you get better deal flow, partners and reach a wider audience across Asia.”

to this:

“Hire me to help you get better deal flow, partners and reach a wider set of audience all across Asia. Click for more

My CTR increased by 10%. Although this increase isn’t fantastic, it was a good result considering that all it needs was a tiny tweak in my ad copy.

Create Different Ads For Different Countries

Some countries are more social than others, so their engagement rates are much higher than others. I’ve placed my ads for APAC countries and I observed that Indonesia gave me the highest retweet rates. That’s not too surprising, considering that Indonesia and Philippines are big on social media.

Interestingly, Indonesia didn’t give me much followers – I had more new followers from Malaysia. If I were to put Twitter ads again, I will craft ads with different CTAs to suit the user behavior of different countries.

Forget About Custom Audience

Facebook only requires a minimum of 20 people to create a custom audience, Twitter needs 500 – 660. This makes precise targeting extremely difficult if your audience pool isn’t big.

I had an idea of buying a list of male and female Twitter handles so I can create custom audiences and target the people I’m going after by specifying that my ads are only shown to a specific gender.

That means that if I have a list of 50 handles that I want to target and they are mostly males, I would create a custom audience with this 50 handles by including 450 handles of female users (which I don’t care about). I’ll just select to show the ads to males for this campaign.

I’ve tried buying a list of bots/fake Twitter accounts off Fiverr, unfortunately that didn’t work. :(

Will I Use Twitter Ads Again?

All in all, I think ads on Twitter are great for paid traffic, it’s affordable and you can seed the virality of your content with the right copy (after all, it only takes 2 clicks to retweet).

But I would think twice about using Twitter ads for getting leads or sales because of how complex it is to reach the right audience. Or maybe it’s just that I have not figured how to do it properly.

If you know of any tips on putting up Twitter ads, do leave a comment below!


Tan is passionate about helping people make a living doing what they love. Currently working at Facebook as a Marketing Associate, Elisha is also the organizer of TechLadies, an initiative teaching women how to code.

Prior to working at Facebook, she founded Learnemy, an online marketplace where you can find in-person classes taught by local experts and enthusiasts.

Starting up

What Ben Horowitz Taught Me About Entrepreneurship


asset1380408900Ben Horowitz is no stranger in the startup world. He’s the co-founder and general partner of the Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz. With $4.2 billion under it’s management, the firm has invested in pretty much all the who’s who in the tech startup scene – Airbnb, Facebook, Twitter, Box, and DigitalOcean.

I caught his talk during last year’s Lean Startup Conf at San Francisco where he shared his startup story, struggles all founders face, how putting constrains on resources increases creativity and workplace diversity. (You can watch his talk on the video below.)

But the biggest takeaway I had from the talk was this:

“Your success as a company really depends on how linear a path you walk to the right product.”

This is the advice Ben has for founders who are finding product-market fit. It’s about knowing where you are now, where you want to go, and walk the straightest line possible to reaching your goal.

That got me thinking, how do I know and find the straightest line to reaching my goals? I mean, there’s many ways to go about achieving success in entrepreneurship, how does one find his/her most efficient path and increases his/her odds of success?

I submitted that question to the Q&A app that the conference was using, but my question was not chosen. 😭

So I decided that I was going to find Ben and ask him myself. And it wasn’t easy.

Firstly, I wasn’t seated at the main hall where I could grab him as soon as he got off the stage. Secondly, it’s not easy for me to spot a white man amongst all other white men. Thirdly, I had to walk against the crowd exiting the main hall while I was trying to spot Ben.

But as they say, fortune favours the bold.

After gently elbowing some folks away to get closer to him, I asked him, “Ben, how do you figure out what is the straightest path to success? What do you need for that?”

He replied,

“Knowledge. You need deep understanding of the problem and it takes about 5 – 10 years being in that domain to acquire that knowledge.*”

This ties in to what I’ve learned after being in Silicon Valley for 3 months – be in love with the problem, not the solution. Always start with the problem, be obsessed with the problem, not the solution.

It’s a lesson I will remember for my future ventures.


*Slightly paraphrased. I was walking and elbowing people so I couldn’t write it down immediately, haha.

Picture credits: a16z


Tan is passionate about helping people make a living doing what they love. Currently working at Facebook as a Marketing Associate, Elisha is also the organizer of TechLadies, an initiative teaching women how to code.

Prior to working at Facebook, she founded Learnemy, an online marketplace where you can find in-person classes taught by local experts and enthusiasts.

Personal, Starting up

The Ghost


Many people know that entrepreneurship is hard and that founders all pay the psychological price of entrepreneurship. Rand Fishkin, Co-founder of MOZ, calls his mental cycle of train wreck The Loop. I have a Ghost.

I wrote this back in December 2013:

The Ghost

Instead of a loop, I have a ghost.

The ghost creeps up on me when I’m not watching – then it consumes me.

Instead of keeping my eye on the prize, focusing on that tiny glimmer of light I call hope, the ghost makes me focus on the 99.99% of darkness that surrounding it. Loudly echoing “you aren’t good enough”, “you aren’t good enough”, “YOU. AREN’T. GOOD. ENOUGH”.

I do not like the ghost, but I know it’s not leaving.

I guess most founders, including myself, have high internal locus of control. We believe that change is possible, and we are the ones to make it happen. So when things don’t go well, it’s incredibly hard for me to not take it personally, or take it as an reflection of my self-worth.

But for now, I’ll lay the Ghost to rest.


Tan is passionate about helping people make a living doing what they love. Currently working at Facebook as a Marketing Associate, Elisha is also the organizer of TechLadies, an initiative teaching women how to code.

Prior to working at Facebook, she founded Learnemy, an online marketplace where you can find in-person classes taught by local experts and enthusiasts.

Marketing, Starting up

4 Cheap and Quick Starting Up Tips for the Non-Tech Founder

Starting a tech startup without any technical skills is hard. Although it is getting easier to pick up programming skills via free platforms like Codecademy, Khan Academy and the likes, learning enough technical skills to be proficient for your product can still take a long time.

So what can you, the non-technical founder, do?

Demonstrate Value To Bring A Technical Person On Board

As a non-tech founder, you need a technical person (whether as a co-founder or a founding member) in a tech startup. And the best way to attract a smart technical person to join you is by demonstrating that

  1. Your business has value and
  2. You are the best person to run this.

Here are four ways that you can go about doing that.

1. Test Value Proposition

What is the biggest pain point that your startup is solving, and how do you communicate that to your target audience?

That may be one of the most important question a founder must answer. Fortunately, you can find the answer without having any technical skills. There are a couple of ways you can find out what message and value proposition resonates best with your target audience.

1. Facebook Ads or Google Adwords
Test value propositions by creating a different ad for each proposition. Run these ads on Facebook or Google Adwords (or even both, if your budget allows it) and track which value proposition gets the most clicked. This will be the proposition that best resonate with your target audience.

If you’re not sure who exactly is your target audience, which isn’t an uncommon problem when you just started out, you can also test that with ads. Just target different value propositions with different set of audience and track which audience/value-proposition set gave you the best returns.

2. Landing Pages
If an ad (usually limited to 70 – 90 characters) cannot fully encapsulate the value you are creating, test it with landing pages instead. There are plenty of tools out there to help you create landing pages without needing you to know how to code. Here are some of them:


2. Start Making Money

Nothing validates your idea better than people putting their money on it. You can do that on your landing page, or you can leverage on existing platforms for that.

If you’re starting a hardware company, you can test it out by running crowdfunding campaigns on sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

If you’re starting a software company, you can test it out on Fiverr. Fiverr is a marketplace where you can find people to do tasks (or called ‘gigs’ on the site) online for $5. Since an algorithm is just automated human intelligence, you can start testing your idea by providing a service manually.

Here are some examples of different kinds of software businesses, and how it can be converted into gigs on Fiverr.

  • Homejoy (Marketplace) – “I will find and validate qualified home cleaners in your vicinity who fit your schedule.”
  • Moz (Saas) – “I will analyze your website and give you ideas on how to improve your site’s SEO.”
  • Groupon (E-commerce) – “I will bring you hundreds of new customers to your offline store.”


3. Gather Your Community

If for some reason (say, your idea is much more complicated) making money isn’t possible without a product, at least start by building your community. Start a blog, start getting email addresses of your potential users, bring on some possible partners, mentors and potential investors.

Doing this does two things:

  1. Prove that there is possible demand for your product and
  2. Prove that you can gather the right resources for your product.

There are plenty of free blogging services such as Blogger and Medium, but I strongly recommend WordPress simply because of the comprehensive range of free plugins that the WordPress community has created.

On my other blog, I used WordPress, SumoMe (for a pop-out to collect email addresses, in exchange for an ebook), and Mailchimp (an email marketing campaign tool I use to send out the said ebook automatically).

4. Design And Test Your Product

As the visionary of your product, you can start designing how your product should look like. The most basic way of creating a prototype is to draw it on paper. Otherwise, there are free or cheap tools that can help you create a clickable prototype:

Once you have a prototype or mock-up of your product, talk to your users to find out what they want and what they like and don’t like about your product. The best way to do that is to meet your users and watch them ‘use’ your prototype.

If meeting your users isn’t possible, another alternative is to install a live chat tool, such as Olark or Zopim (both have free plans), on your landing page or existing website. Otherwise, you can create short usability tests on UsabilityHub.

Make something people want

“Make something people want” is the startup mantra of many accelerators, founders and mentors. I agree with it, but somehow I feel that the part, “people want” is so much underrated and overshadowed by the former “make something”.

(If you have noticed, the 4 tips above all seek to help you address what people want.)

There are simply too many products out there without a clear understanding what problem they are solving, much less having a clear view of who their target audience is. And no, “everyone” is not a target audience.

As a non-tech founder, knowing what people want presents a very compelling reason for a technical person to join in, which is just what you need to kick-start your product!


Tan is passionate about helping people make a living doing what they love. Currently working at Facebook as a Marketing Associate, Elisha is also the organizer of TechLadies, an initiative teaching women how to code.

Prior to working at Facebook, she founded Learnemy, an online marketplace where you can find in-person classes taught by local experts and enthusiasts.