Has the COVID-19 pandemic fuelled Malaysia’s startup ecosystem?

IT goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global businesses, from transportation and logistics to education and healthcare.

Despite business disruptions, globally there was a surge of new ideas and young startups who adapted quickly to the pandemic and found themselves in the mainstream marketplace in a very short span of time.

The US, UK and Japan reported that new business registrations increased by 95%, 30% and 14% respectively in 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019.

The number of startups in the technology industry grew by 20% compared to 2019, with growth rates peaking in the last quarter of 2020.

A similar trend can also be seen in Malaysia where new businesses are starting to emerge across various sectors including F&B, logistics, e-commerce, mental health, healthcare, and fintech, as a result of the pandemic.

The need for entrepreneurs and startups to build resilient economies

The global pandemic is a call for Malaysian entrepreneurs and startups to innovate and accelerate their businesses both in the tech and non-tech space.

One key benefit that startups hold, especially during times of rapid change, is the speed of adaptability and scalability, an area where conventional business models might be redundant.

The lean organisation of startups enables them to pivot quickly, as faster and easier decision-making allows for speed in processes and production.

This gives them an added advantage to ensure business continuity.

In the current climate where unemployment is on the rise, startups also hold the key to job creation and upskilling of the workforce.

This is especially important for Malaysia as we move forward with the Government’s MyDigital initiative that emphasises digital transformation and the adoption of the digital economy to become a high-income nation.

In addition to economic and technology growth, startups foster a strong feeling of community.

There is a positive and supportive culture in the local startup scene where information, networks and resources are shared, promoting equal growth opportunities for all.

As we move into the post pandemic era, this sense of community allows for faster business growth, more adaptability and a positive work culture that contributes to building to better economic gains.

Creating the right ecosystem for local startups

One way to ensure business continuity for startups could be via business accelerators and exposure to funding opportunities at the early launch stages.

In today’s climate where investors are more risk averse, business accelerators can assist startups and SMEs to build their capability through financial support, grants and access to industry advisors, helping to convert viable ideas into sustainable enterprises.

The role of mentorship and coaching is also often underestimated in the success of a startup. Industry mentors and business coaches can give entrepreneurs the right guidance in formulating business strategies, understanding local and international market landscapes and forming the right partnerships, giving them a fresh perspective to address impending issues.

As the pandemic has rightly shown, building relevant skills and working with the right talents is ever so critical for the entrepreneur of today.

Building talent development programmes that impart skills like machine learning, coding, digital marketing, fintech is another way to support aspirational startups to build the right teams to achieve their business goals.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global economies quite extensively.

That said, it has also opened doors for further innovation, giving birth to new ventures. As we move in a post-pandemic recovery phase, these ideas and innovations will form the backbone of the direction of growth we take as country in terms of technology, talent and revenue. – Aug 5, 2021.


Jessie Chong is director of BizPod at Taylor’s University.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Photo credit: iStock

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