Sunday 14 Jul 2024
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KUALA LUMPUR (May 23): “Success begets success. What we are missing in [Malaysia’s] startup ecosystem is a lack of someone to look up to,” said Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) director of private equity Saifulbahri Hassan.

Malaysia lacks a startup that has gone through major trials, like economic depression, and come out stronger, rising to be a unicorn. A startup like this is something other economies have and acts as a role model for other startups to follow, Saifulbahri said at the DisruptInvest Summit 2024, which took place at Etiqa Twins, Kuala Lumpur City Centre on Thursday.

Saifulbahri noted that this is not just important for entrepreneurs but also on the investor side as well, as these success stories prove that startups can be successful and show the potential returns on investment they can expect.

“[Investors] don’t want to invest money if they don’t get returns, that reference point of success is important… Malaysia doesn’t have enough reference points for success.”

KWAP is an international institutional investor whose main goal is to invest in disruptive technology, viewing disruptive innovation as a key investment.

“If you’re not a disruptor, you will be disrupted,” said Saifulbahri. This is especially true for KWAP as it is a major investor in the public markets, which are mainly encumbered by disruptive technology innovations. If the public markets are disrupted, then KWAP’s returns will also be disrupted.

“[But] we can’t be too disruptive,” said Saifulbahri, “We don’t want to be a disruptor where we provide too much capital that we kill the ecosystem.”

In 2016, KWAP looked inward on what it could do for the local ecosystem instead of investing in international markets all the time, as Saifulbahri noted that Malaysia has a lot of opportunities with potentially great companies.

In that way, Saifulbahri said that KL20, a roadmap the Malaysian government launched in April 2024 to turn Malaysia into a high-income nation which included building up the local startup ecosystem, is a wake-up call for Malaysians to start looking at disruptive investment in the startup space.

To support the startup ecosystem, KWAP launched the RM500 million Dana Perintis in 2023 where half went into investments for Malaysia-focused venture capital funds and the other half were direct investments into startups KWAP saw as promising.

Edited ByPathma Subramaniam
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