International Business Review


This Might be Magic
Creating a Start-up ecosystem in Malaysia

15 December 2015

Innovation… creativity… thinking out of the box… These are attributes that add an extra dimension into a business; the X-factors that helped once small companies such as Google and Facebook, rise to the very top. In Malaysia, the government has established a number of bodies and programmes tasked with helping companies – in particular start-ups and SMEs – harness innovation. One such initiative is the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creative Centre or to use its imaginative acronym – MaGIC.

Announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit in October 2013, MaGIC aims to be “a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs” which will handle the A-to-Z of starting a business. This includes seeking financing, incubation, business and intellectual property registration, and training and mentoring, particularly in the creative, multimedia and R&D fields.

In a nutshell, it is a dedicated agency for the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem where the aforementioned attributes of innovation and creativity are the driving forces. The ultimate goal is to turn Malaysia into an international hub for start-ups.

Sound Partnerships

Six months after Datuk Seri Najib’s announcement, MaGIC was officially launched by the Prime Minister and a visiting President Barack Obama of the United States. Aside from the prestige that comes from having the US President at the opening ceremony, Obama’s presence was also quite apt considering that one of MaGIC’s international partners is Stanford University; the alma mater of the likes of Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and Tesla Motor’s CEO Elon Musk.

Other than Stanford, MaGIC has formed partnerships with other international organisations, such as INSEAD Business School and Hub Singapore – the city-state’s dedicated entrepreneurship development body.

At the same time, a number of local agencies have also linked up with MaGIC. Through its resource centre, which is available online, interested parties can garner information they need to set up a business.

For example, if they are looking for finance, the MaGIC Central resource centre has a link to organisations that will help in that regard, such as the Cradle Fund (for techno-preneurs) and Teraju (for bumiputera enterprises). In total, MaGIC Central has links to 180 agencies, reinforcing MaGIC’s position as the one-stop centre for start-ups.

Peer Learning

It is not just information, MaGIC also conducts seminars and workshops through its MaGIC Academy to enhance the know-how and skills of business owners. These range from ICT-based ones, such as web development and programming, to study groups on other aspects of business ownership, such as marketing and taxation.

While MaGIC may be dedicated to start-ups, that does not mean that owners of established SMEs cannot or should not be involved. One of the organisation’s unique characteristics is that it invites already successful Malaysian entrepreneurs to conduct the seminars and workshops. This ensures that the instructors understand the situation and challenges faced by attendees, and are better able to address any problems.

In order to establish Malaysia as a global start-up hub, the right ecosystem has to be created. It is one that has to be financially attractive, encouraging of innovation and creativity, and offering connections and links to potential partners in the public and private sectors. There is always a chance of a Google, a Twitter, a Facebook, or an Alibaba starting up in Malaysia. All it takes is the right environment and just a bit of magic.

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