Southeast Asia has seen an increase in ‘unicorns’ (tech start-up companies valued at over US$1 billion) with venture capitalists and private equity funds bringing in billions of US dollars into the region.
According to Alvin Gan, Head of IT-enabled Transformation practice at KPMG in Malaysia, 2018 was a significant year for venture capital (VC) investment in Southeast Asia, with more than US$7.8 bil invested across 327 deals. He noted that while the bulk of that investment went to a small number of companies, including Grab and Go-Jek, the numbers highlight the growing appetite of VC investors in Southeast Asia.
Gan also believes there is potential for other Malaysian start-ups to achieve unicorn status such as Grab but will involve a combination of things: passion for the services and products offered, monetizing customer data and ensuring that a steady stream of talent comes to be part of that growth. To ensure Malaysia has the right ecosystem to nurture more unicorns, the various stakeholders involved in this space - policymakers, regulators, players and investors - need to come together and work in tandem. He cites that in the banking sector in Malaysia, banks have stopped looking at start-ups as competitor s and instead are constantly looking for ways to form new collaborations.
When asked which local start-ups have the potential to achieve Unicorn status, he says he is "excited to see the likes of iFlix, Jirnexu and Carsome over the next few years".