These 7 Penang startups might be under the radar, but show a lot of potential for the Malaysian ecosystem

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A growing number of startups from Penang are showing much potential, yet many are still under the radar

Startups in Penang may be a drop in the bucket compare to the world out there. Still, some made a name for themselves, like JobStreet, Exabytes, Piktochart, and DeliverEat.

But, there are a few more startups in Penang still under the radar.

The reason behind these little-known startups is definitely due to the naturally ‘shy’ Penangites who prefer to lay low, instead of marketing themselves. In fact, a few failed interviews I did for this article has led to this conclusion.

That is why we at @CAT are going to unearth them.

Here’s the list of other startups in Penang. You will be surprised to find some doozy ideas with lots of potentials.

So without further ado, here is the list.

1. SmartShopper

Penang Startups - Smartshopper

Grocery planning and shopping made smarter

Founded by Tan Yin See, SmartShopper is the go-to app to spend your grocery money smartly. Based in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, the app has a reliable, extensive popular products and retailers. They aspire to become the Waze for grocery shopping, helping Malaysians to spend money wisely.

Nascent idea through courage

It all began serendipitously with lots of courage. Soon Chee Kwang, previously Yin See’s client-turned-friend, later co-founder of Smartshopper, had access to a lot of price data to crunch for clients in his previous marketing service company. Their so-called epiphany moment was to reveal these data to the public for the benefit of Malaysians. They were sceptical about the legal challenges at first but went ahead with valour. Little did they know it went beyond their expectations with 100K installs in the first year and 250K the subsequent year.

Takeaway

“What’s the worst that can happen if things don’t work out?”
— Tan Yin See aka. Daddycat, Co-founder & CTO of SmartShopper

You have nothing to lose compared to giving up. Having guts is crucial to realise an idea. Because taking no risk means having no possibility of success.

2. Appzilo

Penang Startups - Appzilo

Helping app developers and publishers reach the right people at scale and grow their apps

Appzilo is founded by a pair of siblings, Patrick and Patricia Ooi, who founded Mobile9. Launched in 2014, AppZilo was a spin-off from sponsored listings for app creators on Mobile9. It has more ad formats, robust analytics, support multiple OS and works seamlessly across websites and mobile apps.

Refined idea through demand

They created a self-serve app advertising platform for publishers to get their ads up and running easily in minutes without any ads creative. The aim was to help smaller publishers acquire users for their apps and games, which would otherwise go unnoticed in the hyper-competitive and increasingly saturated market. AppZilo is the results of a few pivots and currently delivers over 100,000 app installs every month across their network.

Takeaway

“Don’t build just because you can build.”
— Patricia Ooi, Co-founder of AppZilo

Every market is different, and it can take a lot of time and resources to learn the ropes and be good in it. Don’t build just because you can build. Build to scratch your own itch, build to solve problems you are familiar with. Stay focussed and don’t stretch yourself thin.

3. Qbuster

Penang Startups - Qbuster

Helping you queue happier

Qbuster is a queue management application designed to help people get into queues conveniently, allowing users to utilise their time efficiently. Founded by Jaff Low and three other friends from Hatches Team, they hope one day every servicing line business would use Qbuster, including small food stalls and aspires to eliminate the queueing nature in society.

The beginning of a benevolent idea

They created Qbuster to help any weak, young, or elderly people who are unable to stand in queue for too long, and everyone to manage their time efficiently. Qbuster aspires to be the boon to servicing merchants leveraging on technology and business support. While starting this new queueing trend in Malaysia, their partners are running the solution in the United States today.

Takeaway

“Patience. Passion. Persistence!”
— Jaff low, Co-founder of Qbuster

It’s hard to kickstart a business model that involves both sides of the supply and demand, like Qbuster. It’s always the “chicken and egg” story. Thus, a lot of patience, passion, and persistence are required to try every possible way to achieve a breakthrough.

4. TableApp

Penang Startups - TableApp

Helping you reserve the best restaurants in Malaysia on the go and never miss your favourite place again

Benson Chang, a fellow Penangite, started TableApp in March 2013 first based in Kuala Lumpur. TableApp made this list because these days you will see him roaming the streets of Penang. Yes, he’s now back to his beloved hometown to make their table reserving solutions available to Penangites.

Solving a problem in a familiar market

Benson was the Restaurant Manager for one of his parents’ eatery outlets when an idea transpired. During those days, he realised how difficult it is to focus on serving customers while answering calls concurrently with less workforce. TableApp was built to take away the pain restaurants faced while helping them increase their profit margin. The aim is to help restaurants from losing potential customers and provides seamless booking experience to users. Today, they have over 70 per cent of high-end restaurants in Klang Valley using TableApp.

Takeaway

“The beginning phase is always the hardest!”
— Benson Chang, Founder of TableApp

People say the first step is the most difficult. I’d say the second is even more challenging. Regardless, Benson and his team discovered how difficult it was to convince and acquire merchants. However, once onboard, they can be very valuable in helping you refine your system. Until today, that is what they are still working on—continuous improvement.

5. produc.codes

Penang Startups - produc.codes

Making selling through messaging hassle free, now everyone can sell

produc.codes is the brainchild of Joel Tan, a serial entrepreneur based in Penang. product.codes offers an innovative way for anyone to sell their products anywhere anytime, particularly Facebook, without the need of a merchant/e-commerce platform. A true visionary and a dynamic executor, Joel has big plans for produc.codes.

Marrying trend and true problem

Riding the bandwagon of eCommerce now trending in Malaysia can be the right move. However, creating a me-too would not help. Thus, Joel focused on real world problems. Targeting small and Facebook sellers, he understands their real issues—cumbersome process of acquiring sales through Facebook, technical knowledge in creating an e-commerce platform or the lack thereof, and many others.

So produc.codes is created not just to remove those pains, but also helping them perform even better. With a simple line of codes generated from the platform, anyone can now sell, receive payments or add a shopping cart on your regular websites or blogs.

Takeaway

“Never lose sight of your end goal!”
— Joel Tan, Founder of produc.codes

Most of us want things fast and instantly. But, building a successful startup is not always serendipitous. It is a long, involved process. It is so easy to lose your way due to stress, peer pressure, egotism, or seeking quick success. We need to have love to pursue an enduring journey. Always remember the vision when you first started. Never lose your first love. Keep focus! Never compare with other startups. You have your story, so write your own.

6. Poladrone

Penang Startups - Poladrone

Trendsetting the use of drones in a myriad of industries for a better tomorrow

Started by a young, energetic entrepreneur, Jin Xi Cheong in 2016, Poladrone now comprises a team of drone enthusiasts. They utilise autonomous drones and customised algorithms to help businesses make strategic decisions. Collected data are analysed using machine-learning algorithms to obtain accurate insights. Currently, their focus is on oil palm industry.

Jin Xi’s dream is global drone domination! Should we be afraid? Anyway, he aspires to be a trendsetter encouraging more industries to use drones to solve problems, optimise for efficiency and create a better tomorrow.

From drone hobbyist to entrepreneur

Knowing Jin Xi personally, the corporate world isn’t for him—he’s the kind that doesn’t sit still unless he fell asleep overworked. He got bored just one month into the job. Imagine that! He wanted to do more—to be unbounded by hierarchy and processes.

So he explored options in Malaysia. Came back from Melbourne, joined Penang’s first semester of Founder Institute (FI), a program founded by Adeo Ressi from Silicon Valley. Bounced around ideas the first few months into the program and pivoted at least five times. Until one day, Curry Khoo, one of the mentors in FI said, “You have all this tech, why don’t you solve some real problems with it?”

Currently, in seed stage, they have a prototype and testing their business models with a few clients.

Takeaway

“Stop complaining and suck it up!”
— Jin Xi Cheong, Founder of Poladrone

The biggest barrier is always “you” and letting your ego stopping you from listening to others. Having spent the last few months within the Europe startup ecosystem, Jin Xi feels that Malaysian entrepreneurs have it easy. Their burn rate is easily 3 to 4 times over Malaysia. They had to survive literary on just bread and 2-minute cup noodles. He now understands the meaning of Ramen Profitable. We should all too.

7. Royal Tenant

Penang Startups - Royal Tenant

The virtual assistant all property investors should not go without

Royal Tenant is another startup founded through the Founder Institute program, Penang chapter, by Chong Liang Ooi. The app is a virtual assistant for property investors to manage their properties and tenants. Property owners can keep track of tenancies, accept rental payments, issue receipts and maintain accounting.

From frustrations to solution

Ooi has been managing property and tenant since 2004. However, it was in 2008, when he vested more on the profitable investment, had opened a can of worms. Reality hits him. Tenant management is not easy. It involves a lot of work—financing, accounting, legal, and many others. What’s more, there was no standard procedure, and everything was done haphazardly. Since Ooi is a computer science grad, he started dreaming about an app to help him with all these.

Currently, Royal Tenant is under closed trial for fine-tuning and will be launched to public for a limited free trial this month.

Takeaway

“Legalities, seem trivial at first but a necessity.”
— Chong Liang Ooi, Founder of Royal Tenant

Always get the legal paperwork done. Even though it seems trivial and unnecessary in the beginning, but when the need arises, you will be glad that you have yourself covered.

So, what do you think of the list? Refreshing and inspiring, I hope. How many did you know? Leave your comments below.

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The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, submit your post here.

All information are sourced directly from respective founders. This article was first published in ACAT Penang’s Blog and is republished here with their full permission.

Feature Image Copyright: keongdagreat / 123RF Stock Photo

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