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12 brands that caught our interest at startup week Malaysia’s marketplace & What they do

During Startup Week Malaysia 2023 last week, we had the opportunity to sit in and engage with various industry stakeholders to learn more about the nation’s startup landscape.  This included insights on how to curate a good brand story, the harsh realities of managing a large global team, and funding advice from 1337 Ventures’ CEO, Bikesh Lakhmichand.

All of which we’ll be sharing with you soon in coming articles. But aside from such talks and workshops, we also attended Startup Week Malaysia’s Marketplace which was held at Asia School of Business. There, we got to meet a mix of established and budding startups, 12 of which caught our eye. Here’s who they are.

1. Tanoti

Tanoti, which means weave in Sanskrit, was established back in 2012. As the name suggests, the brand is dedicated towards the preservation of weaving, particularly songket weaving.  A social enterprise based in Kuching, Tanoti houses young ladies from the local Penan community and fosters their weaving skills. This provides them with more opportunities to earn a viable income. 

But aside from songket, the brand has expanded their products beyond just textiles. There’s also homemade food like kasturi lime jam and engkabang butter. At the marketplace, though, we saw handmade rattan weaved bags and hats, mengkuang hand fans, and rattan-weaved felt Christmas ornaments. 

Where to buy: You can visit them at Tanoti House in Kuching or purchase from their website here.
Contact: +608-223 9277

2. FirstSeed

Made for children aged 5 to 17, FirstSeed is a marketplace for kidpreneurs to promote their products and services in real-world environments. Instead of classes, children are taught on-the-job experience in a kid-friendly environment. The platform’s founder explained that FirstSeed is meant to be a stepping stone for kidpreneurs.

Specifically, it’s to help with discovering their interests and transitioning to more mature online marketplaces. At the marketplace we visited, we were introduced to two of their students’ businesses, namely ACTors and Simple Meals.

Where to buy: You can check out the brand’s SeedMart website here
Contact: +6017-228 6778

3. Showwcase

Started by a Malaysian, Showwcase is a community platform for software developers, by software developers. Noticing the struggles of finding a viable networking space for those in this niche, Rong Liew (co-founder) decided to create his own. Aside from being a community platform, though, Showwcase also doubles as a global tech job portal. During one of his sessions as a panel speaker, Liew shared that the brand allows companies to hire developers around the world.

Where to find: You can check out the website here to connect with software developers.

4. Snackright

One of the few F&B startups that we came across, Snackright was started by a couple who liked snacking. But not at the cost of their health. As such, they came up with their own brand serving healthy treats like nuts, dried fruits, and crackers. The twist is that they don’t sacrifice taste in the process. 

You can find packets of their nuts in flavours like chili lime and Korean BBQ, whereas their rice multigrain crackers are made to taste like tom yum and teriyaki. Currently, there’s a Christmas Magical Party Box on sale at RM55, where you can get 10 mini packets of their bestsellers.

Where to buy: You can check out the online website here to purchase their snacks.
Contact: +6012-976 7917

5. Infinite Minds Academy

A school for special needs people, Infinite Minds Academy conducts digital tech programmes for upskilling. The goal is to help these individuals sustain themselves economically by obtaining the necessary digital tech skills. According to their website, their students are mainly those with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia, Down syndrome, slow learners, ADHD, cerebral palsy, and those who are deaf and mute.

To showcase the talents of their students, the social enterprise sells a variety of products designed by them at the marketplace under a brand called Beamworks. At the bazaar, we saw their prayer mats, coasters, reusable tote bags, and calendar cards for 2024.

Where to find: You can check out the catalogue here to purchase their designs.

6. Matt Made Studios

A newcomer to the entrepreneurial scene, Matt Made Studios is a new venture offering personalised paper crafts. Once a videographer, the brand’s founder launched the business to shed light on paper crafting in Malaysia. As of now, Matt Made Studios is still in their infancy and undergoing daily R&D.

But some of the current offerings that you can already find are popup cards and kirigami (a variation of origami). An example of the latter is the Spotify Christmas cards. If you’d like something more unique, the brand also takes customised orders. For this, a 50% deposit is required to confirm the booking.

Where to buy: You can purchase from the website here.

7. Seven Tea One

Established in 2016,Seven Tea One is  another local social enterprise that’s committed to helping persons with disabilities. The brand focuses on equipping disabled teens with basic employment skills, including data recording, calculations, and organisation. Along with that, teens are taught living skills such as communication, teamwork, and decision-making. 

While speaking to us, the founder shared that they’ll be moving from Setia Alam to Kapar. This is so that Seven Tea One can be closer to the community and make a bigger positive impact on their lives. For now, the brand largely creates F&B products with the help of their beneficiaries.

Where to buy: You can check out the website here to purchase their products.
Contact: +6016-238 5060 / +603-308 29211

8. carching

“Turning your KM to RM”, that’s the slogan of carching. You’ve probably seen some of their services while out and about. But if not, carching is a platform that allows car owners to earn cash by driving. Launched last year, the startup wraps users’ cars with partnering campaign advertisements. Upon signing up with carching, you’re basically a brand ambassador and can choose your preferred campaigns. On a monthly basis, users of carching can earn up to RM500. But do note that you’ll need to hit a minimum travel distance in order to qualify for the payout.

Where to find: You can check out the website here to find out more about its services.

9. Vive

Started in 2015, Vive is a local bean-to-bar chocolatier that can be found in various partnering stores around Peninsular Malaysia. According to their LinkedIn page, the brand collaborates with chocolate farmers that practice organic and sustainable methods to plant the cacao trees. This ensures that the cacao beans harvested are of good quality. Currently, you can find a range of Vive’s products, such as cacao nibs, dark chocolate bars, cacao husk tea, and pure cocoa powder.

Where to buy: You can visit them at Vive’s physical store in Seri Kembangan or purchase their cocoa-related products from the website here.
Contact: +6013-488 4191

10. Jerry

Created by the team behind Colony, Jerry is a budget-friendly, self-service coworking space brand. At the time of writing, they’re open in eight locations around the Klang Valley. Customers can opt to book their own private workspace for as short as one day for RM30 with their Day Pass. And if you like the consistency of being in one place, there’s also the option of a Monthly Pass for RM610. But if you prefer somewhere in between, there’s a flexible Prepaid Pass where you can choose any six days for RM150. So you’re able to reschedule your booking at no extra cost.

Where to find: You can check out all its locations and its details here.
Contact: +6012-241 7828 

Highlighting up-and-coming businesses

Aside from the 10 businesses above, we also came across two other local brands that are still in the early stages. 

MyRehat is a local accommodation platform that connects travellers with homeowners who act as professional hosts. On the other hand, Swap.A.Gas provides customers like housewives with “explosion-proof” cooking gas canisters.

All in all, we’re excited to see how all of these businesses will grow in the future and possibly innovate their respective business landscapes. So we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on them.

Separately, for the social enterprises that are interested in showcasing their brands, ASB will actually be hosting a monthly Social Impact Marketplace. We don’t have much information on this yet as it’s a new initiative, but its social media page should release more details soon.

This article was originally published on Vulcan Post.