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Digi investing RM250k in GrabGas, Local Usher & Vase

Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd (Digi) today announced it will be investing more than RM250,000 in equity funding in GrabGas, Local Usher and Vase. Each startup will receive up to RM100,000 from Digi.

Praveen Rajan, Digi’s Chief Digital Officer who heads up the telco’s innovation lab, Digi-X (fourth from the left), pictured here with ambitious Malaysian startups GrabGas, Vase and Local Usher at Digi Accelerates’ Demo Day finale in Bangkok.

Praveen Rajan, Digi’s Chief Digital Officer (fourth from the left), pictured here with Malaysian startups: GrabGas, Vase and Local Usher at Digi Accelerates’ Demo Day finale in Bangkok.

Last Friday, the three startups graduated from the company’s maiden accelerator programme, Digi Accelerate. The teams went through a four-month intensive bootcamp from May to August 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand, alongside qualifying teams from Myanmar and Thailand.

Vase is a centralised portal for conducting surveys and providing on-demand insights, while Local Usher is a platform for urbanites to discover and book unique recreational experiences and GrabGas is a web and smartphone-based cooking gas delivery service.

“They have done a lot of work in the past four months to validate their business models, and now the real challenge is to be single-minded on building a repeatable, scalable and sustainable business beyond borders. The ambition should be to build traction and generate revenue in the first year – then they’re on to something potentially big,” said Praveen Rajan, Digi’s Chief Digital Officer, who heads up Digi-X, the Telco’s ‘digital’ division.

Praveen said that Digi-X will continue to provide both funding and hands-on support for these ambitious startups; enabling a conducive support system to grow their businesses, which includes commercialisation opportunities with Digi and Telenor, tapping into 200 million potential customers globally.

During the Digi Accelerate bootcamp in Bangkok, the three teams spent four months learning from ‘Silicon Valley experts’, receiving direct mentorship from established regional technopreneurs and pitched to global and regional venture capitalists.

On his team’s stint at Digi Accelerate, Jeson Lee, Co-Founder and COO of GrabGas said, “Joining the accelerator really helped us gain insights and connections in markets outside of Malaysia. Having lived in Bangkok for four (4) months, we’ve managed to build relationships with the locals and people from oil and gas industry. The accelerator has helped us build the foundation for our market entry into Thailand and other possible Asian markets. We now have an idea of who to approach and how to make GrabGas a market fit for the locals.”

“Through the accelerator, we met a lot of amazing people who provided us with great feedback on our product, both from a user perspective, and from a development perspective. It is fair to say, without the feedback from our mentors, and the various really cool people the accelerator brought us in contact with, Vase would not be at the stage we are today,” said Julie Ng, CEO and Co-Founder of Vase Technologies.

Meanwhile, Sabrina Cheng, Co-Founder of Local Usher shared, “It was a great experience to join the accelerator. We learned important, practical tips on how to scale our business, and also gained access to a larger customer market. Both aspects are crucial for a startup like us who want enable more people to enjoy fun trips and activities around them, and to expand our business into ASEAN!”

[Update 1] On 8 September 2016, Digi announced it will not proceed with its investment in GrabGas. Full statement below:

Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd (Digi) said today that it will not proceed with its investment in GrabGas on grounds of inconsistency in the disclosure of data. The decision follows a comprehensive review which concluded on Tuesday. Transparency and integrity is fundamental to the way Digi does business, and the decision is a reflection of the same principles it upholds and expects of its partners.

On 22 August 2016, the company announced it will be investing equity funding in three startups that graduated from Digi Accelerate, at which point, the shareholder agreements were ongoing to assess their performance and ensure business practices adhered to company’s standards for proper business conduct.

About Kugan

Kugan is the founder of MalaysianWireless. He has been observing the mobile industry since 2003. Connect with him on Twitter: @scamboy