500 Startups has just announced that it will be launching its Distro Dojo Accelerator Program in Asia in partnership with Malaysia’s MaGIC (the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre).

Distro Dojo‘ is a 10-week programme for growth-stage startups that have raised at least USD$150,000 in funding from other investors. “Distro” stands for “distribution”, which refers to distributing one’s product or service to more users and customers. Startup founders and their teams will benefit from hands-on work done on their companies – covering areas such as user acquisition, conversion optimisation, content marketing, UX, and emerging channels. The main outcome is to grow a startup’s customer/user base while upgrading the startup’s own competency in the area.

Distro Dojo in Asia

This will mark the first time that 500 Startups is bringing its Distro Dojo accelerator, launched in London last month, to Asia.

On MaGIC’s end, the organisation, led by former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Cheryl Yeoh, will support administrative costs and provide space for 500 Startups to run the programme over a course of three years.

The programme is expected to graduate 100 ASEAN startups in the three-year period.

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500 Startups will be responsible for the complete management and facilitation of the programme including bringing in top regional and global specialists to work with the selected startups. Startups will also receive USD$50,000 worth of funding from 500 Startups, of which USD$25,000 will be available for product marketing, and USD$25,000 will be used for the programme training fee.

“We want to save startups money”

Speaking to e27, Khailee Ng Managing partner at 500 Startups, said that the logic behind Distro Dojo was simple. “When startups raise their first round, they are often unsure what to do with that money immediate(ly) and often they spend a chunk of it on user acquisition and salaries. We want to help them,” he says.

He continues, “We want to save startups money.”

From left to right: Guest Trainer Niel Patel, MaGIC CEO Cheryl Yeoh, Managing Partner 500 Startups, Khailee NG

From left to right: Guest Trainer Niel Patel, MaGIC CEO Cheryl Yeoh, Managing Partner 500 Startups, Khailee NG

Instructors, coaching and more

According to Ng, the programme will see accepted startups, who need not be a 500 Startups or MaGIC-affiliated company, engage in a 10-week programme of which six weeks will be spent in MaGIC’s Cyberjaya campus in Malaysia.

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Ng also told this author that instructors will be embedded within the startups to help them work out “actual goals”. “For companies that are growing and ready to raise more, when they come down, they aren’t just sitting around and receiving coaching, we literally say, what do your investors want? What do you want?” Ng adds.

Ng says, “There are many ways to spend the money to get more customers, and we want to equip them with world class tools, methods, and tactics to get them five-ten times the customers with the same amount of funding they’ve raised.”

The world’s first growth-stage accelerator

For Yeoh, MaGIC’s CEO, the arrival of Distro Dojo in Malaysia is something of a homecoming as she reveals to e27 that back in 2011, when she was still in the Valley, she was actually a part of Distro Dojo’s pioneer test batch.

“I am so happy to see that this idea has become a full-grown programme,” Yeoh tells this author. She believes that Distro Dojo is ‘the world’s first growth-stage accelerator.’

She also says that beyond the actual learnings from the accelerator, another big reason for having this programme in ASEAN and, in particular, at MaGIC is to inculcate a sense of ASEAN startup brotherhood. “ASEAN startups need to think about growing regionally and having startups from different parts of the region come together under one program will help them bond and form relationships.”

Ng adds that further inspiration comes from his own past as an entrepreneur. “I grew up building companies reading Techcrunch essentially. I had to figure stuff out on my own. It does not have to be that way, with 500 as a vehicle, we can bring in international staff. If we can get 100 companions in the region to work with each other it will help the region as a whole,” he says.

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Distro Dojo Asia has actually already completed a pilot batch from August to October 2014, which saw four companies – The Luxe Nomad (Malaysia/Singapore), CatchThatBus (Malaysia), iMoney (Malaysia) and Orori (Indonesia) complete the “Distro Dojo” pilot program (under codename “Cerebro”).

Their experiences were recorded on video and can be watched here. Applications for the July intake are open now.