Behind the glitz and glamour of things often sold to us in the market—property, entertainment, and even retail fashion among many others—comes the backbone of every successful industry: rigorous and quality work transpiring behind the scenes.
For all the luxurious rooms mounted and sold as homes are engineers and architects working side by side with labourers to create urban spaces. For all the film epics we have seen transcend beyond the silver screen are cinematographers and production staff rearing realities straight out of the imagination. And for every iconic look churned out by fashion houses are designers and tailors collaborating creatively to dress the everyday consumer.
All of these are examples of things that encompass diligent, unglamorous, and unnoticed work neatly tucked underneath the shiny finished products we see in the market.
It is in this thread of logic that the tech industry understands the insurmountable back-end work that needs to be done for its own industry.
With data and design working hand in hand, the tech industry is beginning to distribute its focus not only to refining the interface and polishing user experience, but as well as furnishing their back-ends with necessary help.
As one of the leading startup ecosystems in South East Asia, Malaysia finds itself at the forefronts of providing solutions to various back-end problems being dealt with by industries across the tech spectrum.
We spoke to four of Malaysia’s leading startups today, RunCloud, Neuroware, Supahands, and Blinkware to know how they’re doing their part in providing these solutions in startup fashion.
Creating back-end solutions to a data-driven industry
“Supahands helps Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML) companies train their algorithms,” said Mark Koh, CEO and co-founder of Supahands. “With our combined workforce of 2,500 remote gig workers (known as SupaAgents), we prepare clean and accurate training data for clients with our Image Annotation, Data Transcription and Tagging & Categorization tools.”
Adept to the inner workings of data, Supahands implores 2,500 trained and vetted “SupaAgents” to man the forts for companies that struggle in terms of coming up and cleaning structured datasets for their AI, or those who have issues with the overwhelming amount of data that they have.
These are companies that often lack the tools and manpower to translate raw data into cleaned datasets. Having their data scientists or engineers with PhD qualifications do such work would be a waste of thousands of hours, which is why many would traditionally resort to the costly decision of hiring more staff internally, which can increase overheads by up to 75%.
Also read: 3 startups shaping AI in Southeast Asia
Supahands’ job is to prepare clean and structured datasets at the fraction of the time and cost needed, an example of the many ways the Malaysian startup ecosystem is coming up with ways to revolutionise tech in the back-end.
Cleaning up the messy side of tech
On the other side of the spectrum, we have Neuroware which provides blockchain infrastructure to enterprise clients.
“We offer organisations their own customised private APIs, which are able to connect to a multitude of services across a range of blockchains. Neuroware is currently being used by the Securities Commission of Malaysia in a pilot project to help improve the efficiency of secondary markets for unlisted private companies,” said Neuroware CEO and founder Mark Smalley.
Working largely with regulated financial institutions and government agencies, Neuroware offers a solution to the problem of not having a single unified API where organisations are forced to subscribe to half a dozen different services, and in-turn, manage terabytes of data synchronisation across multiple clouds.
With Neuroware’s services, organisations are able to focus on launching new products and applications, rather than the management of the complicated infrastructure behind the scenes.
In a nutshell, what Neuroware does is streamline complex data structures under one convenient API.
Upscaling without spending more
Blinkware’s Airre Inspect Division develops proprietary turnkey solution designed to revolutionise and ease the challenges of Quality Control Management experienced across industries.
“Understanding that many organisations faced the challenge of justifying high hardware cost in the implementation of technology, Blinkware took the challenge to create software capabilities that would enable lower cost hardware to function with the same capabilities of expensive higher end peripherals,” said Alvin Koh, founder and CEO of Blinkware.
Blinkware has devoted its craft to revolutionising object recognition and detection by utilizing traditional 2D web and CCTV cameras, ultimately obtaining the same results from higher end optical cameras.
This is especially useful for organisations that need these traditionally costly functions but simply do not have the budget to spend on high end devices. Their product saw a breakthrough across automotive, textiles, rubber, F&B, logistics, and agriculture industries.
Using locally-nurtured ideas in a global setting
For RunCloud, the idea to build their product stemmed from a problem that permeated close to home.
“We built RunCloud to help our own web developers regarding the issues they faced during development, deployment, and maintenance since we were also running our software house development company at the time,” said Arif Tukiman, CEO and co-founder of RunCloud.
“Based on their response, we saw the potential to productise the software — we just knew it could help other developers who are dealing with the same problems.”
RunCloud makes deploying, configuring, managing, and monitoring cloud servers painless so developers can focus more on developing their applications. In other words, it simplifies the onboarding process of the cloud up to 90% of the time.
For them, the challenge is penetrating a worldwide market given the varying timezones that they would have to work with and finding the right connections. But realising one’s startup ideas in Malaysia, to them, also comes with its fair share of perks: pivoting your product to a diverse audience that vary in ethnic, economic, and cultural backgrounds.
Also, it is important to note that the Malaysian government has been particularly supportive of their initiatives through programs like MDEC whose focus is to pioneer the transformation of Malaysia’s digital economy.
Key pointers from Malaysia
The same sentiment is shared by both Supahands and Neuroware. There is a particular awareness from the government of the current technological wave which is why they have taken initiatives to learn more and invest more into it.
Blinkware largely credits its success to MDEC for providing them with strong support in market access and talent acquisition from outside Malaysia. They said this support from their early days enabled them to grow organically and obtain visibility into other markets.
There is also a certain collaborative element to how the startup ecosystem in Malaysia works wherein different institutions from different facets of society (from government agencies down to private businesses) help each other come up with the best holistic results for startup companies.
Despite all this, however, the four startups emphasise that much work still needs to be done.
According to Smalley, “without a more transparent and consolidated tendering system, or research and development grants for collaborative pilot projects that involve multiple institutions or agencies, it’s difficult for startups to help innovate within the government sector.”
RunCloud and Blinkware, on the other hand, think that Malaysia needs to be more focused on market access and proven mentorship, while Supahands thinks that institutions should generally be more accepting and open to innovations brought about by these startups.
Malaysia’s future in startup tech
Nevertheless, the four companies are optimistic of their future, one that potentially includes more strategic mergers between institutions. If anything, Malaysian startups should be focused on refining their ideas to completion before seeking validation through institutional grants.
This, however, will not preclude more startups from popping up here and there as Malaysians are known to be very creative and innovative when it comes to finding solutions for problems.
Ultimately, the Malaysian startup ecosystem is expected to transcend beyond the confines of Malaysian context, and actually venture and integrate more visibly into regional, and perhaps global pursuits.