Georgetown’s Startup Ecosystem Landscape

George Town is the capital city of Malaysia’s Penang Island. Over the years, the economy of George Town, Malaysia, has changed dramatically. In 1972, the city experienced a major transformation and become a Malaysian economic powerhouse. Today, it is home to the plants of high-tech multinationals such as AMD, Intel, Dell, Sony, and many more.

Multilingual Population:

Due to its rich history, people in George Town can speak English, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. This gives two important advantages to startups in George Town. Firstly, communication is not a barrier to building a business in the city. Secondly, it is easier to expand in the region because Malaysians know several languages to build connections.

Proximity to Major Cities in Southeast Asia:

George Town is home to the 3rd largest airport in Malaysia, with an extension project to serve 12 million passengers annually. Moreover, the Penang Airport is a gateway to Peninsular Malaysia’s northern region, and it has connections to all major cities in Southeast Asia. This helps entrepreneurs travel around the country and region easily.

Enabling Environment for Tech Industry:

George Town is already home to the facilities of tech giants like AMD, Sony, and Intel. Moreover, George Town is the first city in Asia that has Facebook’s Terragraph, which makes it easier to deploy gigabit connectivity faster and more efficiently. A fast internet connection is an important element in developing an innovative startup ecosystem and creating an enabling environment for startups. However, there is an involvement coming from the state level with the Digital Transformation Master Plan will contribute to elevating the tech industry through:

  • Accelerating program delivery and institutional reform;
  • Advancing the readiness of local manufacturing industries for the digital age and the green economy;
  • Fostering an ecosystem that nurtures creative industries and niche business services;
  • Integrating municipal services with technology.

STEM Talent:

STEM talent is an inseparable part of the developing tech scene. George Town and the Penang Government are investing in producing more STEM talent. For instance, Penang STEM is an organization that contributes to developing future talent in STEM fields. It offers over 250 STEM-related programs involving Big Data Analytics, Cloud Computing, robotics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The Penang Government has a goal to Penang aims to produce a new generation of world-class engineers as global semiconductor revenue is poised to increase to US$11.4 trillion (RM50 trillion) by 2035. This initiative directly affects George Town, as it is the capital city of Penang Island.

Accelerators & Incubators:

  • PYDC Accelerator: An accelerator aiming to provide young people with technological skills in order to help the state’s digital economy grow. Additionally, PYDC organizes workshops as part of the program that provides comprehensive business plans and spark ideas for pitches. Likewise, the Young Entrepreneurs Forum assists participating entrepreneurs in connecting with the market.
  • 25 Startups: It is an accelerator that directly supports Blockchain & IoT startups. It offers digital startup incubation, investment, acceleration, mentoring, and soft-landing space to entrepreneurs.
  • Founder Institute: It is partnering with Digital Penang for the Malaysia Virtual 2023 Founder Institute Programme. The program will transform the development ideas into viable startups that provide solutions to challenges posed by the ever-changing business and industry environment.

Coworking Spaces:

  • Regus: Regus is a global chain of coworking spaces and offices and has two locations in George Town. The first is in Gurney Paragon, and the second is in Menara Boustead.
  • CD2 @ SandBox: The Creative Digital District (CD2) is a project to implement the Penang2030 vision that is a “family-focused green and Smart State.” Sandbox is a coworking space within this project, offering entrepreneurs an enabling environment to build and grow their ventures.
  • eSovo: eSovo is a coworking space creating an environment to network for new business opportunities.
  • Plug-Ins Space: Plug-Ins Space allows members to gain access to multiple coworking spaces around the region with a single membership.
  • Entrepreneur Growth Hub: Entrepreneur Growth Hub is more than a coworking space, but acts like an incubator and offers mentorship, funding, networking, talent, and market access to its residents.

Other Support Organizations:

  • Digital Penang: It is an agency under the State of Penang, created to accelerate efforts in moving the state into a Digital Society. Digital Penang has a significant role in the development of the startup ecosystem with several projects, including initiating the Penang Digital Transformation Masterplan, development of accelerator programs, and startup ecosystem-related events.
  • School of Digital Technology (DiGiT), WOU Penang: WOU aspires to create a start-up ecosystem in Penang to accelerate the digital economy by producing talents equipped with the required digital literacy skills. The University, through its School of Digital Technology (DiGiT), intends to nurture tech startups.
Main Strengths of the George Town Startup Ecosystem
    • The existence of multinational tech companies.

    • Public sector’s high level of involvement in developing the ecosystem.

    • An enabling environment for the tech industry.

    • Proximity to major Southeast Asian cities.

    • Multilingual population.

Ecosystem Milestones

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