The Alliance Bank's annual BizSmart Academy SME Innovation Challenge is back! But first, in case you haven't been paying attention...
They've recently announced the twenty finalists for this year's competition. Today, we'll take a sneak peek and meet ten of the finalists.
What’s the SME Innovation Challenge again?
Think "The Apprentice", but without cutthroat Donald Trump behaviour.
20 young Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are going to be coached by business leaders for the next couple of months. At the end of this period, a panel of judges comprising well-known entrepreneurs such as Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin of Eco World Development Group Berhad and Malek Ali from BFM89.9 will choose the top six SMEs to vie for prizes worth a grand total of RM1 million.
1. Freshcart Grocer
Freshcart Grocer is an online grocer with a proud mission: Delivering fresh and quality wholesome foods to people's doorsteps. They promise only high quality foods, with the following goal: “Changing the way we eat by simply changing how we value food”.
Freshcart Grocer was founded by Soh Shangrong and Jonathan Oh. Soh is an accountant major who decided to become a fruit expert. Jonathan majored in management, e-commerce business and marketing, and was previously a medical rep. He has vast experience in building successful product portfolios.
Kakitangan.com is an online leave application system available on desktop and mobile. It aims to reduce HR data consolidation work for companies. The system provides good visibility, and requires no maintenance of yearly holiday calendars for different offices.
It pursues an innovative business model -- the core services are offered for FREE. The founders plan to generate revenue through alternative means.
The three co-founders are Effon Khoo, Ken Wang and Kenneth Foo. Side note: Kenneth’s previous startup was acquired by Facebook a few years back!
WOBB is a job app for Gen Y. It helps young professionals find employers that want to hire the best talent, with insights into the company culture. True to Gen Y’s traits, the app is designed to be intelligent, intuitive, fast and convenient.
Its ultimate mission? That one day every Malaysian will have a job that they love. Founder Derek Toh graduated with a degree in Accounting and Finance and has an ACCA. Prior to his startup venture, he had a career in auditing with Ernst & Young in the UK, and was a global top performer at Robert Walters, a HR and Recruitment outsourcing specialist.
4. Signature Snack
Signature Snack offers freshly-packaged snacks and delivery through a beautiful online platform. Unlike the "typical Malaysian" snacks, the snacks they offer are of the healthy variety. They promise 100% natural ingredients with no preservatives -good for both consumers and the environment.
Signature Snack was founded by Edwin Wang and John Cheng. Edwin graduated with a degree in Computer Science from Universiti Sains Malaysia and has an MBA from Malaysia Multimedia University. He has 18 years of experience in the Internet industry and was previously the CEO of everyday.com.my. His co-founder, John, has 13 years of experience in the Internet industry and was the COO of everyday.com.my.
Sidenote: everyday.com.my was acquired by LivingSocial Inc.
Everybody loves ice cream, but have you tried coconut-based ice cream before? That's what Sangkaya has brought to our reach: innovative products made with coconut milk as the base -- instead of dairy, cream and eggs.
Why? Because the good people at Sangkaya want to re-introduce coconuts back into mainstream consciousness -- as a super food.
This coconut-centric company was founded by John Isaac Ho Chee Kiong. He started his career in corporate IT and has 10 years of business management experience -- both in global corporations and multi-national Malaysian conglomerates.
6. Lao Po Dou Hua
Those of you in Peninsular Malaysia may not have heard about it yet, but Lao Po Dou Hua is well-known in Sabah and Sarawak for their delicious 'douhua' a new type of soya bean pudding.
Established only last year, they've already expanded to multiple outlets across Borneo. Rumour has it that they'll be bringing Dou Hua to West Malaysia very soon.
Founder Ken Wom was a banker prior to starting Lao Po Dou Hua. He is a very driven businessman and has recently only ventured into another F&B business.
7. Humble Beginnings
Humble Beginnings makes and delivers sweet stuff. Most people know them for their mille crepe cakes, but they also serve ice creams, éclairs, frappes, milkshakes, and smoothies.
Quality is top priority: they emphasise using fresh creams, no preservatives and no artificial ingredients for all cakes. Every item is handmade fresh daily at a location closest to its cafes and customers.
Founder Amos Chong Kai Seng chose the name of his company well. He too has humble beginnings -- starting as a cook at the age of 19 in Singapore.
8. Chopstick Diner
Chopstick Diner is a food delivery business - delivering wholesome and healthy home-cooked food straight to your doorstep.
Ordering is simple - done directly via their website at chopstickdiner.com. The combination of delicious recipes, eye-pleasing website and convenient delivery is working well: Chopstick Diner currently has more than 10,000 followers and subscribers.
Founder Elaine Ho has a background in food science. She previously worked at George Western Foods in Perth, Australia where she spent 6 years managing, developing new products, and ensuring systems are in place for the Quality department in Western Australia. She is also a mother of three.
CarBengkel is an app which hopes to solve the familiar Malaysian problem: how do you locate a good mechanic - especially in an area you're unfamiliar with? Utilising GPS, Mobile and Push technology, CarBengkel helps solve this - by matching trusted car workshops with car owners.
With just two taps on your mobile phone, you can make an appointment for car servicing, request for pickup service from a mechanic, or even get roadside assistance if your car breaks down.
Founder Armin Baniaz Pahamin has a Bachelor of Science in Economics and 19 years of managerial working experience in the automotive industry.
Rounding off our first ten finalists is ServisHero - an app which connects consumers to local service providers (affectionately known as heroes) within Malaysia and the ASEAN region. It allows you to choose from categories such as cleaning, plumbing and personal training.
The app allows consumers to compare price quotes from different providers and look at user reviews to ensure they're getting good quality. All service providers are verified by ServisHero to maintain safety.
ServisHero was founded by Karl Loo and Jason Kang. Karl has an MBA from the University of Oxford. He possesses vast experience in Internet entrepreneurship due to exposure in Silicon Valley. Jason, a Certified Practicing Accountant, has an MBA from the University of Oxford and a double degree in Engineering and Accounting. Previously, he worked in PwC Strategy as a consultant.
Chairman Judge of the SME Innovation Challenge, Tan Sri Dato' Sri Liew Kee Sin says:
"This is my third year as Chairman of the Judging Panel and I am happy to note that we continue to have an interesting mix of finalists... I am always refreshed to hear how these young entrepreneurs, even those in traditional businesses, are using the Internet and digital communication platforms to enhance or reinvent the way business is carried out.”
Stay tuned to find out how the finalists are doing at www.BizSmart.com.my and to meet the other ten finalists soon!