Although Malaysia has a strong presence in the services sector and a steadily growing startup ecosystem, it falls short in one area: hardware startups.
It lags behind in hardware innovation, a problem that needs to be addressed if Malaysia wants to become a major player in the global technology market.
A hardware startup is a company that designs, develops, and manufactures physical, electromechanical products, such as electronic devices, home appliances and industrial equipment.
Hardware startups have the potential to revolutionise the way we live and work, creating new products and technologies that solve real-world problems and improve our quality of life. From smart home devices and wearable technology to medical devices and industrial equipment, hardware startups have the ability to shape the future and drive innovation in a way that software-only companies cannot.
Think Apple, Tesla, DJI and Sony. These are giants in their respective sectors, generating billions of dollars for their countries, producing a highly-skilled workforce and turning their respective countries into global tech hubs.
Crucially, unlike most software companies, hardware companies require a large workforce, thanks largely to the fact that the hardware needs to be physically made. From design to prototyping to testing to manufacturing, the entire value chain provides plenty of high-skill employment opportunities that locals can snap up.
This develops a well-paid, local talent pool who would be happy plying their trade here instead of opting to migrate to another country that provides such opportunities, thus plugging the brain drain that’s devastating us.
There are several reasons why Malaysia doesn’t have enough hardware startups. One of the main reasons is a lack of funding. Hardware startups require a significant amount of capital to develop and manufacture products, and this can be a barrier for many aspiring entrepreneurs. Additionally, hardware startups often face longer development cycles and higher risk compared with software startups. This can make it difficult for them to attract investors.
Another reason why Malaysia lacks hardware startups is the lack of skilled personnel. Hardware startups require a range of specialised skills, including in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and artificial intelligence.
However, there is a shortage of skilled professionals in these areas locally, which makes it difficult for hardware startups to find the talent they need to succeed.
Finally, there is a lack of support and resources for hardware startups in Malaysia. Unlike software startups, which can rely on a range of online tools and resources to get started, hardware startups often need access to physical resources such as prototyping labs and manufacturing facilities. These resources are scarce in Malaysia, which makes it difficult for hardware startups to get off the ground.
So, what can Malaysia do to increase the number of hardware startups? Here are some suggestions:
Increase funding for hardware startups
Malaysia needs to create a more favourable environment for hardware startups by providing more funding options. This could include grants, loans, and investment opportunities. The government could also consider setting up a fund specifically to help hardware startups get off the ground.
Encourage the development of skilled personnel
Malaysia needs to invest in education and training programmes that focus on the skills needed for hardware startups. This could include offering scholarships and internships to students studying robotics and artificial intelligence, as well as providing training programmes for professionals looking to get into the hardware industry.
Support the creation of prototyping labs and manufacturing facilities
Hardware startups often need access to these types of resources to develop and manufacture their products. The government could invest in the creation of these facilities, or offer incentives to private companies to set up their own.
Promote the hardware startup ecosystem
The government needs to raise awareness of the opportunities available in the hardware startup space. This could include hosting events and conferences, creating marketing campaigns and showcasing the successes of local hardware startups.
Foster collaborations and partnerships
Hardware startups often need partnerships and collaborations to succeed. Malaysia could encourage the creation of partnerships between hardware startups, manufacturers and other companies in the tech industry.
By taking these steps, Malaysia can create a more supportive environment for hardware startups and encourage more entrepreneurs to enter the field.
With more hardware startups in the mix, Malaysia can become a major player in the global technology market and drive economic growth and innovation in the country.
The writer can be contacted at [email protected].
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.