To print: Select File and then Print from your browser's menu
-------------------------------------------------------------- This story was printed from ZDNetAsia, located at http://www.zdnetasia.com/news/dailynews/story/0,2000010021,20070082,00.htm. --------------------------------------------------------------
MSC companies get funding boost
September 14, 2000
Additional funding from varied sources could mean the revival of a flagging IT economy in the Asia-Pacific region.
Kuala Lumpur - Three Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) companies have bagged venture funding this week, signalling continued investor interest in the high-tech hub.
Video-conferencing system inventor Multimedia Research Lab Sdn Bhd (Mlabs), IP-telephony company Orbit Technologies Sdn Bhd and portal player Catcha.com Sdn Bhd, are early recipients of an expected windfall of investments in the coming months from varied sources for MSC companies.
Indicators suggest that Malaysia among other countries in the region are set to gain, bouyed by the growth in Internet usage, the Asian recovery and moves by US-based multinationals, venture funds and angel investors to spot and invest in startups in emerging markets.
The 750 sq km MSC has attracted 362 investor companies to-date, and received a resounding endorsement from its high-profile advisory panel last week.
Multimedia Research Labs
Mlabs Global chief technology officer Dr Sureswaran Ramadass, when contacted by ZDNet Asia, said he was "very impressed" by the MV1 fund managers. "I was impressed by their openness, keen interest in our research and willingness to participate in our plans to penetrate the US market. It is exciting times ahead for us now," he said.
ZDNetAsia reported last week that Mlabs Global had incorporated a Delaware company and was poised to enter the US market, with a Nasdaq listing slated for 2002.
Mlabs' flagship product is the Multimedia Conferencing System (MCS), a unique multipoint-to-multipoint desktop videoconferencing system that has a patent pending with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Dr Sureswaran, who invented the system and headed the research in a collaboration between Mlabs and the Penang Science University researchers, said he will be applying to take a sabbatical from his lecturing position at the university to pursue marketing efforts for the product.
He is due to introduce the product in visits to France, Germany and Holland in the coming weeks.
Acer Group chairman Stan Shih confirmed that Pinnz, of which Acer Technology Ventures has a 15 percent stake, acquired Orbit last week as part of its expansion plans into Malaysia.
Orbit is headed by Dr Bruno Sorrentino, and Pinnz is expected to leverage on the company for its research into IP-based solutions including unified messaging services, and on its status as an MSC company, which qualifies the company for various tax incentives and the freedom to import foreign knowledge workers.
Acer's Shih told ZDNetAsia last week that Acer Technology Ventures will be spending half of its US$260 million IP Fund One in Asia, and was "on the look-out" for any Intellectual Property or Internet Protocol-based investments in Malaysia.
Taiwan's largest PC-maker has a 40 percent stake in IP Fund One while the rest is from Singapore investment agencies and various partners including China Development Industrial Bank of Taiwan, ABN AMRO Capital Investment Asia, Chase Capital Partners, Nomura/Jafco Investment and DBS Nominees Pte Ltd.
Pinnz specializes in IP communications infrastructure and applications such as Voice-over-IP, Fax-over-IP and Unified Messaging and it counts among its customers Malaysia’s largest mobile phone service, Celcom Sdn Bhd.
Catcha.com Malaysia managing director Nic Lim said the company already closed RM 30 million (US$7.9 million) in total funding from three previous rounds and the latest round was "in excess of double-digit figures".
Existing investors participating in the round include Arboc Investments, Axiom Investments, Creative Technology Ltd, Imperial One and OCBC, Wearnes & Walden Management and members of Catcha.com's management.
Lim said the company will use the funds to continue to build on its presence in the five countries in which they have localized portals namely, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.
"We also will move into services and offer our design capability and our various search engines, chat engines and classified engines for the B2C and B2B markets. We know how to build dynamic and creative sites, attract an audience and make the site sticky. That's our forte and we plan to leverage on that," said Lim.
The company delayed its listing in May on the Singapore Exchange due to the market downturn, and as part of belt-tightening in July, management cut staff by 15 percent and volunteered to forgo their pay.
Lim said revenues are healthier now at just under RM 3 million (US$790,000) since January 2000, with spikes in the first two quarters. "Our forecasted year-end revenues for fiscal year 2000 has been revised upwards," he added.
Catcha.com claims it is the market leader in the region with 75 million monthly pageviews, two million unique visitors per month, and over 920,000 registered users.
Catcha.com's key clients throughout the region include brand names Compaq, Siemens, JVC, Citibank, Coca-Cola, Sony and Lufthansa.
Catcha.com's charter in the MSC is to develop advanced search engine technology for portals. The company recently partnered with top US portal player Ask Jeeves, Inc.