Incubator: Brunsfield TusStar ready to help start-ups go global

This article first appeared in Enterprise, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on November 12, 2018 - November 18, 2018.
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After two years of planning, an incubator centre located in Oasis Damansara has opened its doors — the 1,100 sq m Brunsfield TusStar can house over 60 start-up teams.

The incubator was set up to be part of the internet ecosystem, acting as an enabler and providing services such as planning consultancy, industry acceleration, pitching platforms and creating a bridge for Malaysian entrepreneurs to access China’s markets, and vice versa.

“The opening of the incubator centre is an important step for us in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative. Malaysia is a very strategic centre with a dynamic start-up scene,” Tus-Holdings Co Ltd chief operating officer Hebert Chen tells Enterprise in an interview.

The incubator is a 60:40 joint venture between Tus-Holdings and Malaysia’s Brunsfield International Group, led by executive chairman and group managing director Tan Sri Gan Thian Leong. Tus-Holdings — formerly Tsinghua University Science Park (TusPark) Development Centre — has directly invested in over 800 enterprises and manages more than two trillion yuan in assets. Chen, a Chinese national, is an engineer by training who has dedicated nearly two decades of his career to building the innovation ecosystem.

Chen is also vice-president of the International Association of Science Park and Areas of Innovation, and a board member of the Regional Centre for Development of Science Parks and Technology Incubators of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

“When we visited Malaysia, we were delighted to see that young Malaysians have such a keen interest and passion to turn their ideas into reality. They were eager to be a part of the incubator, and so Gan and I thought we should get this up and running as soon as possible,” Chen says.

The centre has so far received 15 applications, six of which have started incubation. During the launch, a further 12 teams applied and will be put through the selection process.

Internationally, Malaysia is Tus-Holdings’ sixth stop, after the “Silicon Valley of mobility tech”, Michigan, and Seattle, Washington, in the US; Alberta, Canada; and the Thai capital, Bangkok.

In China alone, the company has set up more than 120 incubator centres and has incubated and served more than 5,000 enterprises. It has fostered the growth of Mobike, the world’s first smart bike-sharing service; online English education VIPKID; and online enterprise insurance platform Insgeek, to name a few.

Chen has plans for similar centres in the UK, Italy, Switzerland, Australia, Indonesia and Egypt.

He says that by being a part of the incubator, Malaysian start-ups can gain access to a global network built up over the past 20 years and leverage its existing and future pool of resources — be it talent, investors or target markets — particularly China and its 1.38 billion population.

There will also be regular working visits between Malaysia and China to help entrepreneurs fully grasp consumer needs in target markets. “I am confident that with the team here, led by our Chinese colleague, Malaysian start-up teams will be able to leverage the bridging of talent, knowledge, information, experience and technology between Malaysian start-ups and Chinese businesses,” says Chen.

Moreover, he says,  incubatees can expect to be nurtured and supported throughout, especially at critical moments, saving them time and effort as building a start-up involves many challenges, be they technical, management-related or in terms of funding.

He also stresses the importance of looking beyond borders and saturated markets. “There is always space to innovate. Every invention has its shortcomings, but for start-ups, timing is a crucial element of success. Your inventions and innovations must be made known to the world before they are considered obsolete.

“This reinforces our view that Malaysian start-ups should begin with the mindset of creating innovative products that cater for the world — or at least the region — not just the domestic market. The world is really your oyster when it comes to innovation,” he says.

Brunsfield TusStar is now accepting applications from start-up teams in any sector, so long as they meet the criteria on scale, originality and prospects.

“We are glad that with the incubator, we have now made this first step on our journey of a thousand miles. We hope to participate in future projects. For now, we are prioritising those who are keen to enter the Chinese market,” Chen says, adding that he foresees positive cooperation in food technology, health and wellness, palm oil and tourism.

Tus-Holdings is also the research and planning partner for Brunsfield in the Malaysia Vision Valley Science Park in Negeri Sembilan, following a cooperation agreement for the RM290 billion project signed by both parties in November 2015.