‘A small piece of history’

Startups under DARe’s inaugural bootcamp pitch to regional investors for the first time

Thirteen local startups broke new ground earlier this evening when they pitched to a panel of regional investors with access to multi-billion dollar portfolios.

Taking centre stage before a capacity crowd at the auditorium of the Design and Technology Building, the startups made their case in four minute pitches before the floor opened to the panel of investors for critique.

The panel spoke optimistically after the pitches ended, but reminded the businesses – who are part of Darussalam Enterprise’s (DARe) first 100 day startup bootcamp – that their journey is just beginning; with persistence, adaptability and innovation all needed for their visions to be realized.

“Having viewed their pitches, there is certainly potential for these start-ups to venture outside Brunei,” said Benjamin Twoon, the Chief Operations Officer of Fundnel Pte Ltd – a private investment platform headquartered in Singapore. “My choices were the startups that uniquely leveraged on Brunei’s strength in Islamic education.”

These included Al-Huffaz Management – who provide a platform for Al-Quran teachers to deliver classes house to house or online, and muBn; who offer a novel, interactive brand of Islamic education – dubbed the Tarbiyyah Project – that centers around a ‘play and pray’ approach for young children.

The 13 startups pitching earlier and one other have collectively raised close to $300,000 in investment, generated $80,000 in revenue and employed 131 people. For the past four months the start-ups have met up every Tuesday evening at iCentre, with leaders in the Sultanate’s private sector such as telecommunications company Progresif and DARe CEO Loo Yau Soon providing close mentorship and guidance.

Other panelists singled out Zeneco Solutions and their product FarmNotes – which collects and analyses data for farmers to raise crop yields – as having regional potential if foreign governments and small-scale farmers can be convinced.

The Director of the ASEAN Centre of Entrepreneurship, Stakeholder Management & Outreach of the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) also reserved praise for an application that integrates blood donors, blood banks and health centres under a seamless management system.

Its co-founder Hakim Yakob of Newgate Plus said that the business is in talks with local health institutions to offer the service and is keen to debut the application abroad after securing the local market.

As the startups were left to reflect on their rapid development over the past 100 days, the prevailing sentiment was a renewed sense of belief that they are on the cusp of achieving something much greater.

“The bootcamp has been a remarkable experience,” said CEO of muBn Dr Hjh Mona Kassim. “We have learned and expanded so much, and we are seeing possibilities and doors open that we didn’t see before joining.”

With one milestone under their belt, the founder of Zeneco Solutions Vanessa Teo summed up the culmination of start-up bootcamp: “The journey is just beginning. And the only way is forward.”