Why Grab Taxi had to leave Malaysia for Singapore in order to succeed

Grab in Thailand via Jon Russell
Grab in Thailand via Jon Russell

Home-grown start-up success Grab, formerly MyTeksi, and rebranded to Grab Taxi, has just given an interview to Finance Asia magazine, and explained why they needed to move their operations to Singapore in order to survive and thrive.

Chua Kee Lock, the group president and CEO of venture capital group Vertex, tells of how he convinced the fledgling start-up to really grow by making its way south of the causeway to the city-state. He went on to say that he expects similar moves to Singapore from the region’s hottest start-ups.

Singapore offers advantages that other regional governments don’t; government subsidies and tax breaks are only some of the fundamentals. For growing start-ups, there’s a well-established eco-system that promotes international attention, and the appeal of global financiers to add to their valuation, while having confidence in a hub like Singapore.

Oh what, Malaysia not give you confidence, is it?

It’s why Grab Taxi managed to raise $2.3 billion in valuation last year. Although venture capital firms are able to make more deals in Malaysia, compared to Singapore, the quality billion-dollar success stories that Singapore has under its belt for outweigh the quantity of those based in Malaysia. Garena, Lazada, and Razer all count themselves as part of the billion-dollar Singapore start-up club. Malaysia had Grab, but then Grab left, realizing that not only was the grass greener on the other side, the other side actually had grass.

Malaysia still has a highly skilled, and cheap labor-force to contend with. That’s rights, we’re cheap, cheerful, and smart as hell … So maybe the Malaysian Digital Free Trade Zone x Alibaba collaboration can give Singapore a run for its money.



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