An Asian insurance group has set up a venture builder-like outfit to nurture Takatech and insurtech development in Malaysia.
FWD Insurance, part of FWD Group which is the primary insurance business of Hong Kong-headquartered investment group Pacific Century Group, has established FWD Start-Up Studio, engineered to become an innovation hub. FWD has allocated RM1.2 million (US$291,698) to be mobilized over two years through the studio to support start-ups in the Islamic and conventional insurance technology space.
Applications for the first cohort, which will begin in April, are now open, with a second one planned for later in the year and two more slated for 2022.
Concurrently with the launch of the new studio, which will support selected start-ups with funding, product development and mentorship among others, FWD has also partnered with a Kuala Lumpur-based business accelerator, 1337 Ventures, to launch a pre-accelerator program. The four-week program will accept up to 25 start-ups in the first round to support them toward a minimum viable product and commercially partner with FWD. The group is particularly keen to work with start-ups in artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing, Group COO Sim Preston shared.
|FWD Start-Up Studio benefits|
|• FWD to invest RM150,000 (US$36,462.2) to two winners of the pre-accelerator program|
• Further funding (seed to pre-series A) for high potential start-ups
• The opportunity to create a proof of concept, working alongside FWD
• Up to US$100,000 of cloud credits from Amazon Web Services
• A springboard into the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) which gives start-ups a ‘green lane’ when applying for the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox
• The possibility to co-create further high-potential ventures alongside FWD
• Access to the studio’s mentorship program
• FWD workshops with coaching on areas such as design thinking
• Immersion into the Malaysian insurtech network, currently the Islamic finance hub
With a geographical footprint spanning across 10 Asian markets, namely Hong Kong and Macau, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, Cambodia and Malaysia, choosing to base the studio in Kuala Lumpur could be a strategic move to capitalize on the country’s global leadership in Islamic finance to boost Takatech while also creating new opportunities in the conventional insurance space.
“We are delighted to be at the helm of this exciting new venture in Malaysia as we see innovation studios and brand accelerators spring up across all industry categories. The launch of the studio further underlines our continued confidence and commitment to the Malaysian market,” said Binayak Dutta, FWD’s managing director (emerging markets) and group chief distribution officer. “By tapping into Malaysia’s growing fintech ecosystem, we stand a better chance of closing the insurance protection gap in Malaysia and beyond.” A relatively underdeveloped vertical, Takatech start-ups are few and far between and could benefit from this initiative.