George Town in Malaysia & Adelaide – ‘second’ start-up cities

South Australia has always had close ties with Asia. Of Adelaide’s sister cities, half of them are in the Asia-Pacific region, including George Town, Malaysia.

What was once an important Straits of Malacca trading hub, George Town, is now a tech hub, nurturing high-impact start-ups.

Second Start-up, the 12 week bootcamp for early stage start-ups within Internet of Things (IoT) and Fintech. In 2016, the IoT start-ups included companies like Poladrone, Bawa, and Monji.

Adelaide has similar programs, like Techstars Adelaide. Intensive programs like this ensure that validated ideas and application leads the opportunity, rather than simply support investment led innovation.

Women in entrepreneurship 

Girls in Tech (GIT) Malaysia, provides a framework to help women advance their careers in technology and entrepreneurship. It organises weekly and monthly activities ranging from tech bootcamps and hackathons to networking platforms.

An extension of GIT,  Women Who Code KL is a local group organising over 2 events that includes workshops, talks, open-source, projects, and teaching programmes. The activities are done with the objective of providing a platform for ladies to learn more about the specific tech area they find interesting.

Women in Innovation, South Australia’s body focusing on encouraging women to follow careers in innovation and technology. They support women working in S.T.E.A.M, intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs, female innovators in the state.

Support for small local vendors & creators

Markets have always been synonymous to Adelaide’s creative scene. The Gilles Street Market is one of the biggest, alongside niche stalls like Flinders Street Markets and Dapper Markets. The Market Shed is the newest on the market block, with food stalls, live music, and handmade trinkets.

The Pekan Usahawan Rakyat 2017 entrepreneur expo held in April served as a similar platform for supporting small and medium scale entrepreneurs and businesses. Products sold included clothing, food, and beauty items. According to event organiser, Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasno, of the 38 vendors, 26 were women with 10 being single mums.

“We hope this allows them to gain some profits, broaden their networks and ultimately bring their products to an international level. Penang may not be blessed with much natural resources but it has good human capital who work hard to contribute to the economy,” he said.

A word on education

A single-stream education system is a aspiration leading from the 2050 National Transformation (TN50) session in held in May.

Penang’s youth want technology integration in education, as well as changes in teaching methods and learning environment – according to Youth and Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin.

There are dozens of independent schools catered for students with unique needs, such as the Cerebal Palsy (Spastic) Children’s Association of Penang.

“We work with the state Education Department where potential students are placed in integrated programmes in regular schools,” said Azlina Mohd, the head of School Section. The school works together with occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech therapists, and computer teachers to deliver specialised information.

The masses moving to ‘second’ cities

George Town and Adelaide are two great examples not only of sister cities, but ‘second’ cities.

Growing costs and a saturated market are driving bootstrapped technology-inspired masses out of major cities and into ‘second’ cities. It’s a phenomenon that can be seen throughout the world. And in Malaysia, movement is gravitating to George Town, from the hustle and bustle of KL. The same can be said for Adelaide, with momentum from larger state neighbours, Sydney and Melbourne.

Interested in hearing about collaborative opportunities from George Town, Malaysia, or any other of Adelaide’s sister cities? Contact Wendy Perry, via

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