Review: Alpha Startups

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By June Ramli

It has been a crazy few weeks for me, in a good way, of course.
For one, I had been accepted to be in Malaysia’s Alpha Startups Digital Accelerator program by 1337 Ventures and was part of the participants of Cohort 43. 
At one time, I saw as many as 78 participants on the Zoom call.
This course, if I may call it, is sort of a program that helps you validate your business idea through a series of online coaching provided by the good folks at 1337 Ventures themselves combined with a series of online learning from the company’s education arm, Leet Academy.

After reviewing the many submissions for the Alpha Startups™ Digital Accelerator Cohort 43, 1337 Ventures is pleased to announce that your team Tapiroo has been selected to grow and accelerate in our newest intake.
Alpha Startups Digital Accelerator by 1337 Ventures.

I had a swell time learning so many new things about entrepreneurship and how to properly start a company from scratch.
We learned how to make a lean canvas, this is where we had to do a deep dive into who our customers are through a series of interviews, finance 101 lessons, how to prepare a pitch deck and more.
The programme was 100 per cent free and held virtually.
Participants also had the opportunity to access the Leet Academy online learning platform which had a series of video courses that you could learn from at your own pace.
The whole idea of this award-winning flagship accelerator program was to help early-stage startups find their product-market fit.
Participants from all over the world were welcome to join in as the program was conducted in English.
I had classmates from Nigeria and even Iran.

My less than three-minute pitch deck was created using Canva but this was not my actual pitch.

I applied and joined the program for two reasons, which was to review it firsthand as a journalist for this website and secondly to validate one of my other startup ideas –
Tapiroo is the little-known sister company of
It’s a website that I started last year to help newbie entrepreneurs with novelty products sell to the masses.
Creating products is already super hard as it is but what is even harder is finding the market to sell your products to, so our marketplace aims to help what we call marginalised entrepreneurs scale on our marketplace.
We only accept companies or individuals with $50,000 or less in revenue annually.
So, if you are already making the big bucks then you are probably not the right fit for us.
The site started from a difficulty I faced on my own.
I had created many products but had a hard time finding a market for them.

The class of Cohort 43

So, that was how got its start.
Through a frustration that I had experienced firsthand. 
Anyway, my pitch today is the second step in this program.
If I am successful in getting through this round I would then be able to pitch my idea again virtually on Demo Day to a bunch of angel investors and if I am successful in that round, I’d have a chance to access up to RM50,000 in funding. 
So, now let’s talk about the program. 
The program itself is great but can be a bit full-on for those who are participating in it while holding down a full-time job.
For the last six weeks, we had morning and afternoon check-ins for about 30 minutes followed by a two-hour mentoring session on the same day by a mentor assigned by 1337 Ventures.
During these mentoring sessions, we would present our startups to our mentors and then discuss with them ideas on how best to improve them.
You will constantly be reminded of these sessions through a group chat on Whatsapp.

Check out my recent interview with 1337 founding partner Bikesh Lackmichand.

These check-ins were spread out and we had to meet up virtually as a group on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the last six weeks or so.
This is why I feel that this program is not suitable for those in full-time employment.
You will need to have a founder or someone who is fully invested in your startup to be able to access the full benefits of this program otherwise it is pointless to be a part of it.
I tried to attend most of the virtual sessions, but there were one or two that I had to miss owing to other commitments.
If you miss the virtual meet-ups, you won’t be able to access the recordings, instead, you will be redirected to their online site where you can access all the recordings from the previous cohort. 
If you watch all the recordings diligently and do your workbook, you would be able to easily complete your final task which is a three-minute elevator pitch of your startup or business idea.
Once you are done with your pitch, you get to be a part of a qualifying pitching session which I successfully completed today.
Participants of the program can opt to be excluded from the pitching session, but why would you come all this way and not pitch?
By joining the qualifying pitch session, all participants of the program will get to pitch our business ideas to a group of panel judges which also includes one guest judge from MDEC.
The pitch goes on for three minutes with a buffer period of 15 seconds and if you are still not done by then, you will get cut off.
I managed to do my live pitch within two minutes and 35 seconds. Hurray. I was so afraid that I would go over time.
Once this was done, it is back to the deliberation board.
The judges would decide on the top 10 and these would be the startups that would pitch on Demo Day, and if you are successful here, you would get access to the funding that I had mentioned earlier.
Our results would be made known early next week.
All in all, this was a great experience for me to have and so if you are two minds about joining the program, don’t be because I believe it would be beneficial for you.
The program also comes with a generous goodie bag valued at USD10,000 that gives you free access to a myriad of credits that would be useful for your startup journey.
I am a tad bit sad that the program is now over but I wish all my classmates aka the other startups who pitched their ideas today alongside me the very best of luck. 

Update: Congratulations to the top 11 finalists that made it into Cohort 43’s Demo Day pitching session to be held on Sept 23 at 2pm MYT. Here are the startups that made the final round in no particular order.

Here are Cohort 43 top 11 finalists.

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