News In Brief

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Welcome to our ‘News In Brief’ column in which we digest all the news releases for you in no more than five paragraphs. Below are snippets of all the media releases we received from September 25 till the end of the week.

Win $5,000 for Your Small Business!

Sydney, Oct 3: Attention all small business owners! It’s that time of the year again, and we are thrilled to announce the return of the 51st BizGiver grant program by BizCover, in celebration of our upcoming 15th anniversary. This year, we’re taking it up a notch and offering a spectacular $5,000 award to one exceptional small business owner.
BizGiver held biannually, is dedicated to spotlighting the unwavering dedication, passion, and relentless spirit that small business owners pour into realizing their dreams. Since its inception, BizGiver has been a catalyst for small business growth, having granted nearly $100,000 in goods and services. If you have a business wish that can be invoiced, BizCover is on a mission to help make it come true.
Ellen Burns, the proud owner of We Bar None, a health-conscious snack company, emerged as the winner of the 36th BizGiver grant. Ellen stressed the significance of such initiatives, saying, “There are very few grants available for micro-businesses.” Her wish was granted with a much-needed laptop, which greatly facilitated her operations, especially after transitioning to 100 percent home compostable packaging.
Last year’s BizGiver winner, Georgi from Paid 4 U Café, also emphasized the community impact of the grant. “Paid 4 U Café is all about community support and services. Winning this grant will also spread awareness of our business, and more people will come to know about our project,” shared Georgi.
The BizGiver grant program warmly welcomes entries from all small business owners, regardless of their affiliation with BizCover*. If you’re a small business owner with aspirations to soar, you can participate by simply creating a one-minute video expressing your wish for a product or service that would elevate your business or simplify your journey. The competition is currently open and will close on October 20, 2023. Finalists will be announced on November 14, and the lucky winner will be unveiled on November 22.
Sharon Kenny, Head of Marketing at BizCover, perfectly captures the essence of the BizGiver Grant: “At BizCover, we firmly believe that small business is the backbone of our economy, and our commitment is to find ways to make their already hectic lives easier, not only by providing protection but by helping them flourish and prosper.”
For more details or to submit your entry, please visit

RFI Global: New CEO Announcement

Sydney, Oct 3: RFI Global has appointed Matt Lawrence as its new CEO, taking over from founder Charles Green, who led the company for 17 years. Lawrence, a seasoned C-suite executive with nearly two decades of experience in investment banking and the creation of a global financial data company, expressed his enthusiasm for the role.
Lawrence stated, “It is an honor to join the RFI team at this exciting stage in the company’s development. I’ve been impressed with the quality and breadth of insights that RFI Global provides to financial service companies worldwide. I look forward to building on the strong foundations laid by Charles and the team.”
Charles Green shared his excitement about the transition, saying, “RFI has reached a stage where it’s appropriate for me to pass the reins to a leader who can drive the next phases of growth. I’m thrilled to welcome Matt, whose experience, dynamism, and vision for the business are fantastic. I eagerly anticipate assisting Matt in realizing the global opportunities ahead.”
While stepping down as CEO, Green will continue working with RFI, focusing on key global and strategic accounts, as well as special projects aimed at further growing RFI into a leading insight and data provider in the financial services industry.
RFI Global, originally founded in Sydney in 2006 to provide financial intelligence for the Australian financial services market, has since expanded into a global company serving 49 markets.
In 2020, Los Angeles-based investment partners Diversis Capital made substantial investments in the organization, propelling RFI Global onto a path of exponential growth. This expansion included establishing a local presence in New York, Dubai, Paris, and San Francisco, in addition to its longstanding offices in London, Sydney, Singapore, and Toronto.

MADCash Secures RM5 Million Investment

Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin
Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin

Kuala Lumpur, Oct 3: Fintech startup MADCash, dedicated to providing zero-interest microfunds to women entrepreneurs, has successfully completed its pre-series A funding round, securing RM5 million in investments. This funding round was led by Artem Ventures, with strong support from MSW Ventures and ScaleUp Founders Fund. The newly acquired funds will be utilized to enhance MADCash’s online platform with AI technology, cover operational and marketing expenses, and explore expansion opportunities in Southeast Asia.
MADCash focuses on supporting unbanked and underbanked women entrepreneurs, aiming to create an alternative credit scoring system to enhance their future bankability. Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin, Managing Director of MADCash, expressed her excitement about the partnership and the upcoming launch of MADCash Academy, emphasizing the impact it will have on society.
Tunku Omar Asraf, Principal of Artem Ventures, highlighted the importance of financial inclusion and capacity-building for underserved women entrepreneurs, acknowledging MADCash’s role in fostering entrepreneurship and economic growth in the Southeast Asia region.

Archistar Transforms Building Approvals

Dr Ben Coorey, founder and CEO of Archistar

Melbourne, Oct 3: Archistar, an award-winning prop-tech innovator, has partnered with Digital Twin Victoria (DTV), a Victorian State Government initiative, to launch “Archistar Comply.” This innovative digital compliance tool aims to streamline the approval process for Victoria’s Small Lot Housing Code, addressing housing supply challenges in the region.
Archistar Comply offers a groundbreaking feature, providing feedback on a 3D digital model of a new house in just seconds. It performs over 90 complex compliance checks against the Small Lot Housing Code in 90 seconds, potentially reducing the building approval timeline by up to four weeks.
This technology has been developed and tested by industry professionals through the DTV eComply project. It will also promote the adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) in residential home development.
The partnership between Archistar and Digital Twin Victoria represents a significant step forward in addressing housing supply issues and promoting efficiency in the building approval process in Victoria.

Finance Leaders Adapt

Sydney, Oct 4: Stripe, the financial infrastructure platform, has released a report highlighting how finance leaders are navigating economic shifts, AI’s ascent, and the ongoing quest for profitability.
A global survey of over 1,700 CFOs and finance leaders revealed that many are grappling with an abundance of systems. Over 63 percent use more than 10 systems, and in larger enterprises, nearly 25 percent employ over 50 systems.
Karl Durrance, Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand at Stripe stressed the importance of arming CFOs with the right tools.
Finance teams are spending over 10 hours monthly on error reconciliation, with 35 percent revisiting financial records or restating earnings each quarter due to errors.
To address these challenges, 55 percent plan to consolidate software programs in the next one to two years. They seek centralization, cost reduction, and revenue maximization. Automation is a priority, with “digital technologies to automate financial operations” ranking highest on CFOs’ digital roadmaps, garnering nearly 40 percent of interest.
Despite automation’s promise, finance leaders still value human control, envisioning automation to enhance rather than replace manual workflows.

Riquelme Triumphs in Panos

The Bridge.
The Bridge.

Sydney, Oct 4: José D. Riquelme of Spain emerged victorious at the 2023 Epson International Pano Awards, securing the title of Open Photographer of the Year and winning the Nature/Landscape category with stunning entries “The Bridge,” “Alone in the Dark,” and “Ghost Cave.”
“The Bridge” captured Iceland’s beauty from above, forming a bridge-like composition with flowing lines and abstract shapes. “Alone in the Dark” presented Namibia’s enigmatic landscape, featuring a majestic petrified tree against a starry backdrop, while “Ghost Cave” showcased the iconic Kirkjufell in Iceland with a breathtaking panoramic effect.
With 4,414 entries from 102 countries, the competition highlighted the global appeal of panoramic photography, underscoring its dynamic and evolving nature.
Teo Chin Long from Singapore received the RAW Planet Award for “Yellow Net 1,” and Swee Choo Oh from the USA earned the Epson Digital Art Prize for her interpretation of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
The 2023 Pano Awards celebrated exceptional talent, pushing the boundaries of panoramic photography in a dynamic and diverse global competition.

Alibaba Cloud Powers SAINS

Sarawak, Oct 4: Alibaba Cloud has announced its collaboration with Sarawak Information Systems (SAINS), a leading ICT systems integrator and solutions provider in Sarawak, fully owned by the Sarawak State Government. This collaboration marked the launch of SAINS’ Private Cloud, a highly secure cloud solution powered by Alibaba Cloud, the first of its kind in Malaysia. The partnership aims to accelerate digital transformation in the region, bringing advanced cloud computing and innovative technologies to public services, businesses, organizations, and educational institutions in East Malaysia.
Central to this initiative is Alibaba Cloud’s deployment of its Apsara Stack solution, offering flexible implementation for different businesses and providing reliable hosting services to SAINS’ customers. This deployment aims to reduce recovery time objectives, ensuring maximum uptime and reliability for applications and services.
SAINS, known for developing various applications over the years, decided to implement fast auto recovery of customer applications due to advancements in mobile and cloud technologies, raising customer expectations for application reliability and disaster recovery.
Alibaba Cloud’s infrastructure solution is designed for hyperscaling and financial-grade disaster recovery capabilities, aligning with SAINS’ future expansion plans and high-security standards. With two Availability Zones for disaster recovery, Apsara Stack in Sarawak, SAINS, and the Sarawak Government can ensure applications run actively across both zones simultaneously.
Busiai Seman, CEO of SAINS, stated, “Our customers have high expectations of us in terms of application service reliability and service restoration times. Thus, we have decided to implement private cloud-based platforms with automatic disaster recovery capabilities from our partners such as Alibaba Cloud.”
The collaboration was facilitated by VSTECS Pericomp, the distributor for Alibaba Cloud in Malaysia. The partnership is part of Alibaba Cloud’s commitment to empowering Malaysia’s digital transformation journey with advanced technologies and solutions, further establishing Malaysia as a forefront digital economy hub.

Airbnb Boosts Malaysian Tourism

Kuala Lumpur, Oct 5: New research by Oxford Economics highlights Airbnb’s pivotal role in Malaysia’s tourism industry, significantly contributing to GDP and employment.
Commissioned by Airbnb, the report reveals that in 2022, Airbnb guests spent around RM 7 billion in Malaysia, spanning restaurants, retail, and transportation.
These activities contributed over RM 5 billion to Malaysia’s GDP and supported nearly 57,000 jobs, accounting for approximately 4.9 percent of the tourism industry’s GDP contribution in 2022.
Airbnb guest spending in Malaysia extends its impact throughout local communities, with most spending occurring beyond accommodation expenses.
Spending on non-accommodation items was over six times higher than spending on accommodations.
The top five Malaysian states and territories benefiting the most from Airbnb’s activities were Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Johor, Penang, and Sabah.
Selangor, in particular, saw a significant increase, with Airbnb guest spending reaching approximately RM 1 billion in 2022, an 85 percent rise compared to 2019.
The report underscores the vital contribution of Airbnb guests to domestic tourism, revealing that 81 percent of all guests in Malaysia in 2022 were domestic travelers, up from 63 percent in 2019.
Domestic Airbnb guest spending in 2022 totaled nearly RM 4 billion, constituting 58 percent of the total Airbnb guest spend in Malaysia, up from 35 percent in 2019.
Furthermore, the report explores two notable shifts in travel behavior since the pandemic: the dispersion of tourism from urban to rural areas and the growth of long-term stays due to flexible work arrangements.
James Lambert, Director for Economic Consulting in Asia at Oxford Economics, emphasized Airbnb’s role in Malaysia’s tourism sector’s resilience following the COVID-19 pandemic, including the shift towards rural travel and the demand for long-term stays.
Amanpreet Bajaj, Airbnb’s General Manager of Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, emphasized the crucial role of domestic travelers in Malaysia’s tourism sector’s resilience and dispersion.
He also highlighted Airbnb’s contribution to local businesses and job opportunities, enabling economic growth in rural and regional areas.
As Malaysia’s tourism sector continues to recover, Airbnb is committed to working with governments and communities to rebuild tourism economies in an equitable, inclusive, and sustainable manner.

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