Article by: Danial Norjidi, Borneo Bulletin
BRUNEIAN start-up AgromeIQ won the Special Recognition Award at the 3rd Asean Rice Bowl Start-up Awards (ARBSA) in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Organised by New Entrepreneurs Foundation (MyNEF) since 2015, ARBSA celebrates the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Southeast Asian start-up ecosystem. It is the first regional award that recognises outstanding start-ups that provide innovative and sustainable solutions for improving local livelihood and with potential to be scalable regionally.
A total of 2,000 entries were received from 10 countries across Southeast Asia, of which 89 category winners were shortlisted to compete for the regional awards. A panel of 25 judges evaluated the entries in three broad areas – actual and potential growth, scalability and impact.
Speaking to the Bulletin, Vanessa Teo, founder of Agrome IQ said, “We received the Special Recognition Award from the Chairman of the Asean Rice Bowl Awards Lilyana binti Abdul Latiff who said that AgromeIQ addresses the needs of the Asean region by helping farmers make better decisions and ensuring our food security for the future.
“They (award organisers) do not see enough start-ups addressing the issues we are addressing and therefore, created a category that had never existed before,” Vanessa said, adding that “they also recognised that this is the first time Brunei has joined the awards and would like to have more moving forward”.
On how she felt when AgromeIQ was named winner of the award, she said, “I was extremely overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude as it was highly unexpected for us to win in this category.
“We were already so happy to be nominated under the category among other amazing start-ups such as Grab, Zoom, etc. It is really a great recognition for the AgromeIQ team that is really working hard for its vision of supporting the farmers.”
Asked on the significance of the award to her and her company, she said, “This is of huge significance for us because as a start-up we always focus on scalability and market access, so this validated our expansion plans in the region as we are now building bridges to other Asean member countries.”
Sharing what is next for Agrome IQ following the award win, she said that they are working on strengthening their roots in Brunei and helping the agricultural ecosystem even further, while also creating strategic partnerships and alliances in other countries for expansion.
“We would like to thank all our supporters, the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism, DARe, iCentre, Progresif Cellular and Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) for their support and trust in us as we work on building a thriving, technology-supported agricultural sector,” added Vanessa.
Prior to participating in the 3rd Asean Rice Bowl Start-up Awards, AgromeIQ won the ‘Start-up of the Year’ and ‘Founder of the Year’ categories at the Brunei Rice Bowl Start-up Awards. Other Bruneian companies that came out as winners at the Brunei Rice Bowl Awards were Al-Huffaz Management (Best Social Impact Start-up), Buycour Brunei (Best E-Commerce/Supply Chain Start-up) and Headhunter Sport (Best Newcomer).
After emerging winners of the Brunei Rice Bowl Start-up Awards, the four companies went onto become finalists in the same categories for the ARBSA.
Charlotte Lim, lead organiser of Brunei Rice Bowl Start-up Awards and co-founder of The Creative Core BN (TCCBN) said, “It was a privilege for a Brunei team to be represented at the ARBSA.”
This year’s ARBSA ceremony was hosted by Filipino e-sports host Eri Neeman and Astro VBuzz talk show host Shareeta Selvarajand and was held in conjunction with the Global Entrepreneurship Community (GEC) Summit in Kuala Lumpur.
According to a press release from TCCBN, the event also saw a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) exchange between MyNEF and its six country partners from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, and the Philippines for the rights to host the national-level Rice Bowl Start-up awards in their countries.
The MoU exchange ceremony was witnessed by Dato Paduka Haji Alaihuddin bin Pehin Orang Kaya Digadong Seri Lela Dato Seri Utama Haji Awang Mohd Taha, High Commissioner of Brunei Darussalam to Malaysia along with two representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and embassy representatives.
“This will help forge a more collaborative network throughout the region. We envision the Rice Bowl to expand its activities beyond the awards process,” said Lilyana, who is also the CEO of MyNEF, in her speech to introduce the launch of the Rice Bowl Republic, a collaborative initiative to create more value offerings to the region.
“In the years to come, the Rice Bowl will be enriching its framework to include deeper monitoring of its alumni of nominees and looking out for business and media opportunities for its finalists and winners – throughout the year and beyond the awards season. Our pledge is to make Southeast Asia as an incubator or breeding ground for global start-ups that are focussed on sustainable developmental goals.
“The Rice Bowl is the official Southeast Asia circuit for the Global Start-Up Awards and it provides the opportunity for market access, funding and media exposure regionally,” she added.
Throughout the two-day event, $26.4 million (RM108 million) in funding was pledged by investors to invest in the finalists.
The Rice Bowl is the culmination of events announcing Rice Bowl national circuit winners held throughout 10 Asean member countries.