Penang’s Startup Ecosystem Receives Recognition with Georgetown as 8th Ranked City in Southeast Asia

Penang’s Startup Ecosystem Receives Recognition with Georgetown as 8th Ranked City in Southeast Asia

11 January, 2024

  • Georgetown is 2nd highest-ranked city in Malaysia with KL at 4th spot
  • Supporting startup ecosystem part of plan to attract high-tech industries


Exabytes, a Penang based regional hosting company is widely considered to be the state’s most successful startup. Filepic shows it hosting students from Singapore’s Temasek Polytechnic in 2019.


Piktochart is a respected Penang based startup with a global customer base for its products.


January 11, 2024 – In a statement, Digital Penang marked a significant milestone for Penang’s technology startup ecosystem as it received the “Outstanding Ecosystem among Medium-Sized Population Cities in Southeast Asia 2023” award from StartupBlink, a leading startup ecosystem map and research center based in Zürich, Switzerland.

“As the 2nd highest-ranked city in Malaysia and 8th in Southeast Asia, George Town exemplifies excellence and innovation. Additionally, it leads among Southeast Asian cities within its population tier, solidifying its position as a vibrant hub for entrepreneurs,” said Eli David, CEO at StartupBlink.

Mahmod Shamsi, the Head of Business Development at StartupBlink, highlighted an increased momentum of startup activities within Penang, notably in 2023, that underscores forward-thinking initiatives supporting startups during the early stages of business development. This has also been reflected in the upward trend of Penang’s global ranking by 12 positions and is currently ranked 8th in the region.

Singapore, Jakarta, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur (also ranked 87th in the world), Manila, Ho Ci Minh City and Hanoi rank ahead of Penang (also ranked the 329th city in the world) in Southeast Asia.


Easyparcel is a logistics platform from Penang that counts Exabytes founder, Chan Kee Siak as as key angel investor. Easyparcle last raised a US$10.5 million Series B in 2019.


“This award serves as a testament to the Penang State Government’s commitment to nurture a vibrant startup ecosystem as a key driver of sustained economic growth. As our startups develop new technologies and solutions to address contemporary challenges, we seek to foster a state that attracts investment and promotes the expansion of high-tech industries in Penang,” said Zairil Khir Johari, the Penang State EXCO for Infrastructure, Transport and Digital.

Penang has set an ambitious goal of fostering 500 technology startups by 2030. As of 2023, the state has successfully cultivated 150 startups, spanning diverse technology verticals including e-commerce, hardtech, deeptech, edtech, agritech and fintech. To fortify the resilience and sustainability of Penang startups, Digital Penang has launched market development and access programs in collaboration with strategic partners in Indonesia.


Forward College (it recently rebranded from the original Forward School) was launched by Penang born Howie Chang who came back from Singapore in 2018 to contribute to Penang’s talent ecosystem. Exabytes’ Chan was among the angel investors for Forward College.

[Ed: The above picture replaced an earlier one of Forward College when it was known as Forward School.]


Qualified startups also received support through market access grants and participation in various investor engagement activities conducted throughout 2023. The establishment of the Penang Chapter of Malaysian Business Angels Network enhanced opportunities for early-stage startups to connect with angel investors. Noteworthy initiatives such as the Penang Digital Creative Week and Digital Penang Hardtech Accelerator programs in 2023 contributed to the cultivation of a differentiated ecosystem within the state. These programs provided substantial support to technology entrepreneurs operating in the creative tech, hardtech and deeptech sectors.


In receiving the award, Ts. Ng Kwang Ming (pic), the CEO of Digital Penang, emphasised the significance of partnerships in contributing to the vibrant technology startup ecosystem including mentors, investors and government agencies, for elevating Penang and Malaysia. Ng also took the opportunity to invite aspiring startup founders and technology entrepreneurs in Penang to apply and participate in Digital Penang’s 2024 programmes.

Source: Digital News Asia