Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Aaron Sarma, General Partner of ScaleUp Malaysia, located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

ScaleUp Malaysia is an accelerator that focuses exclusively on growth-stage companies in Malaysia – helping them position their business for exponential growth. ScaleUp Malaysia was founded by a team of experienced entrepreneurs, professionals, and seasoned investors. Championing the concept of building "Pegasus" companies of building fast-growing, profitable businesses, ScaleUp Malaysia companies go through a program that includes in-class training, one-to-one coaching, and equity investment for selected companies.

Since 2019, ScaleUp Malaysia has built a proven track record in helping growth-stage companies secure funding from leading investors. Thus far, over 30 startups have graduated out of the accelerator, collectively raising more than USD$14 million in capital and one exit.

Tell us about yourself

I am Aaron Sarma, an entrepreneur, investor, and speaker with over 21 years of experience in technology, digital media, and retail. In 2015, I founded Touristly (which was later rebranded to Vidi), which was sold to AirAsia in 2017. I served in the group in various capacities to develop travel3Sixty, and BigLife and was COO of Currently, I serve as General Partner at ScaleUp Malaysia, an accelerator looking to help startups build and scale to the next level, which I co-founded in October 2019. ScaleUp Malaysia has announced investments in 30 companies and has been recognized as one of the most active investors in South East Asia.

In 2020, I co-founded a venture builder called Remote Ventures that helps entrepreneurs get from zero to one by providing technical support and seed funding. Remote Ventures has powered the launch of 4 ventures in entertainment, education, fitness, and logistics. I have served as a consultant at the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation as the Head of Digital Development. I have consulted with the World Bank, MaGIC, and international agencies on the topic of the startup ecosystem in ASEAN. I am also a business coach at Cradle's Coach and Grow Programme. I am a regular guest commentator on Astro Awani and BFM on topics around entrepreneurship, startups, and the Digital Economy. I am a panelist, moderator, and public speaker and have been a keynote speaker at events organized by Axiata, Khazanah Founders, MDEC, MaGIC, and Cradle Fund. I gave a talk in 2018 and was covered by Digital News Asia. I am also a featured TEDx speaker, having recently delivered a talk called "Build The Future" for TedX Monash KL. I am also written several articles that have been featured in TechNode, Kr-Asia, e27, Malaysia Kini, Malaysia Today, Business Today, Digital News Asia, TigerHall, Web In Travel, and other publications. In my current roles, I have been recognized on Tatler Asia's Most Influential list 2021 and as a Digerati 50 member 2020/2021 by Digital News Asia.

I enjoy building great companies, developing products, and bringing them to market. Through ScaleUp Malaysia and Remote Ventures, I have invested in 34 emerging startups in Malaysia. I have faith in innovation and its power to change society for good. I firmly believe that the coming economic recovery will be driven by digital businesses and that Malaysia is positioned to capitalize on this opportunity.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I'm most proud of it because, over the years, I've been able to build companies in industries that excite me with colleagues that inspire me, and I've been able to learn so much during this process.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

What most people fail to understand is that running a business is hard. It's long hours and late night and very few highlights. It's not for everyone. It's also a very lonely journey, as most people will not truly understand your journey.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Believe in what you want to do and have passion. Never start a business to make money because there will be hard times, and only your passion will see you through.
  2. Do the work. A lot of your success is dependent on your ability to adapt, learn and grow yourself.
  3. Surround yourself with good people who are smarter than you. There's no such thing as a self-made success story. You need allies and advocates along the way.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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