A VISIT to the Me.reka Makerspace is sure to get your creative juices flowing and inspire the ‘maker’ in you. The 12,000 square feet space on the ground floor of Publika Shopping Gallery features a textiles lab, a wood and metal workshop, an electronics lab, food technology kitchen, 3D printers, laser engraving and VR headsets all under one roof.
Founded by Rashvin Pal Singh and Gurpreet Dhillon, both DNA Digerati50 2018-2019, the reach of Me.reka goes beyond its physical makerspace. The Me.reka programmes include project-based learning, an Explorer Programme, where students learn about the latest technology and career pathways, and the Digital Entrepreneurship Programme, teaching digital literacy to vocational students.
While Me.reka’s paying students come mostly from urban areas, a big part of its vision is inclusive education for all. In close collaborating with UNICEF Malaysia, Me.reka reaches out to undocumented students in Sabah. Meanwhile, Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and Yayasan Hasanah connect them to students in the rural Malaysian peninsula.
To create even greater impact and touch more lives, Me.reka has embarked on an equity crowdfunding campaign (ECF) on PitchIN. The campaign actually 1began in December 2017 and will only conclude on Oct 1 this year. Due to certain challenges, the campaign period was drawn out longer than expected. Rashvin shares, “We only learned that we needed an anchor investor after going live. And, the May 8 general elections further delayed our plans.” Despite the challenges, they got two anchor investors to came in with US$48,280 (RM200,000) each, shares Rashvin.
Nonetheless, he shares that the longer time frame worked to their benefit because it allowed them to meet the right investors and exceed their minimum target set of US$193,280 (RM800,000). “It is very humbling and exciting for us to enter this phase. After a lot of face-to-face outreach with personal connections and investors, we have over 50 investors.”
The crowdfunding pathway
With this initial target met, trying to hit the US$ 362,000 (RM1.5 million) total is next on the agenda. Hoping to reach this sum in the following days to come will prove exciting for the team as people decide to participate in the ECF. “We still have a few large ticket investors that we engaged with over the past couple of weeks waiting to come on board,” Rashvin shares, hopefull that his investors will buy into their vision.
For those interested in investing, Me.reka offers a share buy back after a two-year lock-in period at 15% premium, to be paid within a year of investor exit. Alternatively, Me.reka also projects higher valuation returns of 50% to 150% and potential dividends after the third year. Investors will enjoy benefits in the form of discounts on workshops and classes and makerspace membership.
Explaining the rationale for Me.reka to chose to raise capital through ECF versus other forms of funding, according to Rashvin, what sets crowdfunding apart from VC rounds is that the investors want to be a part of the Me.reka’s journey. “They truly believe in what we’re doing and what we want to achieve.”
Furthermore, the ECF has rounded up a diverse set of individuals from education, advertising, entrepreneurs and corporate, to name a few. Rashvin shares “To engage them to play a part in our growth and to share our plans, we will organise quarterly review sessions with our investors.”
Disrupt education with blended learning
As for Me.reka, it’s growth plans are made up of three main pillars – creating a digital learning portal, being a content provider and partnerships with educational institutes and corporates. Rashvin makes it clear that there are no plans to open another centre, “Our centre in Publika serves as our state-of-the-art content generating hub, and a testament to the education model we believe in.”
With Me.reka’s goal of disrupting the education landscape still clear as day, it is on the lookout for programme partners. Using Me.reka’s blended learning model, Rashvin shares, “Our programmes will be developed together with industry players and include real-world projects. The programmes will be delivered through online modules and offline physical classes.”
Currently, some of the partnerships Me.reka has secured include Xperanti for IoT, Force Maker 3D for 3D printing and Makita for fabrication – but are actively looking for more to come on board. Sharing personal observations, Rashvin says many students are opting out of a three or four year degree programmes. “They seek more skills and content specific programmes that run between 6-9 months, called Nano-degrees. This allows students real world expertise, and quicker access to the job market and specifically in the start-up space.”
With regards to accreditation, Me.reka is still working with local providers such as the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) and STI College to provide accreditation.
However, Rashvin explains the disruption he hopes to see, “Ultimately, we are looking to redefine the way our programs are accredited. We want the industries to lead the process, rather than the regulators.”
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