Astro's The Sandbox is 'Shark Tank' Meets 'The Apprentice'

Marcus Lee
06:02 MYT
MyStartr is a Chinese-language crowdfunding platform for Malaysians that started in 2012. Founded by Goh Boon Peng, the goal of the site was simple, to help local businesses find investors.
With The Sandbox, Astro and MyStartr have joined forces to produce Malaysia's first crowdfunding reality show. We spoke to MyStartr CEO, Goh Boon Peng and he revealed that he had orginally pitched the idea for a reality show in 2018 but the stars didn't align.
In 2022, his marketing agency encouraged him to pitch again and this time, it was a success. Duolabs Creative was contracted to produce the series and it is Astro AEC's first business-genre show to be scheduled on prime time, Saturdays at 8.30pm.
What is the Sandbox?
We said earlier it's like Shark Tank meets The Apprentice and that's exactly what you get. You'll see business owners pitching their ideas and participating in challenges that continue to ramp up in difficulty.
the sandbox mentorsThe 3 mentors with host Xiao Ma and MyStartr CEO, Goh Boon Peng
The show is hosted by Xiao Ma and features three successful local entrepreneurs including, KC Hoe, the founder and CEO of CUCKOO International who achieved over RM1 billion in revenue in 8 years; Bryan Loo, the founder of Tealive who expanded to over 800 stores in Malaysia; and PK Cheng, executive chairman of Khind Holdings Berhad with a sales revenue of RM480 million in 2020 across 60 countries worldwide.
The three act as the first hurdle that the participants face in episode 1 and 2 with the suspenseful elevator pitch. They also stay on to become mentors to the participants and it's interesting to see how their relationship evolves as the episode move along.
It's not the usual over-dramatised fare that you get with most reality shows, but it does get suspenseful and there's some tears shed as emotions run high. We asked the show's producer about this aspect of storytelling and they said:
"As reality shows are non-scripted, it is crucial to allow the content to unfold naturally, and the most challenging part is designing a scenario that will guide the occurrence of events. This aspect proves to be the most challenging and testing for the production team."
How were the participants chosen?
12 participants the sandboxThe 12 participants of The Sandbox
Mr Goh revealed that his team at MyStartr were responsible for evaluating the over 200 entrepreneurs who sent 3-minute long video pitches. From there, 50 were selected for a closed door audition before the final 12 were selected to appear on the TV show.
We asked what the criteria was for being selected and he said that they had to understand if the participants had a good business model and that their business was eligible for crowdfunding. Interestingly, Mr Goh shared that some weightage was given to how the participants looked on camera as well (this is a visual medium after all).
It took half a year to produce the show and distill it to the 8 episodes we see on TV.
pitching the sandboxA literal elevator pitch by a contestant
We asked if the final 12 receive any coaching before the first episode and he revealed that they had a 3-day workshop before shooting the first episode. They didn't know what they would face, but the contestants were trained in speaking.
Why was the Chinese language chosen first?
The team at Astro shared that it has always been committed to support local SMEs through its major platforms including TV, radio and digitals. Astro Chinese Business has been dedicated to creating and launching various programs aimed at supporting local SMEs including the series of Business Talk and SME Great Helper. The partnership with MyStartr will take the "Astro supports SMEs" initiative to the next level.
Mr Goh shared, "There’s always a demand for crowdfunding in the Chinese market, but there is a gap between the two (investors & business owners) that needs to be filled. Through The Sandbox, we wish to fill this gap, so we choose Chinese as the medium of publicity. However, we are open for any new ideas and look forward to promoting crowdfunding ideas through other languages in future."
What's the future for the Sandbox?
Mr Goh shared that the purpose of the program is to increase equity crowdfunding to investors. He hopes that as people watch the show, they'll put themselves in the shoes of the judges themselves and they may have an interest in becoming investors themselves.
Watch The Sandbox on Astro Go and Astro AEC (Ch 306), Saturdays 8.30pm or On Demand after it airs.
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