Digerati50: The entrepreneur’s journey: Family Matters

  • Pivot away from using gamification to solve talent to validating business ideas
  • Good family support system extremely important for all startup founders

Digerati50: The entrepreneur’s journey: Family Matters

Digital News Asia (DNA) continues its series that profiles the 50 influencers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy, from Digerati50 2016-2017 (Vol 2), a special print publication released in February 2016. The digital version of that publication can be downloaded from the link at the top right corner of the page thanks to the sponsorship of Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Malaysia’s convergence champion.

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BECOMING an entrepreneur has completely changed Zafrul Noordin’s (pic) life. The cofounder and chief executive officer of Code Ar.my says the 14 years of his entrepreneurial journey has been both a humbling and an enriching one. “Startups are tough, a lot tougher than I ever expected,” he admits.

“I have had to discipline myself; read and read and read; find ways to work a hundred times smarter and faster; learn to be patient; and last but not least, learn the importance of working in a team,” he adds.

And success is never guaranteed. It has been a tough journey not only for him, but for his family as well. “In hindsight, when I first told my wife about Code Ar.my and she said ‘go for it,’ I don’t think she fully understood what it all meant,” he says.

The initial plan for Code Ar.my was to use the gamification concept – the use of game design principles in applications outside of games – and apply those to solving the problem of talent shortage that companies face.

But things didn’t work out as expected and the startup has since pivoted to now helping startups validate their business ideas. Code Ar.my is also the official regional partner of the Lean Startup Machine (LSM), a global movement dedicated to educating and training entrepreneurs on The Lean Startup Methodology.

Zafrul’s wife is not an entrepreneur, and neither is she from the corporate world. Thus, it was hard for her to understand what he was trying to do back then, he acknowledges.

“Trying to explain to your father-in-law about what you’re putting his daughter through – or why his grandchildren are not getting the best – isn’t that much easier either.

“The uncertainty of success and the real possibility of complete failure are not easy to handle. It was tough for my wife to cope with it,” he recalls, however adding that he thinks he did a pretty good job at keeping his wife and immediate family informed of what to expect.

Having said that, Zafrul doesn’t think he did such a good job at managing the pressure when things got really bad. “I’m 100% sure my family felt some of the brunt no matter how hard I tried to shield them from it,” he says.

However, he believes all these hardships have made him a better entrepreneur, saying that he has learnt 10 times more in the last three years of being in a startup than he did in the seven years in his own digital agency back in the day. He prefers not to talk about his first four years.

Also, travelling to different continents to learn about entrepreneurship in different markets and working with individuals from all over the world has been very rewarding in a non-monetary way, he adds.

Thinking back, Zafrul says he is thankful to have had a good family support system, and believes that this is extremely important for all startup founders. “When push came to shove, my family believed in me, that I knew what I was doing – but in reality, most of the time, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he quips.

It has been a tough ride for Zafrul and his family, but the perseverance is finally paying off, he says. It has been a while since his family has gone on holiday – not since he started bootstrapping to get Code Ar.my off the ground – but now the father of two is finally planning a family trip.

“I think all the patience has paid off now that we’ve turned the corner,” he smiles.

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Digerati50 2020-2021

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