Digerati50: The reclusive and altruistic millionaire
By Edwin Yapp December 23, 2017
- Hoping to groom next 10 entrepreneurs to build US$245 mil businesses each
- Prefers startups that raise less capital, work longer on ideas, not looking at quick exits
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.
For information on customised reprints email [email protected]
HE was a pioneer of the first dotcom wave, but JobStreet.com was not Mark Chang’s first startup.
However, it was the one he poured all his heart, soul and business acumen into – and it was the one that saw him become a multimillionaire after the online portion of the business was sold off to ASX-listed
SEEK Ltd, already an investor, in a deal worth more than US$500 million (RM2.04 billion).
Since that sale, Chang has been busy running his private seed fund, hoping to build the next 10 entrepreneurs who can create an RM1 billion business in the next 10 years. But it’s not just about business – hailing from a disadvantaged background himself, he is intent on helping underprivileged entrepreneurs.
Currently based in Singapore, Mark’s biggest challenge in running this private fund is “looking for good entrepreneurs with good business ideas, who are not willing to take shortcuts but are willing to work on it for the long term.”
Mark prefers startups that raise less capital, work longer on their ideas, and are not looking at quick exits. “For the past two years [2014-2015], the theme of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists (VCs) has been more ‘grow big or go home.’
“Because of this, VCs are very compelled to put in lots of money for the startup to grow quickly, hoping that they gain a lot of market share in a short period of time, and then get a quick exit.
“But I believe that while this might result in a few big exits, it will also create many other total failures, with a 100% loss of investment capital. “To me, that is a gamble, not an investment,” says Chang, also an inaugural Digerati50.
There have been many exits and some serious funding going on in Southeast Asia over the past year, but he remains sceptical. “The startup market is very hot now, I think it is already in the speculating phase of investing.
“Some of the startup ideas are priced the same as luxury condominiums. A lot of these companies haven’t gained revenue yet, and their ideas are not yet proven.
“Many people become VCs overnight and many people become entrepreneurs overnight too,” he laments.
He also believes that it is more important for entrepreneurs like him to fill the gaps between the population and the services being offered in the region.
“As entrepreneurs in this region [Southeast Asia], we don’t have to go from zero to one. We don’t need to invent a new transportation system or to look for a new source of energy.
“There are already many problems for us to solve. We all would be very successful if we can find ways to improve our current transportation issues or maybe make better, healthier and cheaper bread.
“The population in this region is 650 million, yet we still don’t have many basic services that other advanced countries have. So can we, as entrepreneurs, fill these gaps?” he suggests.
Known for not being the one to crave the limelight, when asked how he remains humble in an ecosystem that is all about bragging, Chang says that perhaps bragging just isn’t in his character.
“I’m not sure how to be different from who I am. Maybe that’s why we don’t get deals – we don’t know how to brag.
“Bragging is bordering on cheating, so I hope not to go there,” the 51-year-old says.