Digerati50: The self-reliant entrepreneur

  • Striking out on your own is difficult but success is sweeter
  • Financial discipline and resilience keep a startup going

Digerati50: The self-reliant entrepreneur

Digital News Asia (DNA) continues its series that profiles the 50 influencers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy, from Digerati50 2018-2019 (Vol 3), a special print publication released in March 2018. The digital version can be downloaded from the link at the top right corner of the page thanks to the sponsorship of The Center of Applied Data Science (CADS) ASEAN's first and only one-stop platform and center of excellence for Data Science. For information on customised reprints email [email protected]

 

CHEVY Beh’s entrepreneur journey started out like a classic film about family dynasties and a son wanting to break away and set out on his own. The family business in this case is BP Healthcare Group, a staple in the Malaysian healthcare industry. Chevy left the company and struck out on his own without financial backing from his family, launching BookDoc in 2015.

“It was just the time to do it. If I had done it five years earlier, it would not have worked. If I did it five years later, someone would have done it already. And I also wanted to see how far I could go on my own without anyone’s support. I was testing my resilience and perseverance. You are always prouder of what you achieve on your own,” he says.

BookDoc is essentially a doctor discovery platform but has since evolved into a platform that covers the entire medical tourism space – the user can discover and book doctors for any ailment they face, has access to navigation, ride-sharing and hotel booking apps directly from the platform, as well as restaurant reviews and other travel-related content.

There are no tragedies in this story, however, or much drama other than the fact that in about three years BookDoc has expanded to four countries and is partnering with some of the biggest healthcare groups in the region.

It has also raised money from some interesting investors. For instance a member of the royal family of Brunei was a key investor in his Jan 2016 US$2 million angel round which Chevy claims made BookDoc the highest valued startup in the region.

This was followed by a Feb 2017 round which was led by a family member of Macau billionaire tycoon Stanley Ho. This was then quickly followed through with another undisclosed amount, in June 2017 through the Hamami family, ranked as one of the richest in Indonesia by Forbes.

Chevy certainly learned about entrepreneurship while working in the family business but a point that must be made is that he was cognizant of the differences between a large corporation and a startup, and adapted his behaviour and business strategy to match.

“When you’re in a business that’s been in operation for about 30 years, you learn to scale the business. But when you’re in a startup, the skill you need is survival. In one it’s ‘how do I make more profit than I already am?’ and in the other it’s ‘how do I stop myself from dying?’”

Financial discipline is another important lesson: “Just because you’ve got money, and it’s usually not your money, it doesn’t mean you should spend like there’s not tomorrow,” he cautions.

He learned to stretch his dollars in the big corporation but, he says, now that he has fewer dollars he has had to learn to stretch them even further. “You must make decisions not just based on ego or on what is sexy or looks good. Ask yourself what is fundamentally good for the business. There may be a few low-hanging fruits, but which one should you go after with that one dollar that you have? Go for the lowest-hanging one.”

“You also have to have a thick skin. When you are a startup, you will face a lot of rejection, especially in the beginning. I’ve been slapped down so many times but I’ve got up again. That’s also survival,” says Chevy.

Notwithstanding the disappointments, just the idea of digitising and democratising healthcare is what motivates him to keep plugging away. What’s more, after starting out on his own and now having international players as partners is an achievement he is very proud of.

“I’m happy to say we haven’t done badly. Some people never thought we’d be able to do this kind of thing, but we’ve pulled through and not just locally – we are regional. That keeps me motivated,” he says.

 
 
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