Digerati50: The accidental entrepreneur (and TeAM leader!)
By Edwin Yapp August 12, 2016
Digital News Asia (DNA) continues its weekly series that profiles the top 50 influencers, movers and shakers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy, from Digerati50 Vol 2, a special print publication released in February 2016. To download a special e-reader version, see the top of this page. For information on customised reprints of Digerati50, email [email protected].
- Made his first trade sale out of university, now mainly an angel investor
- In TeAM, working to build bridges between the corporate and startup ecosystem
IF you ask Technopreneurs Association of Malaysia (TeAM) president Fadzli Shah Anuar if he had ever intended to be an entrepreneur, he would answer, “An unequivocal ‘no’.”
“I fell into entrepreneurship really by accident,” the 30-year-old UCL and London Business School graduate candidly shares.
“File-sharing was big at the time but LimeWire and BitTorrent were blocked on my university’s network. So together with some friends, we hatched ideas to get around that limitation.
“Eventually, we built a platform to do that, and word got around until a company called Moodle expressed an interest in acquiring us. Six months later, we incorporated a company and sold the system to Moodle.
“It was a handsome sum for a trade sale, but I still wanted a safe career so I went to work as a management consultant upon graduation,” he says.
After spending about three years in consulting, Fadzli felt the entrepreneur itch again and enrolled in a Master’s in Technology Entrepreneurship course. It was during that time that he began to dabble in software again, even though he didn’t have a technical degree.
That led to an app was called Quick!Cab, before such taxi-hailing apps became so popular, which he eventually sold off in 2010.
In 2011, he came back to Malaysia, set up his own business called New Era Strategic Thinking (NEST), where he and his three cofounders began building Voucheres, an app that helps people find discounts in retail stores. Voucheres went on to win MyEG’s Make The Pitch reality TV contest.
Fadzli was also engaged in another business called Nest Consulting, a boutique management consultant company, a venture he says now takes care of the ‘bread and butter’ expenses while he spends time on his personal projects.
“Angel investing has taken up most of my time outside consulting. My main entrepreneurial ventures are now in the agriculture and renewable energy sector, so I'm personally looking at large-scale industries, but dabble in apps as a hobby and for investments,” he says.
Fadzli was elected to the TeAM council as president in May 2015, a position he inherited from inaugural Digerati50 Dhakshinamoorthy Balakrishnan.
TeAM was formed in 2000 by a group of Malaysian technology entrepreneurs to further industry interests and to assist in the development of those involved in Malaysia’s technology scene.
As the youngest president that TeAM has ever had, Fadzli believes that his unique experience as an entrepreneur, angel investor and consultant gives him the ability to chart new horizons for the association.
Malaysia is blessed as few tech ecosystems in the world have that much active support from the Government, he says. He also believes that TeAM has played an important role in the last 15 years in lobbying for policies to help shape the tech ecosystem.
Asked what specific plans he has in mind for TeAM, Fadzli says that the association will continue to be a lobbying voice for the industry.
“In terms of plans, an immediate one is to augment talent and supply people to enterprises.
“TeAM is carving out some programmes to help supply more employable talent for information and communications technology (ICT) and/ or ICT-enabled companies, where larger corporations will be key partners.
“This is a win-win situation because startups will have a larger pool to hire from. In the process, we will include enterprises into the fold of the ecosystem,” he says.
Besides addressing talent, Fadzli believes the industry must get the private sector on board in order to further spur the tech ecosystem, something which he says is already happening.
“Large corporations and government-linked companies (GLCs) are starting to see the value in our tech companies, and are getting involved,” he says.
“As the ecosystem and TeAM include more players from the private sector, I'd urge entrepreneurs to keep tabs on the developments and take advantage of existing and upcoming programmes,” he adds.
What about his own advice for budding entrepreneurs?
“I’ve a lot to give but above all, entrepreneurs must build something they themselves would actually use.
“Whether it is a delivery service or selling a product online or an app, if you yourself don't consume it, you will get demoralised very quickly – especially when you can't find real customers,” he says.