Digerati50: Geek in a suit

Digital News Asia (DNA) concludes a weekly series that profiles the top 50 influencers, movers and shakers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy. These articles are from Digerati50, a special print publication released in January 2014. For information on customised reprints of Digerati50, email [email protected].

  • Zubir wants to position MDV as the ‘leading tech financier in the country’
  • ‘We can’t afford to wait … . Organic growth will not cut it.’
Digerati50: Geek in a suit

LISTENING to Malaysian Debt Ventures Bhd (MDV) managing director and chief executive officer (CEO) Zubir Ansori Yahaya talk about technology, it becomes clear that he is a quasi-geek dressed up as an accountant.
 
“I have always loved technology, from my university days when I scored highest in the tech subjects I took,” he says.
 
Mind you, this was not your Computer Science 101. An accounting graduate, Zubir scored straight As in Cobol and Fortran – both high-level programming languages used to create software that run business processes.
 
His programming skills allowed him to write software that helped him do his job better when he was at Malaysia Airlines, including software that helped analyse revenue models. “This was a form of data mining and I was doing this back in the early 1990s,” he says.
 
It is therefore no surprise when he says, “It is just so exciting to be here [at MDV] because you see so much of technology and what’s coming.”
 
While MDV started life in 2002 as a debt venture focused on tech companies, under Zubir, who became CEO in 2005, it has subsequently gone into biotech (2008) and greentech (2010) – both areas where entrepreneurs have little chance of walking into a commercial bank to get loans.
 
“Let’s face it, most of the companies that come through our doors are high risk in nature. If they were not, they would have approached the banks,” Zubir notes.
 
High risk they may be, but MDV has successfully helped 500 companies in total and currently has 250 in its portfolio. It gave out RM800 million (approximately US$225 million) in loans in 2012.
 
Now, Zubir talks about wanting to position MDV as the “leading tech financier in the country” supporting the Government’s tech focus areas. And he is not just talking about debt funding either.
 
“We can’t afford to wait. 2020 is approaching when we want to be a developed nation. Organic growth will not cut it. If any entrepreneur wants to acquire a technology or a company and needs funding, we would like to be able to help,” he says.
 
This expansion of the way MDV wants to use its RM1.5-billion (US$421-million) ‘sukuk’ fund raised in 2008 has been forwarded to the Government and is awaiting the green light. [For an update on this, read: MDV goes full steam into funding tech]
 
At the same time, MDV is also working on the creation of an Intellectual Property Financing Fund scheme amounting to RM200 million (US56 million). The successful creation of such a platform will go a long way towards the securitisation of intellectual property (IP) and, in the process, start weaning banks off their dependency on property as collateral. [Update: The fund was approved under Budget 2013]
 
In the meantime, MDV will continue to lead the way and show that lending to tech companies can be profitable; it now hopes to show that IP too has value. To Zubir, this is the best way to convince the banks that this is viable. “Prove it ourselves instead of trying to convince them that it can be done.”
 
In the process, the various products and services it offers will also go a long way in helping MDV cement its desire to be recognised as the leading technology financier in Malaysia.
 
Zubir’s rationale here is simple: “If you want to be the leading tech financier, you cannot be selective in where you want or don’t want to help companies.
 
“We will help them along their journey and wherever there is a gap in the funding space, we will fill it, especially if the company is already our customer and both sides know each other well.”
 
It may look like Zubir is taking on more and more responsibility but to him, “I get to do what I am most passionate about.”

 
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