Digerati50: Not just an investor, but an enabler

Digital News Asia (DNA) continues 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 Digertai50, email [email protected].

  • Want to be the bridge to promote successful public-private sector cooperation
  • Art of networking a crucial skill for getting one’s startup on investors’ radar
Digerati50: Not just an investor, but an enabler

AS the chief executive officer of Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap), Jamaludin Bujang holds a rather unique perspective of the local tech ecosystem.
 
The role of investor is one the 48-year-old has been playing in a personal capacity for many years, alongside his 16 years of corporate experience in the private sector, including a stint at CIMB, before he joined Mavcap in 2011.
 
“I have invested in businesses started up by close friends over the years. I learned that running a business may look easy, but in reality it is really difficult and it takes a lot of your energy to make it happen,” he says when asked about his biggest takeaway as an investor.
 
As the head of the Malaysian Government’s venture capital arm, Jamaludin and his team are tasked with scouring the country for interesting and viable tech companies to invest in.
 
It is a mission slated to go global with the launch of the third round of Mavcap’s Outsource Partners (OSP3) programme. As of end-Dec 2013 (when Digerati50 went to print), talks were in an advanced stage with three parties, local and foreign, which will each invest matching funds of up to US$25 million into three local venture capital (VC) companies that Mavcap is planning to spin off.
 
[Update: The first of these was launched in April after Mavcap signed an agreement with Silicon Valley-based fund manager Elixir Capital Management to launch the ECM Straits Fund, which currently has a commitment of US$50 million with a target of US$150 million.]
 
Jamaludin has a big task ahead of him, as he is determined to make Mavcap a successful government-owned VC, measured by a private-sector matrix.
 
It is a mission that he admits will be tough as he and his team have a very narrow space to navigate through in meeting both private and public sector expectations, but Jamaludin believes it can be achieved.
 
“We are in fact an investor, but we want to play a bigger role as an enabler, one that provides the bridge to promote successful public-private sector cooperation. We will be making more efforts to get the private sector to be more active in the local VC industry in the future, so watch this space,” he says.
 
Investing in high-growth tech companies comes with equally high risks, and Mavcap has a fair number of failures under its belt. It does share the lessons from its success and failures with its peer VCs.
 
Jamaludin says that as an investor, your best moments are when you sell your investments at a profit. That goes without saying, as that’s how your performance is being measured as a professional investor.
 
“But it is even more gratifying when you fund a real entrepreneur with a real need for money and guidance, who runs his business lean and mean, and who sees you as a partner rather than a financier.
 
“We have funded a company founded by 20-somethings some years ago, and the company is now making a profit of more than RM6 million (US$1.9 million) and hoping to get listed soon,” he adds.
 
If there was one lesson he hopes Malaysia’s startup community would learn from his own experiences, it is the art of networking, which according to him, is a crucial skill for getting one’s startup running and on the radar of potential investors.
 
When asked what the best piece of advice he’s ever got was, Jamaludin shares that it came from his previous boss, Nazir Razak, managing director and chief executive of the CIMB Group.
 
“He said most people have the drive and intelligence to become successful but what’s lacking is the opportunity. Give an opportunity to someone whom you think can grow, and nurture him or her and most of the time, he or she will be successful,” he says.
 
If he has one major weakness, it is empathy. “We have to be very selective. There are those whom I think deserved funding but we couldn’t do it because of some limitations, and I really felt for them,” he says.

 
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