Digerati50: Personal growth leads to business growth

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].

  • Two successful exits under his belt, still plugged in
  • Now playing role of angel and ecosystem gadabout
Digerati50: Personal growth leads to business growth

DESPITE his relatively young age, Khailee Ng has long established himself as a proven entity within Malaysia’s startup scene, and is seeking to do even more.
 
The 29-year-old entrepreneur and investor now spends a good chunk of his time keeping an eye on the regional landscape as the venture partner for 500 Durians, a US$10-million micro fund under Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups, devoted to investing in South-East Asian startups.
 
Khailee is no stranger to the 500 Startups family, having served as an entrepreneur-in-residence and mentor with the fifth batch of the 500 Startups Accelerator. He also participated in its Geeks On A Plane trip through Japan, Shanghai, and Hong Kong in 2011.
 
“As a venture partner of 500 Startups investing in South-East Asia, I spend a lot of time working with founders, and connecting with others in the ecosystem,” he says.
 
But this is only the next chapter in this animated personality’s entrepreneurial journey, which began at the tender age of 15, building websites as a freelancer.
 
“I’ve been working on creating ‘side businesses’ as a student since, including online magazines and music promotion, all of which made money. But my first ‘serious’ business was when I was 24 years old, that was an online research panel,” he recalls.
 
Khailee’s first successful exit was Groupsmore, a group-buying site he launched in 2008 with business partner Joel Neoh that was acquired by Groupon in 2011 for an undisclosed sum.
 
His second exit came in 2013, with the merger of Says.com with media company Catcha Media Bhd, in a deal reported to be worth almost US$20 million.
 
Says.com is a crowd-sourced content broadcasting platform that leverages active social media users to curate and share trending news items, paying them when they broadcast advertiser-sponsored content.
 
And at the time of the merger, Says.com had an annual net profit ranging from RM1 million to RM2.5 million per annum. [RM1 = US$0.31]
 
Khailee now sits on the board of Rev Asia as chairman, the corporate entity borne out of the merger, and is tasked with steering the vision, direction and corporate culture of the company.
 
His free-spirited and cheeky approach to entrepreneurship is still highly evident however, with Khailee counting a Tyrannosaurus costume he hand-made two years ago as his “most memorable achievement.”
 
“I also take ping-pong, karaoke, and my Usher dance moves pretty seriously. I’d like to think they occupy my time ‘professionally’,” he quips.
 
Though he does admit that building Groupsmore and selling that to Groupon, and then building Says.com to merge with Catcha Media, “was a wild ride.”
 
These days, Khailee remains active in the startup scene, sitting on panels at conferences and conducting talks about his discoveries in the region and his outlook on the health of the ecosystem.
 
As an angel investor, Khailee has put his money behind ventures such as App.io, Privy, CompStak, SupplyHog, Noonswoon, Watch Over Me by SecQ.me and iMoney. He also serves as an advisor for US-based startups App.io and CompStak.
 
When asked what the best piece of advice he ever got was, Khailee says it came from his “first real boss.”
 
“He said any leadership style without authenticity will ultimately fail. You got to be authentic.”
 
As for weaknesses, Khailee admits that he has many but makes up for them by being aware of them, being ‘mouldable,’ and learning fast.
 
“But the key here is also to work with great partners and to build great teams. And eating vegetables,” he says.
 
If there has been one lesson learnt in his journey to date that he would like to share with other hopeful entrepreneurs, is that one’s business growth is directly proportional to one’s personal growth.
 
“Take time to grow yourself, and watch your business grow.”

 
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