Digerati50: The humble dotcom survivor

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 Digerati50, email [email protected].

  • Painful lesson: Sold off his shares in Apple just when Jobs came back onboard
  • When a founder admits he doesn’t know everything, the entire team can contribute
Digerati50: The humble dotcom survivor

FOR many entrepreneurs, making their first million is the mark of success. For a listed company though, a more appropriate milestone would be for it to cross, say, RM100 million in market capitalisation.
 
So when news got out on April 26, 2013 that local dotcom survivor JobStreet.com made it past the RM1-billion (US$313-million) market cap mark on the back of a revenue of about RM160 million (US$50 million) for 2012, you would expect some celebration of sorts, wouldn’t you?
 
But this wasn’t the case. JobStreet.com founder Mark Chang believes in being firmly rooted to the ground and not getting carried away with share performances.
 
“It is not something that we were aiming for, as stock prices can go up or down. It can also be very disruptive for management if we merely focus on share prices. We’d rather focus on our dividend to shareholders in the long run, as the share price should reflect how well the company is doing,” he says.
 
Such is the practicality of the MIT-trained mechanical engineer, who hails from the small town of Kampar, Perak.
 
[Update: In February 2014, Australia’s SEEK Ltd announced it would acquire the remaining 78% of JobStreet shares it doesn’t already own in a deal valuing the Kuala Lumpur-based online recruitment company at RM1.73 billion (US$523.5 million).]
 
Mark is not one to hog the limelight; indeed, he shuns the public eye, which is pretty unusual in a sector noted for its personalities. He is a strict believer in hard work and being laser-focused on excelling at one thing – the ‘bedrock principles’ that have led to his success.
 
“We only know the ‘kerbau (water buffalo) way,’ that is to work hard and wait for the rain,” he says.
 
Besides working hard and being focused, the affable, soft-spoken Mark also believes that as an entrepreneur, you can’t always depend on your business models and plans for the future.
 
To illustrate this, he relates a cautionary tale of how he bought Apple Inc stocks for only about US$12 per share.
 
“I like Apple products and so I bought its shares. But they kept changing CEOs (chief executive officers) until Steve Jobs came back, when the shares were at their lowest. I asked myself then, what has happened to this company?
 
“They seemed to have run out of ideas and it seemed as if they weren’t able to find any other CEO so much so they were forced to bring back the person that they sacked many years ago. I felt there was no more hope in this company and I sold all my shares in Apple.
 
“Assuming the shares have split by half, they could be about 120 times the value today,” he says.
 
Mark also believes that investors and, by extension entrepreneurs, should not think that they are smarter than the rest, since many times, entrepreneurs and startups are just lucky.
 
“Some do well, others don’t; and often, we can’t predict what would be successful. For example, when I gave up on Steve Jobs, the rest of the world gave him a chance,” he says, adding that the late Jobs eventually changed the world.
 
So what’s Mark’s advice for budding entrepreneurs?
 
“A lot of things are new when an entrepreneur starts up, so a founder must realise that no one is smarter in the organisation when it comes to the business and a founder should not pretend to be smarter than anyone else.
 
“A lot of times, humility will help along the way because if a founder admits he doesn’t know things, the entire team can contribute and the organisation can start listening to others, and go forward.
 
“Also, entrepreneurs cannot be ‘yes men’ agreeing to all things that people say. They must question what else can be done to improve things, as they cannot just sit there and say to themselves, ‘Everything is great and there’s nothing you can improve on.’
 
“Finally, find the right mentors who are fit to help and guide you,” he adds.

 
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