Digerati50: Trusting his instincts

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].

  • Wasn’t cowed by the fact that his two previous ventures had failed, one even leaving him in debt
  • Key is being honest and thrashing issues transparently with partners; plus trusting your instincts
Digerati50: Trusting his instincts

WHEN Ashran Ghazi (pic above) gets involved in a venture, you can bet it won’t be some ‘jaguh kampung’ (village champion) play. He was once featured in a leading business weekly, proclaiming, “I want to be the first to bring Internet TV to the masses.”
It helps that he has always been a dreamer. “Call me idealistic, but I like to do things that nobody has done, or people say cannot be done; that gives me a kick,” he says.
AsiaTube.TV in 2008 was his third venture in the video space. He was not cowed by the fact that his previous two ventures had failed, one of which had left a lasting impact.
“The one that has really shaped me most was hitting rock-bottom after a failed partnership. I was not only at ground zero financially, but had some debts,” he says.
Yet his resilience saw him seize an opportunity and bounce back. “That experience made me stronger as a person. I wouldn’t say that I am not entirely afraid of failure, but you just have to believe that you will not fail and any obstacles that come by are just challenges that you need to face.”
Trusting your instincts and being in control are key lessons he has learnt. “The minute you lose this, then it’s going to be difficult.”
Despite his efforts, AsiaTube.TV did not take off. But that did not see Ashran run back to the security of a steady job. In late 2009, he got together with some friends to explore what could be the next big thing and how they could be part of it.
With social media such a powerful force, they picked up on the thought that, in time, people would want to build stronger communities and relationships with those who shared the same interests as them.
His instincts told him that the market would eventually be ripe for online communities or social media networks that are interests-based, content-driven and community-oriented.
Thus was Joot Ventures launched in 2011, and a beta version of its product called Joota launched in June 2012. Ashran is the cofounder and chief operating officer.
If it has taken time for it to be launched, it is because Joot Ventures developed the platform from the ground up, with the work being done by software engineers from Malaysia and Indonesia.
“However, we collaborated with patent owners in the United States to allow Joota to leverage on a variety of Internet technologies that enable real-time social networking and content curation,” he says.
With cyber-citizens used to very strong and stable social media platforms, Ashran knew that Joot Ventures could not launch with anything less than a top-class platform.
He has raised US$2.3 million (RM7.5 million) thus far, but will be needing much more to strengthen the platform and engage in marketing activities to give it a chance to live up to its mission of making the Web more meaningful to those who use it.
In applying the lessons of the past to ensure Joot Ventures has the best chance of succeeding, Ashran says the whole team respects each other’s views and perspectives.
“Being honest and thrashing issues transparently with your partners and leveraging your instincts is key,” stresses the 38-year-old.
While he is trying to build Joota into a global product, looking at the local ecosystem, he says he wishes there were more funders from among those who have already made it in the tech business.
“These guys would be willing to take risks on ideas, and be mentors to others, to help with their ideas and connect them to those who can take them to the next level.”

If Joot Ventures succeeds, Ashran could just be playing this role himself.

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