Anushia Kandasivam: My Fave 5 of 2016
By Anushia Kandasivam January 9, 2017
- The startup ecosystem is ever-evolving, find a niche that works for you
- Growth and development are inevitable
AS THE newbie on the team, I felt a little trepidation when I was told that I had to pick five favourite stories for this series; I was afraid I would not have a big enough pool to pick from. Turns out I was wrong – I should have instead been worried about how I was going to pick just five out of the dozens of articles I had written over the past three months.
Being relatively new to the digital economy ecosystem, these few months have been eye- and mind-opening for me, which may just be reflected in the stories I have picked. Some of them may cover topics that are elementary to veterans that but had interesting and exciting insights for a writer learning about them for the first time from industry aces.
Talking to the founders of startups is always an experience. An interviewee can infect you and the subsequent article you write with their mood. Dour answers to your questions beget a boring article while enthusiasm from the interviewee can lead to compelling remarks that give your article unexpected depth.
The team at Dah Makan gave me the latter vibe. While talking to co-founder Jonathan Weins, I could feel his excitement for and deep belief in the idea of Dah Makan – a centralised and integrated model for fresh, healthy food delivery. This urged me to dig deeper to find out that their true focus was customer experience and that this drove everything the startup did and was doing, from the type of food it served to the technology it developed to improve efficiency so much that it is beginning to leave competitors in the dust.
Food delivery is certainly not a new concept in Malaysia, especially not in Kuala Lumpur, but Weins’ palpable passion convinced me that Dah Makan’s unique model could be a game changer in the industry, something I tried to convey in the article. Seducing a cynical journalist over to your side is quite rare, in my opinion, which is why this interview and article stand out as favourites.
Over the years of my journalism career, I have learned that people do not always tell you what they mean. Sometimes this is because they are savvy to the ways of the media and want to package their responses into nice shiny soundbites, sometimes it is because they do not realise that they are being ambiguous, but occasionally the person edges around the issue simply because they have never said the relevant words out loud before.
The interview with RecomN founder Jes Min Lua was fun and interesting, not just because she is a friendly, honest and open person, but also because she told me everything I wanted to know about the startup and more. I soon realised however, that what she was not telling me but trying to convey through her explanations of how the startup was run was that she and her co-founders believe that maintaining a balance between market traction and growth is integral to success.
In my short time with DNA, I have come across various entrepreneurs who, caught up in the unicorn dream, are pushing for quick growth without being mindful of factors that could derail them, so this revelation was refreshing and Lua’s explanation logical and reasonable: “To be sustainable, we cannot step on the accelerator when it’s a leaky bucket.”
The Global Entrepreneurship Community 2016 dominated many of my stories last year; this was one of them, where IBM Venture Group director of Software Strategy Deborah Magid (pic, above) spoke to young entrepreneurs about how and why to identify trends of disruption in the startup ecosystem.
Though this lecture may have been quite basic, it was eye-opening to me and the entrepreneurs present. A point that Magid brought up was that companies in industries that are not normally associated with advanced technology and startups, such as construction and people management, are increasingly unbundling their processes to incorporate tech. Her point was that a savvy entrepreneur must identify these new niches from which he or she could disrupt an industry.
Magid also spoke about a Catch-22 situation that startups and investors in Southeast Asia often find themselves in – investors in the region are risk averse because they do not see enough examples of successful businesses yet the lack of funding means that young businesses are unable to reach the success investors want to see.
When Nike broke the news that it was making wearable technology in the form of the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0, a self-lacing shoe inspired by the movies, the fangirl in me squealed in delight. I am an avid consumer of science fiction pop culture, so this story caught my interest quite quickly.
I did not expect that I would actually write this article. I had brought the news to the attention of my colleagues thinking someone else would take it, but our editor Karamjit threw out a suggestion that could do a piece on it. Of course, I could not resist.
To be honest, this story was an indulgence, as is its inclusion in this list, but what a fun story it was to write. What really resonated with me while writing this article as the fact that the people behind this shoe at Nike see this adaptive technology as a starting place, a platform “that helps envision the world in which product changes as the athlete changes,” as the company’s senior innovator Tiffany Beers says.
The very nature of science fiction is speculative – an imagination of the future as it could be. Advances in technology such as this that turn fiction into fact – and into practical, useable and useful products – are not only fascinating but also provide a sense of hope about the general advancement of technology and human civilisation.
Before I became a journalist, I was a lawyer. Ask any erstwhile lawyer and they will tell you that the law is pretty much like Hotel California: you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave. For my sins, I find myself covering law-related stories wherever I go.
This one was truly interesting to me because it looks at a burgeoning area of law in Malaysia, one that will and must continue to develop and evolve if the country is to be successful in reaching its growth goals for its digital economy.
A J Surin, the cyber criminology and cyber policy expert that I spoke to, pointed out a fact that was both surprising and expected – the general public does not seem to realise that the exponential growth of technology means that crime is increasingly taking place online and that its consequences are substantial and not at all remote.
The good news is that governments, including Malaysia’s, are working to both step up security and advance justice systems to match the growth of technology.