Key driver of Malaysia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

  • Sec-Gen of Ministry of Finance, Mohd Irwan Serigar, a tireless force for action
  • Recognises critical role of entrepreneurs in future competitiveness of country

TALK about leadership from the top for its various entrepreneur and startup programmes and Malaysia certainly has that in the form of that bundle of energy known as Mohd Irwan Serigar, the secretary general of the Ministry of Finance.

And I wonder how he remains to upbeat and ebullient all the time, when the darkening shadow of the 1MDB fiasco has cast a pall over the country and with Irwan very much in the thick of trying to mitigate the fallout as the chairman of the board, a post he was entrusted with in March 2016.

But there he was, yesterday, in his usual upbeat, positive mood as he bounced into the room at the Mandarin Oriental, to witness the creation of two venture funds targeting to raise a total of US$450 million (RM1.99 billion) between Mavcap, Elixir Capital and Gobi Partners.

Summarily dismissing the three-sentence script prepared for him, he stepped away from the podium to be closer to the audience in the small room, shared snippets of conversations he had with entrepreneurs attending the Global Entrepreneurship Community, an event Irwan hopes will help to position Malaysia as a global hub for entrepreneurship, and spoke from the heart, as he always does when it comes to entrepreneurship, startups, technology, change, innovation and competitiveness.

With Mavcap CEO, Jamaludin Bujang setting the stage with his thoughts on how technology was changing everything, Irwan spoke about the need for all segments of society to change their mindsets, from stubborn civil servants, to consumers, to bankers and even VCs.

He challenged Jamaludin and Zubir Ansori Yahaya, CEO of Malaysia Debt Ventures, to change the mindsets of their organizations “and to reimagine the future because if you don’t change you will be irrelevant,” he warned.

In his position as the top civil servant in the Ministry of Finance, he has regularly shown his willingness to invest federal funds to try and move the needle and unblock some unwilling piece of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

He shared how in a pre-budget meeting with bankers, not a single one showed a willingness to fund proven startups even with the government offering to contribute 30%. Frustrated, Irwan carved out RM200 million from the national 2017 Budget for startups and told banks to use that money to jump start their startup funding.

And as Thomas Tsao, managing partner at Gobi Partners, predicts, speaking at the same event, “Moving forward, I believe that every country’s biggest natural resource are its entrepreneurs.”

Irwan has long recognised the critical role entrepreneurs will play in the future competitiveness of the country and is doing his best to unleash the creative force of Malaysia’s entrepreneurs with whatever tools he has at his disposal. May the ecosystem in Malaysia fully leverage on this powerful ally it has.


Previous Instalments:

Week in Review: IDC pours cold water on Indonesia’s e-commerce market daydreams

Week In Review: Indonesia’s Future Potential Still a Siren Call

Week in Review: E-commerce not the panacea for Indonesia’s economic upliftment

Week in Review: It’s not easy to be a digital winner


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