Malaysia Tech Week 2019: Nazrin Hassan would have been proud

  • Next year’s event needs to be more Malaysian than Klang Valley to live up to its name
  • Corporate innovation, university innovation needs to play bigger role in MTW2020

IT IS safe to say that the Malaysian tech ecosystem has not witnessed a week like the one of June 17 to 21 with the inaugural Malaysia Tech Week (MTW). It was chock-a-block filled with a mix of conferences, panel sessions, pitching sessions, networking events, a pub crawl and a Cradle-led innovation showcase.

Our late great Nazrin Hassan, former CEO of Cradle Fund, who does not stand for showy and shallow events would have loved it. It has been just over one year since his untimely passing hit the Malaysian ecosystem.

MTW offers a platform for Malaysian ecosystem players and those aspiring to join the ecosystem, be they locals or from overseas to come together and in a condensed period, experience and get a taste for the Malaysian tech and innovation ecosystem.

“MTW was proof that the silos are starting to come together, from government to regulators to corporates to startups,” says Fadzli Shah Anuar, head of strategy for Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) which was one of the key supporters of the event.

Yet MDEC was not the main driver of the MTW, which was actually private-sector led. This would have pleased Nazrin to no end as he always believed that the Malaysian ecosystem can only move up to the next level when the private sector takes over the reins from government. I think MTW can become the most visible example of this transfer of responsibility. There is still lots of work to be done, but we are on the right path.

Across the border, Singapore this week, on the 27th and 28th, hosts its main ecosystem celebration-cum tech and innovation showcase with InnovFest Unbound. It has run for a few years now and keeps getting better. Its growth offers lessons for MTW as the ecosystem here gets behind it and builds on it.

“It starts with showing, then on to sharing and eventually to synchronising to be truly one ecosystem. This is what Nazrin put his efforts towards,” adds Fadzli., Nazrin has had an outsized impact on the Malaysian ecosystem, and no surprise that 25 Cradle companies “his babies” were showcased at MTW across multiple industry platforms, including one at a RegTech panel I moderated.

And for the record, it was not just the Cradle companies that Nazrin would lend his time, attention and intellect to. He was famous for telling friends, “I will always have time for entrepreneurs.” And he did.

Dr Sivapalan Vivekarajah, chief evangelist of Proficeo and one of Nazrin’s closest friends reflects on what Nazrin would have thought of MTW and shares, “I think Nazrin would have been pleased with MTW and many of the ideas put forth by MDEC and many of the ecosystem players during the week.”

Sivapalan adds that the always sharply dressed Nazrin (except when he choose to wear his Arsenal colors) would have been especially pleased with Cradle’s unique fashion pitch and tech-based fashion catwalk. “It was innovative and fun. He would have really enjoyed that.”

Innovative, it may have been, but to me, the innovation component was weak this time and this is where universities need to be drawn into MTW 2020. And the easiest way to do this is to get ITEX (International Invention, Innovation & Technology Exhibition, the main platform for universities in the country to showcase their innovations, to shift the date of its event from early May to June.

An anchor event for all universities and research institutes in Malaysia, and attracting a number of overseas players as well, it makes sense to get the organisers of ITEX, which just held its 30th anniversary event, to shift the date to synch with MTW. Succeeding in doing so will be an example of the synchronising Fadzli speaks of.

And actually, this synchronising was already evident with Bank Negara Malaysia organising its inaugural MyFintech Week from to June 17 to 21. Kudos to them for doing so and not being worried about their event being overshadowed. Each event fed off the other with participants for MTW and MyFintech Week able to access all the events. It was great. I know the DNA writers enjoyed both events.

For sure, next year’s event needs to be more Malaysian (or inclusive) as well, in order to live up to its name of Malaysia Tech Week. It is understandable that this year’s activities were Klang Valley-based, but next year, Penang, Southeast Asia’s engineering capital, needs to get in on the action. And let’s not forget Johor, which has its own Digital Economy push with former Motorola Malaysia and Mimos president, Abdul Wahab Abdullah leading that drive.

And we absolutely need to see greater corporate involvement as well with our corporations showing their innovation initiatives and inviting startups to collaborate with them to solve some of their pain points. Nazrin always felt a lot of efficiencies and innovation could be unlocked through this collaboration and was impatient with the slow progress he saw here.

Kudos though to the four telcos that took part this year, Maxis, Axiata, UMobile and YES.

I don’t know about you, but I am already excited about MTW 2020! So, what are your thoughts about this new platform and do you feel that Nazrin would have been pleased with the progress the Malaysian ecosystem has made in the year since he passed away? Let me know.

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