Week in Review: Do they owe the ecosystem anything?

  • Do the likes of Mark Chang and Patrick Grove owe the ecosystem anything?
  • Immature ecosystem probably did little to help them when they were trying to grow

Week in Review: Do they owe the ecosystem anything?IS it the responsibility of our leading entrepreneurs to make time to network and socialise with those who have just started out?
If you ask this to the good folks in the Silicon Valley, they would say “yes.”

In fact, Steve Jobs credits the founders of HP (Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard) for spending time with him in his early days as an entrepreneur. The interactions inspired him, he said. In fact, there is a picture of him having coffee with one of them back then. Both had the obligatory 1970s sideburns!

But I do concede that Jobs himself was never known to spend time with entrepreneurs starting out!
This thought struck me because we featured Mark Chang of JobStreet and Vishen Lakhiani of Mindvalley this week on Digital News Asia.
Chang needs no introduction. He is known by all, reputation-wise. Hardly any entrepreneur knows him personally or can claim to have met him at industry events. Is just reading about someone enough to inspire? Even though his company has crossed RM1 billion in market cap?
Granted Chang is a low-key person by nature. He was the same back in 2000 when I first met him and is the same today. Success has not changed him one bit.
That is great. But humble and unassuming as he is, does he, by nature of his success, owe the ecosystem anything? An ecosystem that was still trying to get its footing back in those early years when Chang was building his company and listing it in 2004?
Should we expect repayment through him carving out some time for industry events at least? To inspire others, to help make connections for them, to expect nothing in return?
What about of Vishen, the charismatic founder of online publisher Mindvalley which he claims has revenues of US$20 million. He relocated from New York to launch his startup in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and in 2010 even told me that he felt KL was the best place in South-East Asia to launch an Internet company.
Vishen does organise a monthly event called WebCamp KL that attracts many talented geeks to his uber cool office in Bangsar. But cynics say that is really a smart recruitment tool for him. And does he ever go for industry events? Who has been inspired by him?
You may say: “He is trying to build a billion-dollar publishing empire, Karam, let him be.”
If we use that reasoning, then we should not expect to see Patrick Grove of Catcha Group around then. Let’s count our blessings that we saw him speak at the Echelon Malaysia Satellite event in Kuala Lumpur last month. Maybe we will see him as another event next year now.
Of course I have to mention Ganesh Kumar Bangah of MOL Global too. Although I visited his office on Johor Bahru in 2009 to listen to six entrepreneurs talk about what they were trying to build and the role Ganesh is playing to help, is he still doing that today as he works to build MOL into a global player?

But here I am making the case that these guys should be out in the ecosystem in the flesh. Is this an outdated concept today?
Granted, face-to-face interaction is very important, but bearing in mind how busy and focused these stars of our ecosystem are, should we just use email, Skype and other digital communications to reach out to them?
Surely, once you catch their interest and attention, they will want to meet up anyway. Is this the best we can hope for from them?

But then you have someone like Bikesh Lakhmichand (he and Vishen are cousins), CEO of 1337 Ventures Sdn Bhd, who spends a lot of time in the ecosystem, organising events and attending them and now even getting into the committee of the Technopreneurs Association of Malaysia or TeAM.
He too is building a regional business now through iTrain Sdn Bhd, the company he first launched in 2005. Because of the constant travelling he does around the region and to the United States, Bikesh always has interesting perspectives to share when you chat with him. So, should Bikesh be like the others, or should the others be like him?
What do you think?
Previous Instalments:
Week in Review: GE13 hits the ecosystem … hard

Week in Review: Are our public schools failing?
Week in Review: What an awesome week for start-ups
Week in Review: Are we Malaysians naturally blessed with smarts?
Week in Review: The rise of the angel investor?

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