Week in Review: Stand up and be seen
By Gabey Goh January 3, 2014
- With more funding available, time will tell if 2014 will be the year of startups for Malaysia
- But there is a need for angel investors active in the scene to stand up and be seen
IT was a week of reflection on the year that was, with revelry to celebrate the year to come.
My colleague Karamjit Singh has already written that 2014 may shape up to be a great year for tech entrepreneurs in the country, declaring it ‘Startup Malaysia Year.’
Indeed, with potentially more than US$70 million in venture funding to be launched in the coming months, all that’s needed to complete this pretty picture are the scores of talented entrepreneurs with amazing ideas rising up to grab themselves a slice of this funding pie.
I am certainly excited, and look forward to meeting more characters and startups as the year chugs along, to listen to them and help tell their stories.
And maybe one day, I’ll be writing about their triumphs for Digital News Asia, like how we featured Dr Goh Peng Ooi, founder and chief executive officer of enterprise software company Silverlake Axis Ltd.
As the first software billionaire in all of South-East Asia, it is no surprise that his story also happened to be our top-read story of the week.
But if there is one thing I hope 2014 will be, it’s this: That it will be a year of exits.
Over and over I’ve been told that Malaysia’s ecosystem doesn’t have enough exits. Exits are a key missing ingredient.
It is not that we don’t have talent or ideas, or to a certain extent, money. It is because we don’t have enough former entrepreneurs-turned-investors leading the charge in taking bets on promising startups.
These investors could also serve as a catalyst for more traditional money sources to join in on any funding round, reassured that their proven track record and the guidance they offer to new founders would help mitigate what are usually high-risk ventures.
Someone once pointed out to me that it is not always in the nature of Malaysian entrepreneurs to think about and have an exit strategy.
Malaysian founders are builders and live up to the notion of a long-term commitment to the ventures they’ve given life to. We tend to build houses to stay in for the rest of our lives, not to flip for a profit a few years down the road.
Alongside people like Goh, Ganesh Kumar Bangah of MOL Global, Mark Chang of JobStreet.com and quite a few others, are still helming and driving their companies on a day-to-day basis.
And because of that, they have less time to shop around for an interesting startup to invest in or even kickstart a new venture.
This is not to say there are no founder-turned-investors out there, with players such as Tan Swee Yeong -- who has invested in about six startups to date, including Milk A Deal, Nexx Studio and Ocision -- lurking under the radar.
Tan is an entrepreneur who has been an angel investor since 2010, after exiting successfully from his startup UnrealMind Interactive Bhd, which provides mobile content.
The newer entrants to the scene as well appear to have a better inkling of the need for an exit strategy, influenced by the continuous stream of updates about happy exits coming out from Silicon Valley, as well as Singapore and other startup ecosystems around the region.
Entrepreneurs such as Says.com’s Khailee Ng and Slashes & Dots’ Azrul Rahim are showing the way with their own successful exits. Both are already angel investors and willing to help others walk down the path that they themselves have been down before.
Of course, it can't be denied that it is gratifying to directly help and grow a startup as an angel investor, and it is only natural that you would want to stay under the radar, away from all the attention and noise.
But to those unseen and unheard investors out there, I hope that 2014 will be the year that you decide to stand up and be seen. One can never underestimate the 'power of story' for struggling entrepreneurs, the power of knowing that there are people out there like you waiting to find that right venture to place a bet on – with the hope that theirs would fit the bill.
And with that dear readers, the entire Digital News Asia team wishes you an exhilarating 2014!
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