Week in Review: MaGIC in the spotlight

  • GAP marks transition of Malaysian agency to become more international
  • Ex-CEO Cheryl Yeoh revelation of sexual assault by Dave McClure in 2014

MAGIC is at the forefront of my thoughts this week for two reasons. Firstly, it kicked off its inaugural Global Accelerator Programme (GAP) on Tuesday with 56 startups, 40% of which came from South-East Asian nations and beyond.

Beyond all the details around GAP, ie verticals represented, breakdown by country and cash value of support to be received, what is significant here is that GAP represents MaGIC transitioning from being a very Malaysian focused organization to becoming an international one. Its chairman and prime driver, Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah announced this as such in his keynote at the GAP launch.

DNA readers are very familiar with MaGIC which stands for Malaysia Global Innovation and Creativity Centre. Those words “innovation” and “creativity” were not chosen because they are sexy or seen as cool buzzwords. Anyone who knows Irwan will tell you that those two activities are central to his belief of what it will take for Malaysia to succeed in the digital era.

“We need to invest in creativity and innovation and not high rises, we need to think out of the box, to think differently. That was the reason behind the creation of MaGIC,” he shared while showing his disdain for those who fear collaboration with other countries, worried of being taken advantage of. “That’s bullshit. We can’t stop innovation.”

And during the press conference that followed as well, Irwan pointed out how Malaysia did not rank highly in the various global innovation indices and the importance of it needing to rank higher. He noted how Singapore was consistently ranked as an innovation leader.

With both government and corporate Malaysia needing to hasten their adoption of an innovative mindset, he expressed confidence that one day, “and it is coming” Malaysia would even overtake Singapore as an innovative nation while giving the country a 6 in terms of its pace of adopting an innovative mindset, “but we need to move faster” he urged. One thing that Irwan has also clearly recognized is the value that corporate players can get from partnering with startups and with his clout as the sec-gen of the Ministry of Finance, I will be watching with keen interest what he will do here to accelerate corporate collaboration with startups.    

The second reason why MaGIC was on my mind this week was because of the harrowing revelations from its first CEO, Cheryl Yeoh of being sexually assaulted by Dave McClure, the founding partner of venture capital firm 500 Startups and its CEO back in June 2014 in Malaysia. McClure has since resigned as founding partner and stepped down as CEO.

Instead of the link to her own post about her experience, Yeoh gave a follow-up interview to a BCC technology reporter as well and you can read that here. It was a brave thing for her to do and I hope it will spur more female entrepreneurs in Asia and Southeast Asia in particular to speak out if they have been sexual victims of men in the tech ecosystem abusing their positions. That can never be condoned.

In my 18 years of covering the tech ecosystem in Malaysia, I have not heard of any whisper of any inappropriate behavior towards the many women founders and leaders in startups here. Which is not to say bad behavior has not happened or will not, but hopefully Yeoh’s action serves as a warning that the truth will eventually come out and perpetrators will face the consequences.

And though McClure has taken responsibility for his actions through his resignation from 500 Startups, I hope he stops getting invited by governments and organizations around the world to speak about the startup ecosystem because that would mean they are prepared to forgive him. But he gave in to his baser instincts and took advantage of the social power given to him by the ecosystem where he should have instead held himself to higher levels of behavior. As for the venture firm he founded, it will probably survive this episode though it must be tough times for the leaders of the firm, including Malaysian Khailee Ng, who is a close friend of Yeoh and is a managing partner at 500 Startups.

Finally, do check out the video from the action of our final HotShoz qualifier held yesterday at BAC University College. Despite a 20-min blackout caused by a power surge, we managed to pick the final batch of qualifiers to the main HotShotz event on July 22-23 where besides the eSports finals with close to 300 finalists, you will enjoy a Virtual Reality showcase hosted by VR Lab, play the games presented by 10 indie publishers, witness a Cosplay competition, a PC Modding competition and enjoy playing games brought to you by leading publishers Sony and Codemasters.   

Get your tickets here or go to Lazada Malaysia from tomorrow (Monday) where, as part of their support as HotShotz eCommerce Partner, they will be selling tickets as well.

Those who purchase the two-day ticket will also be eligible for the lucky draw with a PS4 Pro console, three units of Predator gaming mouse, a gaming chair and some VR for mobile headsets as the prizes!

HotShotz is supported by Main Sponsor Predator, which is Acer’s gaming brand, co-sponsors Digi, Malaysia’s leading telco, Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and Sony Interactive Entertainment Hong Kong Limited Singapore Branch (SIES). KDU University College is the Venue Host, VR Lab is the VR Partner and Lazada Malaysia is the e-Commerce Partner. The media partner is Astro’s eGames channel, EGG and Indonesian media site, vivo.co.id. Watch out for more partner announcements!

Finally, do check out the video from the action of our final HotShoz qualifier held yesterday!

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