When I stepped over the edge

  • From the comfort zone with stable paycheque into working tirelessly
  • Passion, a sense of purpose and a great team key to making magic

When I stepped over the edgeI CAN honestly say that I have never had so much fun working before, nor have I been as happy, professionally.

Which is strange, because I have also never worked this hard before in my life. In the first week of our launch last May, I wrote seven articles, which was a record for me!
 
So what compelled me to launch Digital News Asia (DNA)? It was fear.
 
What a powerful motivator that emotion is. I know because it drove me to leave the comfort zone that I had been in for almost 17 years and step over the edge to become a ‘content-preneur.’ I just knew that if I did not do this, it would be the one thing I would regret the most in my life. And I did not want that hanging over me.
 
But why would I fear, regret not being a content-preneur? That’s a peculiar reason, isn’t it?
 
Well, it’s because I saw something that I really did not like in the media and felt strongly enough that I had to do something about – and that thing was the short shrift the media here gives to Malaysian entrepreneurs who are trying to build businesses around technology.
 
The usual excuses are that they are not big enough to interest readers. And sometimes, the excuse used is that they are not advertisers or that their stories are not that interesting.
 
All are totally lame excuses and often times mask the real reason – that it is hard work to try and understand the dynamics of the various industries which can sometimes be quite dry.
 
But then, it is the job of us journalists to bring out the excitement, the highs and lows of the journeys that our entrepreneurs take, whether it is the Internet, mobile, biotech, semiconductor, nanotech or electronic and electrical-based (E&E) space.
 
Bear in mind that we are a developing economy still and that these are all knowledge- based industries that are critical for Malaysia to move up the value chain. It’s incumbent on us journalists to create awareness among the public of what is going on in this space. We are failing in our nation-building duty when we neglect their stories of grit, hard work, innovation and inspiration.
 
Sounds idealistic, I know, but I really believe in this. Telling their stories, of the successes and even the failures and lessons learnt, do more for our ecosystem than the countless product reviews and the many stories of global tech companies the media here prefers to focus on.
 
As important as it was to highlight our entrepreneurs, I also wanted to play the role of ‘the fourth estate’ in keeping a critical eye on the happenings in the tech ecosystem. Certainly not everything is rosy and we want to be the first ones to highlight them and start a healthy discourse about what should be done. That’s why our tag line is ‘Your Eye On the Tech Ecosystem.’
 
So, to use the business lingo, there was ‘a gap’ in the market. It was not about the commercial opportunity this gap presented. I don’t know if what we are doing at DNA will pay off commercially, but I think we can replicate DNA in neighbouring countries and if it takes off there, it could get interesting. But first we have to focus on Malaysia.
 
The biggest risk that I took was my bet that there was enough exciting stuff going on in our tech ecosystem for DNA to highlight. Any media is just a platform that reflects what is going on in the space that it covers.
 
Internally, the decision was to shut down after six months if we were wrong. The fact that we are still here and going strong, clearly has shown that the ecosystem is buzzing. All you entrepreneurs, give yourselves a pat on the back!
 
I’d like to give my team a pat on the back too because they have been great. It is a real pleasure to work with people smarter than you because it drives you to want to be better too.
 
For instance, recently Gabey Goh told me that she was confident we could offer a lot of value if we launched in a neighbouring country. She was ready to relocate and lead the charge there.
 
She was motivated, she was excited. And I thought to myself, “What a tiger she is. I got to get DNA into that market and unleash her.” It’s exciting working with people like this.
 
As an entrepreneur, you also have a lot more on your mind. You are ‘on’ all the time. Indeed, one entrepreneur told me that for an entrepreneur, Sunday is no different than Monday. He’s almost right!
 
When I stepped over the edgeBut I also now understand why everyone is unanimous about the one trait an entrepreneur must have above all others: Passion.
 
That is the nuclear weapon in your arsenal. That emotion is the trait that will drive you on those dry and flat days when your tank is empty and you just want to curl up and go to sleep and hope that when you wake up, all the bad things were just a nightmare and that you are still working 9 to 7 for someone else, with that ultimate comfort of a stable monthly paycheque waiting for you.

But I think passion is not enough. I think passion has to be aligned with a sense of purpose, a vision if you wish, that you have of where you want to be and what impact you hope to make.
 
Combine these two and surround yourself with a great team that buys into your vision and watch magic happen.
 
Related Story:
 
DNA celebrates first anniversary with special Disrupt
 

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