- Serial entrepreneur a familiar name in tech ecosystem and beyond
- MaGIC staffers fear being spread too thin with wider mandate
IT has been reliably learnt that serial entrepreneur Ashran Ghazi (pic above) will soon be announced as the new chief executive officer (CEO) of the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), replacing founding CEO Cheryl Yeoh who abruptly left in December 2015.
The MaGIC board will be meeting tomorrow (April 5) to formally ratify the appointment, Digital News Asia has learned from various sources.
A familiar name in the Malaysian entrepreneurial ecosystem, Ashran is also an inaugural DNA Digerati50.
In 2008, he aspired to bring Internet TV to the masses via AsiaTube.tv, while in late 2013, his company Joot Ventures Sdn Bhd secured US$700,000 in funding to further develop and market its social content network Joota.
Ashran will be tasked with returning MaGIC to its original mandate of helping the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem and not just the tech-based space, sources told DNA.
He was apparently one of three candidates to make the final list, with none being an internal candidate from MaGIC, an agency under Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance.
Helping the wider ecosystem has been a constant refrain in the search for the next CEO of MaGIC, a point emphasised by an executive familiar with the matter.
“Nobody denies the great job that Yeoh did as CEO, but there has always been a feeling that MaGIC strayed from its roots,” the executive told DNA, requesting anonymity.
The undoubted positive impact of MaGIC on the tech and specifically the startup ecosystem has also inevitably invited opinions that a similar impact can be expected if the agency were to launch non-tech programmes.
“It’s an ironic twist, but people in government and the non-tech space have been thinking that MaGIC can surely replicate its success in other verticals such as agriculture and manufacturing,” said a leading figure in the ecosystem who also requested anonymity.
That expectation provides the backdrop for the kind of pressure that will be on Ashran as he steps into Yeoh’s shoes.
Not only will he be expected to drive MaGIC to create successful programmes in new non-tech verticals, but he is expected to maintain and build on the momentum MaGIC has created in the tech space as well.
And this is where he will face immediate challenges. According to reliable sources, MaGIC has been losing key mid-level managers since Yeoh left, principally because of the uncertainty of the agency’s future direction.
Just recently, apparently some executives involved in the [email protected] programme left as well.
There is also a real concern among the staff of the dangers of spreading themselves too thin in adding new programmes to their mandate, and in losing the traction that they have already gained.
Another big challenge for Ashran is that the existing team were all brought in and sold on MaGIC promoting startups and tech entrepreneurs.
“They have no passion and no experience in creating programmes for non-tech verticals,” noted an executive familiar with MaGIC.
But this is where the MaGIC board is hoping that Ashran’s wider ecosystem experience comes into play.
As chairman of myNEF, a not-for-profit organisation focused on creating and developing sustainable entrepreneurs via strategic developmental programmes, Ashran has been involved in many ecosystem events.
But another real concern is that Ashran may opt for large showcase events that create a lot of buzz but create very little sustainable impact, post-event.
“MaGIC has shown that systematic events, although harder to organise, are the ones that create lasting impact and measurable payoffs,” said an ecosystem player familiar with the agency’s thinking.
What is clear is that Ashran will have a lot of issues to deal with when he officially steps into the hot seat, and he will have to hit the ground running.
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