ABAF 2012 off to a strong start

  • Regional angels acknowledge Malaysia has quality ‘deal flows’
  • Start-ups benefit from feedback and market access tips

ABAF 2012 off to a strong startMany months of hard work finally came to fruition with the kick-off to the Asian Business Angels Forum (ABAF) at the Marriott Hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
Being held from May 23-25, the pre-conference training day saw over hundred entrepreneurs eager to get feedback from regional angel investors on the viability of their products and go-to-market strategy.
ABAF 2012 was sponsored primarily by Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance and jointly organised by Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd and the Virtuous Investment Circle, two non-profits, with Cradle under the Ministry, that handle investment fund programs.
Concurrent with ABAF, Cradle held another event to take advantage of the participating angels and venture capitalists from neighboring countries, the Cradle CGP FoundersAsia Entrepreneur program.
CGP or Coach and Grow Program involves getting key players in the ecosystem to train existing entrepreneurs to grow their businesses to greater heights via coaching, networking and showcase events, such as ABAF 2012.
According to Renuka Sena, “Chief Explorer” of Proficeo Consultants which is the appointed program manager for the CGP, the way FoundersAsia worked was that all angels were invited to view profiles of the top 30% of the CGP companies at www.foundersasia.com.
The angels met individually with the companies that caught their interest. But there was a twist to the event. Objective feedback, mentorship and access to networks and markets made up the main agenda of the event, and not funding. The investors were briefed that the entrepreneurs were not expecting investments or even the prospect of investments.
The reason for this, says Renuka, “was to show regional investors that we have passionate, quality entrepreneurs in Malaysia.”
In an email response to DNA, she says she felt that this objective was achieved. “Overall I was very happy with the outcome of the meet-ups.”
The feedback from entrepreneurs was equally enthusiastic. C. Arun, who designed and built a machine that pulverizes palm oil trees in 120 seconds (www.trunkbusters.com.my) came away excited.
“Cradle must be congratulated for the way in which it has sequenced the program in the run-up to ABAF.  I certainly felt that I came into the program as someone who had the raw material in him, which was then honed to a semi-finished product via the coaching program and then put to a live market test via the ABAF,” he says.
But true to the nature of entrepreneurs, Arun is hoping for funding too.
“What remains to be seen is how Cradle is able to provide each one of us with constructive feedback on where we sang out of pitch and did not titillate the judges’ palate.
“For me, it is this constructive feedback which will be the second-most valuable reward I will take from today's event -- the most valuable being one (or more) of these angels coming forward to offer their time, network and even money to some of us!”
The final word on Day One has to come from the head honcho of Cradle, Nazrin Hassan, who was a constant source of encouragement to the entrepreneurs at both FoundersAsia and the pre-conference training sessions.
“The pre-conference day has been great! The angels at the roundtable session shared their thoughts and experience generously on angel investing. The pitch session with Cradle's ‘Coach and Grow’ recipients went well too,” he says.
Best of all to Nazrin, who is keen to put Malaysia at the centre of the start-up scene in Asia, is the acknowledgement from the regional angels that Malaysia indeed had good quality deal flows.
“Our entrepreneurs definitely benefited immensely from the feedback provided by the various angel investors too."

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