A special workspace at Incube8
By Karamjit Singh May 14, 2013
- Run by former tech entrepreneur Harald Weinbrecht who has been through ‘whole nine yards’
- A stake in startups in exchange for resources and services delivered through shared workspace
RISING up in the swanky Mont Kiara township of Kuala Lumpur, Incube8 is positioning itself like no other shared workspace in the country … or Asia, for that matter.
And, that’s down to the mentoring and coaching services, and the angel investing that come along with the standard services all shared workspaces offer – at least, that is what its founder Harald Weinbrecht is claiming.
A seasoned player in the Malaysian tech scene who, as he likes to say, “has gone the whole nine yards,” Weinbrecht, a German national, is bringing his experience, regional network and understanding of what it takes to build a company from idea stage to IPO (initial public offering) – and offering all that as the honey he hopes will attract entrepreneurs to locate themselves in his workspace that sits on the 23rd floor of a high-rise at Mont Kiara.
He points out the limitations of service offices like ServCorp and Regus which specialise in office space only; incubators, which cannot offer high-class business addresses, virtual offices or professional receptionists; or angel investors who cannot offer any office space.
In contrast, “we are the only ones who can provide all three services entrepreneurs need,” he says, correcting himself slightly to say that, “in South-East Asia, if not Asia, we are surely the only ones.”
“You feel like home when you come in to work,” says Shanker Siva of Mystreets Capital, a green tech consultancy firm which moved in to Incube8 last year.
He speaks highly of the experience of being mentored by Weinbrecht. An investment banker for 15 years with RHB Bhd before setting out on his own, Shanker appreciates the interest Weinbrecht and his partner N. Gunananthan (who founded software company SmartTransact Sdn Bhd back in 1999) have taken in his business and the mentoring he has received from them, besides their financial expertise in structuring deals.
Weinbrecht is hoping to attract and help more such entrepreneurs as Shanker. In fact, he speaks of getting more involved in the startup space to identify promising entrepreneurs and get them to use his shared office space to build out their business.
In return for the infrastructure, services and experience of Weinbrecht and Gunananthan, Incube8 will take a small stake in the startups.
It may be a deal worth considering if one looks at what Weinbrecht has done running that ‘whole nine yards.’
As he describes it, since moving to Malaysia from Germany to work for SAP in 1995, he built his services startup ISS Consulting and listed it in 2007, engineered a reverse takeover of tech company Formis Bhd in early 2010 and acquired a company in Singapore too, before leaving Formis towards the end of 2010 because the board and Weinbrecht had different ideas of how to grow the business.
“That’s my differentiator,” he says. “I have grown a regional business, I understand what it means to bootstrap, I have received funding from Malaysia Venture Capital Management (Mavcap), I have executed an M&A and done a RTO (reverse takeover).”
Weinbrecht has also taken his services based startup from 1997 and managed to help it scale and achieve repeatability by building processes into what it does and in creating products.
Wanting to leverage on all these experiences, Weinbrecht feels Incube8 offers him the best opportunity to do so.
Plus entrepreneurs will know they are getting it straight up from Weinbrecht. “It is not in my nature to mince my words, I tell it as it is,” he says when asked if his many years in Malaysia haver tempered the bluntness Germans are known for.
“I have tried to be subtle but I have failed,” he says, adding that one fails entrepreneurs by giving them hope when there is none.
Knowing well that the entrepreneurial journey can be lonely too if one has nobody to share and learn from, Weinbrecht organises a twice-a-month meet for chief executive officers, ceoXcel, to learn and share from each other. The gathering is anchored on a business enhancement topic with a guest speaker.
A past topic has been on how meditation helps focus the mind on the tasks at hand. Expect to see a topic on the relevance of training for the Ironman triathlon and the boost to the entrepreneurial journey too. “It has helped me with my mental perseverance,” says Weinbrecht.
After he left Formis and walked away from the business that he had built, Weinbrecht (pic) also had to deal with personal issues. With his professional life going in one direction and private life in another, and he himself taking to an unhealthy lifestyle, he eventually decided to focus on himself and started running, cycling and swimming with a vengeance.
This was still in 2010, when he finished an Ironman race; he has gone on to finish three thus far. His blog even has an article on the importance of training for an Ironman race and business success.
“Getting up on a Monday morning to run 30km before you go in to work is really tough and calls for immense levels of mental perseverance, and this ultimately helps you in your journey as an entrepreneur,” Weinbrecht says. So does swimming 80 laps in a pool.
“It’s all about just hanging on, about not giving up. And these traits that I had to cultivate in my Ironman training have really helped me a lot in strengthening my perseverance.”
Clearly Weinbrecht has a lot to offer anyone taking up space at Incube8.