Echelon Malaysia Satellite a hit with start-ups

  • Gridmarkets, powered by six decades of experience, emerges winner with ticket to main Echelon in Singapore
  • founders from 1998 Patrick Grove and Nic Lim share their thoughts with entrepreneurs
Echelon Malaysia Satellite a hit with start-ups

THE old-timers were more than a match for the young ones at the Echelon Malaysia Satellite pitching competition on April 17, organized by Singapore-based regional online media player e27.
With a combined industry experience of over 60 years between its two founders, Gridmarkets walked away as the winner of Echelon Malaysia, beating 14 other start-ups.
Echelon Malaysia Satellite a hit with start-upsThe company and its co-founder Hakim Karim (pic, left with e27 CEO Mohan Belani) will get the chance to pitch to venture capitalists from around the world at the main Echelon in Singapore in June.
And in the process, GridMarkets may just prove to Catcha’s Patrick Grove and others that Malaysians can create innovative Internet-based businesses.
GridMarkets aims to monetize unused server capacity around the world. With a market size of US$100 billion that doubles every three years, Hakim certainly caught the imagination of the packed room and the judges with the opportunity he sees, and where, apparently, “there is no upper limit to the size of the market as the requirements for CPU capacity is limitless.”
Grove had already left the room by then, but had left an indelible mark on the start-ups with his 5Ps which underpin the building of a 100-million-dollar company.
Briefly, the 5Ps are:

  • Perfect market –Grove urged entrepreneurs to look at what is already working well in the United States or Europe and replicating it here, but with strong characteristics unique to the local market.
  • People in pairs – The secret to the madness seems to be in having a co-founder, noted Grove, pointing out the many companies which were started by two people. “It is very tough and lonely building a start-up. There is a lot of value in having two people think through a problem or look for opportunities.”
  • Pivot – He challenged the entrepreneurs to look hard at their business and pivot. “You are out there trying to disrupt big businesses. You need to pivot, almost daily even,” he challenged. The Catcha Group’s vision too has changed almost every year, he shared. It is currently to be the No 1 investor in Internet companies in South-East Asia, but he admitted that this may change come 2014!
  • Passion – Love what you do and pick something you are really passionate about which you will throw yourself into 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Grove shared the rule made famous by Malcolm Gladwell on the need to invest 10,000 hours into any field in order to master it. “The more time you spend on your start-up, the faster you get to this 10,000-hour mark.”
  • Persistence – Anything that can happen, will happen to you in a start-up. It is your persistence that will carry you through the dark and into the light beyond. In his early Catcha days, Grove faced lawsuits, key people leaving at the worst time, almost having its advertising account with Google shut down and almost running out of money, but he kept plugging away.

Echelon Malaysia Satellite a hit with start-upsMeanwhile one of the highlights of Echelon Malaysia had to be Grove being stumped by a question from Silmyi Sadek (pic, with his wife) of Brand Geeks Inc, who asked for Grove’s opinion on the downfalls of his wife Manisah Sarujee being a co-founder.
“I’ve never got that one before,” admitted Grove before answering: “It’s great if you have a co-founder you trust completely and are with for most of the time because that’s where the great ideas come from. But let me know in five years what happens.”
Echelon Malaysia also witnessed the first public presentation by Nic Lim in Malaysia since he re-emerged in the start-up scene in mid-2012 with 8Capita. The co-founder of Catcha with Grove in 1998 is now an investor and shared that he has made investments in 12 start-ups in less than a year.
Describing his role as that of a supporter and cheerleader for the companies he invests in, Lim reminded the entrepreneurs to be respectful of any money they receive. “Value the opportunity given when someone funds you and respect that.”
He also urged the entrepreneurs to learn how to share, specifically in aligning the interest of the people around you so that they feel a sense of ownership in what you are building together.
Not everyone at Echelon was an entrepreneur. Some were former entrepreneurs during the first wave of the dotcom fever, and they came away impressed.
“The speakers at this event were inspiring, truly epitomizing the successful entrepreneur with the compelling combination of phenomenal business successes and a superior capacity for execution,” said Darren Danial Ong, regional sales director at cloud-based strategic human capital management software company SumTotal Systems.
“At the heart of their messages, two words – creativity and innovation – sprung to mind and embodied their advice to would-be Malaysian entrepreneurs,” he added.
Aside from the insightful advice, interesting and sometimes amusing pitches, Jamaludin Bujang, CEO of Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap), felt the investment made to bring Echelon to Malaysia was well worth it. “We will certainly bring it back next year,” he said.
Cradle Fund was the other sponsor for the event in Kuala Lumpur.
While Mavcap does not play in the start-up investment space, Jamaludin said he values the springboard that an event like Echelon offers to entrepreneurs here to project themselves globally if they make it to the main event in Singapore.
On a personal level, being a judge at the event has given him a close-up look at what technologies Malaysians are working on, besides the opportunity to network with the entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, Dr V. Sivapalan, co-founder of AllStars Accelerator, was heartened to see the quality of the pitching. “Having been involved in the start-up scene in Malaysia for the last 15 years, I find that our entrepreneurs are more confident and are able to deliver their pitch passionately, clearly articulating their ideas and plans.”
Sivapalan even felt that some companies have the potential to be regional if not global players.
No doubt, our start-ups are now turning their eyes to Echelon 2014.
Related Stories:
Echelon comes to KL this week
Is Malaysia ‘losing out’ to Singapore?
e27 gets US$614,000 worth of funding, to expand regionally
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