Cheryl Yeoh takes hot seat, will not be rushed into things
Will complement good programmes, plug gaps in ecosystem
CHERYL Yeoh, the new chief executive officer of the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), has been thrown into the deep end with back-to-back meetings, including her first board meeting which started at 8.30pm and ended past 1am.
But despite the hustle and bustle of the first few days on the job, Yeoh (pic from her blog) will not be rushed into offering concrete thoughts about what MaGIC will do.
“I have over 100 ideas but at the same time, I have not had 10 minutes to myself since I started on the 15th (of April).
“Give me some time to settle in, get to know the ecosystem better so that I can then [put] a more structured programme in place,” she said in reply to a question on her priority areas at her first public event yesterday (April 17) at the MaGIC office in Cyberjaya.
Yeoh also shared her background as an entrepreneur, about how she actually started her first entrepreneurial venture at age eight before following this up at age 14 with her second. Her point being – “I am a PJ (Petaling Jaya) girl who got her entrepreneurial drive and passion in Malaysia.”
Fast forward to New York City where she worked in management consulting after graduating from Cornell University with an undergraduate degree and later a Master’s in Engineering.
She then launched a product called CityPockets, a digital wallet and secondary marketplace for daily deals.
A pivot in the business saw her shut down in New York and relocate to Mountain View, California, where she launched Reclip.It, a personalised shopping list app that saves users money by matching listed items with digital coupons and weekly ads from top retailers.
This was where she raised money and ended up selling her startup to WalMart Labs. And throughout this time, she still made a yearly trip back to Malaysia as the family was here.
“It was during my trips back in these last two years that I realised the rapid change in the ecosystem and thought it was time to come back and do something for my fellow entrepreneurs,” she claimed.
Now that she is back, step one is to map out the ecosystem – she will do this by hitting the ground running and meeting as many ecosystem players as possible. “I then want to validate our charter and purpose and plan various activities.”
Her intention is to complement what is already in the ecosystem as she feels there already are some good programmes in place. Where there are gaps, she hopes MaGIC would be able to plug them.
“Can I, with the resources and funding provided to me, do what’s right for my fellow entrepreneurs?” she said.
Of interest here is that while she clearly needs more hands on board, and is working with a team seconded from various Ministry of Finance agencies, at this stage Yeoh only plans to hire baseline staff to handle human resource roles.
“Beyond that, I want to hire really talented people who want to give back and know the community already. I will give them special projects and once they prove they can do what they say [they can], then I will move them into the right positions,” she said, hinting at adopting the Silicon Valley culture of hiring slow, firing fast.
“Everything MaGIC runs will have to be sustainable and not be fluff or about hype. I am not about hype,” she declared.
Yeoh said she is concerned that the startup journey is getting a lot more hype than the reality of the experience and will result in entrepreneurs being unprepared for the challenges that lie ahead.
“I will, hopefully, be able to convey that being an entrepreneur is hard work, serious business and not all fun and games,” she said.
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