Breaking through barriers, crushing the glass ceiling
By Renuka Sena August 1, 2016
- Apps have recorded over 1mil downloads across 201 countries
- Working on connecting all products into one cohesive line
JUST a few decades ago, a woman in Malaysia would have found herself in the role of a housewife, almost without question.
We’ve certainly come a long way since then. Today, one can observe more and more women in the workforce, and even running their own businesses.
Yet there still remains a glass ceiling where few Malaysian women have broken into a select number of industries – for example, mobile technology remains dominated by tech-oriented men.
This is where Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin (pic above), managing director of Madcat World Sdn Bhd, has smashed through both stereotypes and barriers as a forward-thinking entrepreneur in mobile technology development.
It’s (not) a man’s world
There can be no doubt that Nuraizah has opened the door for women in mobile technology.
Her company Madcat World is an MSC Malaysia (Multimedia Super Corridor) status outfit that has made a string of popular mobile apps that have recorded over a million downloads across 201 countries.
The name ‘Madcat,’ perhaps to the disappointment of some, has nothing to do with crazy cats – it is simply an acronym for Mobile Application Development and Content Aggregation Toolkit, a mobile app builder platform.
It also happens to be a catchy name that has its people known in the industry as ‘the crazy cats.’
Madcat’s business is focused on three main areas: Mobile app platforms, Islamic content creation, Facebook games and applications (under www.nurmuslim.com), and enterprise productivity tools (BEAM).
According to Nuraizah, Madcat currently has 72 active apps and 163 legacy apps.
Not a popularity contest
Nuraizah graduated as an electrical engineer from the University of Michigan and began her career as a product engineer with Motorola Malaysia.
During her tenure there, she received two technical excellence awards that are equivalent to an industrial patent, and three productivity excellence awards.
From there, she moved on to her role as a research and development engineer with Sapura Nokia Software.
Although she had a shining career, Nuraizah was restless. Unable to find a boss whom she wanted to work for and with a desire to turn her own ideas into products, Nuraizah started her first company at 34.
She partnered with Dr Nikolai Dobberstein, one of her cofounders who was also her angel investor, as well as friends who shared the same dream.
When Madcat World started operations in April 2011, things were rather chaotic. The small team of eight needed to adjust to their new roles while figuring out what their one killer product would be.
Nuraizah had to shift from being a programmer to being the captain of the ship. She also had to overcome the urge to be loved by everyone and to be able to make unpopular decisions for the greater good of the company.
She has since learned, and is still learning, how to balance the best formula that allows individual empowerment yet aligns everyone in the same direction.
Nuraizah’s willingness to learn, let go, and be flexible, has made her a strong leader and this has steered Madcat World towards the success it enjoys today.
Fragility of life
While she understands that leading a successful company involves hard work and long hours, Nuraizah is careful not to get swallowed up by her daily responsibilities.
She recalls when she learned this lesson, firsthand, at a time when she was working 20-hour days.
One day, she saw someone get killed right in front of the office while crossing the road. Struck by the fragility of life, she immediately took time off to go on a short holiday with her family.
The lesson she shares from this is, “You cannot sacrifice your sanity in pursuing your dreams; we all need to take time off and reboot ourselves every now and then.”
Vision, persistence, hard work
Having achieved success in Malaysia, Madcat World’s next goal is to scale up and provide services globally.
It has a representative office in Jakarta with Asiagee Partners for its latest flagship product PeaceBeUponYou, an Islamic lifestyle app that connects Muslims around the world to daily inspirational content.
“We are currently identifying icons and partners who would like to work with us on providing content and services for the PeaceBeUponYou app,” says Nuraizah.
Success is rarely a smooth journey and Madcat World still faces many challenges. Its NurMuslim product currently has about 800,000 users, but only a small fraction of that user base generates income.
The team is currently working on connecting their different products into one cohesive product line, and learning how to turn fans into lead generators who bring in revenue.
It is hard work, but Nuraizah knows their persistence will pay off. She looks up to Rovio, the company that created the highly popular Angry Birds mobile game for inspiration. Rovio was about to shut down before it hit gold and found phenomenal worldwide success.
Nuraizah also draws inspiration from her time at the Coach and Grow Programme (CGP).
During the CGP, she made a statement about how her company is still standing despite competitors closing down and moving on. Her coach, then asked her, “Why are you standing when you can be flying?”
That question motivated Nuraizah to reach higher and further.
Leading the way
In line with her aim to become the best she can be, the determined woman entrepreneur has an impressive string of awards to her name.
In 2011, Nuraizah won the ‘Great Women of Our Times Awards’ for ‘Science and Technology’ from the Malaysian edition of Women’s Weekly.
In March 2013, she was nominated as one of the top five finalists for ntv7’s ‘Bella Awards’ in the ‘Business Category.’
Later that same year in December, she took away the ‘NEF-Awani ICT Awards’ for ‘Best Woman Technopreneur.’
Nuraizah is also helping young girls and women to leave a personal mark in the field of technology.
In August 2015, she was appointed a Council Member of the Women’s Advisory and Consultative Council (MPPW) under Malaysia’s Ministry of Women, Family & Community.
On the regional level, she has accepted the role of regional coordinator for Technovation, a US-based mobile application development programme for girls aged 10 to 18.
Nuraizah is the honorary past president of WENA, the Association of Bumiputera Women Entrepreneur Network of Malaysia, from 2012 to 2014; and was Malaysia’s first representative in the establishment of the Association of South-East Nation (Asean) Women Entrepreneur Network (AWEN) in 2014.
So what’s her secret to success?
“Do not live in your own world. Network, learn about the business world, and get mentors and peers that can help push you forward when you are ready to give up.”
Nuraizah is living proof that this secret works. She is a beacon of inspiration for women entrepreneurs everywhere.
Discover Madcat World at www.madcatworld.com.
The above is an excerpt from the book Startups to Scaleups published in October 2015 by Cradle Fund and Proficeo Consultants, the programme manager for Cradle’s Coach and Grow Programme. DNA will be featuring every entrepreneurial story from the book in a special commercial arrangement.