In the trenches with the D50: Don’t just overcome barriers, create new ones

  • Leverage on technology to create new barriers to forestall competition
  • Speed is perhaps the best ‘unfair competitive advantage’ you can have
In the trenches with the D50: Don’t just overcome barriers, create new ones

BEING an entrepreneur is all about overcoming barriers, but in the long haul, a wily entrepreneur will also create new barriers. Business can be, pardon the expression, a nasty bit of business.
 
That was one of the key messages at the In the Trenches with DNA’s Digerati50 panel discussion held at Monash University Malaysia on March 16.
 
“In my view, there are two sets of barriers. First are the existing barriers. You need to meet these barriers, and basically do whatever it takes to overcome them,” said iGene chief executive officer Matt Chandran.
 
“Then you need to create your own sets of barriers, so that once you have gone through your existing barriers, the new and aspiring competitors have a lot more barriers to go through,” he added.
 
Chandran revealed that iGene, a subsidiary of InfoValley Group, had created a few new barriers for its competitors.
 
iGene, which specialises in advanced medical visualisation technology, had developed a digital autopsy system which allows one to conduct digital post-mortems, without having to cut up the body of the deceased.
 
“The first barrier we put in place is by rising above the rest through technology,” he said.
 
“Then we got the Royal College of Pathology to come and endorse, validate and accredit that (digital autopsy) was the best practice at first-time intervention.
 
“That means, if anyone dies and requires a post-mortem examination, a digital autopsy would be the first choice.
 
“Next, we got our materials to Oxford University and asked them to convert these into curriculum. So if you go to Oxford University, you will be trained in a five-day programme, and the Royal College of Pathology will give you five CPD points.
 
“These are the new barriers we have created so as to give our potential new competitors hell,” he quipped.
 
Speaking of barriers, Packet One Networks Malaysia (P1) chief executive officer Puan Chan Cheong, more popularly known as CC Puan, said he also had his share or barriers.
 
“In my entrepreneurship journey, I have gone through various routes – there’s the licensing barrier, the capital barrier, and the competition barrier,” he said.
 
Puan started his entrepreneurship journey as soon as he completed his studies in the United States. In fact, one of his earliest ventures was supplying US beef to the Malaysian market.
 
He also managed to convince a few US companies to give him the rights to sell their products in Malaysia. By the time he was 25 years old, he had made his first million.
 
“I think that other than barriers of entry, it is very important to look at competitive advantage – if possible, an unfair competitive advantage,” said Puan.
 
The third panellist was Jeffri Cheong, cofounder of the popular on-demand services marketplace Kaodim, who highlighted that speed plays a key role in creating barriers and that unfair advantage.
 
“For us, barriers will always be there. We are in the startup scene, where products can be easily emulated and copied,” he said.
 
“So the only true way to create new barriers is to move much more quickly than anyone else, and to grow market share faster than the rest.
 
“To do that, you need to get people together, get a good team and communicate well with them – they will allow you to move much more quickly so that others would have a difficult time trying to catch up,” added Cheong.
 
The panel discussion, moderated by Digital News Asia founder and chief executive officer Karamjit Singh, was aimed at giving students and alumni a better idea of the entrepreneurship journey.
 
“In my three decades of meeting with and listening to entrepreneurs share their stories, I have never heard sharing of such honesty and authenticity,” said Professor John Benson, head of the School of Business at Monash.
 
Related Stories:
 
In the trenches with the D50: Startups are not one man shows
 
Disrupt: Heartfelt lessons, honesty and founder war stories
 
Disrupt: When startups get cheated, and dealing with ‘money men’
 
 
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