Week in Review: ‘Pay it forward’ culture key to MaGIC’s success

  • Malaysian Govt wants overall entrepreneur focus, not just tech
  • Major challenge for next CEO as many agencies already help entrepreneurs

Week in Review: ‘Pay it forward’ culture key to MaGIC’s successIN the last paragraph of her statement issued to DNA on her leaving Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) as its chief executive officer (CEO), Cheryl Yeoh expressed hope that her successor would continue to build on MaGIC’s culture as she feels it has been a key success factor for the team operating at its full potential.
That culture she built is really a startup culture, with speed and close cooperation, acceptance that plans and programmes need to be tweaked, and all mixed in with having fun while working hard.
And a big part of the startup culture is also in entrepreneurs giving back. And, this giving back, in terms of time and mentoring, has been a big part of why almost everyone I meet speak so highly of the impact MaGIC has had.
This was especially evident during the MaGIC Accelerator Programme (MAP) Demo Day on Nov 16, when not just Malaysians but entrepreneurs throughout South-East Asia, highlighted the many touch points they enjoyed through the four-month long accelerator.
It has been the personal touch from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists coming into MaGIC or via video-conference, and sharing experiences and ideas, that has been the secret sauce of MaGIC. It is not the programmes organised or the modules developed.
This sharing or ‘pay it forward’ belief has long been highlighted as the real magic ingredient to the success of Silicon Valley.
Having experienced and enjoyed the benefits of that culture herself, it is what Yeoh expressed hope of inculcating through MaGIC during our first interview back in April 2014 as well.
But the Malaysian Government now apparently wants MaGIC to live up to its original mandate of helping all entrepreneurs. This would mean helping the ones who want to build physical businesses in agriculture, fisheries, retail, training, trading, F&B (food and beverage), manufacturing, and more.
But I doubt if this version of MaGIC will be able to make as strong an impact on the entrepreneurs as the current tech startup and social entrepreneurship focused MaGIC.
And actually, MaGIC has been helping entrepreneurs who are targeting various brick-and-mortar businesses – it’s just that they have been coming at solving problems through a software/ Internet/ mobile approach.
And with life increasingly going digital, this is absolutely the right approach.
Don’t forget, there are already so many agencies in Malaysia focusing on brick-and-mortar entrepreneurs. By having yet another one, is the Government saying the rest cannot handle the load? Or is it saying the rest have failed to effectively carry out their responsibility?
Also in that first interview with me, Yeoh was very clear that she did not want to duplicate or overlap programmes so as to avoid turf wars which help no-one. I think she mostly succeeded.
How supremely ironic it would be if the new CEO comes in expressing the same desire, which would only be logical, and then going back to the MaGIC board saying, “We need to focus on equipping all our entrepreneurs with digital tools and leveraging off mobile technology and the Internet, because that’s where they can create value and have a chance of being successful, not just in Malaysia but beyond too.”
Isn’t that what MaGIC is doing now?
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