Promoting women entrepreneurs; mind your finances

Do we need specific initiatives to help female entrepreneurs? Some say no, because men and women face similar obstacles in business. However, there can be no denying that women face challenges not experienced by their male counterparts.

LAST May, the SME Association of Malaysia organised a talk on women entrepreneurship at its regular SME Club get-together. We were worried that the topic would not be interesting, but to our surprise, the event was well received.

About a hundred people participated in the talk.

When we told the SMEs that we were going to have a talk on women entrepreneurship, some of them asked: Why talk about women entrepreneurship? Does it matter? Why bother?

After all, business is a men’s world. The place for women is at home.

Others said there was no need to differentiate women entrepreneurs from entrepreneurs in general, as many of the barriers faced by female-owned SMEs were similar to those faced by male-owned SMEs.

To this, I would say: Yes and no.

While male and female entrepreneurs may face similar constraints in general, women face specific barriers and challenges not experienced by their counterparts.

While women make up about 50% of Malaysia’s population, less than 20% of the SMEs are owned by women. Even though the number for women entrepreneurs is small, it’s nonetheless encouraging as it shows that women no longer buy the stereotype of business being a male domain.

There are several key reasons for women to get into business. Running your own business provides flexibility in managing career and domestic responsibilities.

Also, it gives some degree of personal freedom to women who are dissatisfied with “fixed” employment. Job flexibility, like work hours, office location, environment, and the people they work with, is appealing to many women.

Other reasons for women to start a business include income security and career satisfaction. Some women become entrepreneurs due to some personal circumstances, like being laid off, divorce, or the retirement of their spouse. They start a business to improve or maintain their social or economic status.

Some women who do not have any previous work skills or experience start a business in order to prove that they can be productive and useful.

The majority of women-owned businesses are smaller outifts than those owned by men, and they are mostly concentrated in the service sector (about 90%). Many of these businesses are likely to be unregistered micro-enterprises operating in the home or on temporary premises, with few employees and limited capital for expansion.

Access to financing is one of the biggest challenges. They are less aware of the options relating to loan and grant opportunities. In addition, women usually lack the collateral required compared to men, stemming in part from restrictions on asset ownership.

Women entrepreneurs are also less likely than their male counterparts to have a history of interaction with formal financial systems, lowering their credit-worthiness and potentially raising interest rates on loans assumed.

They also encounter obstacles in accessing opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills that underpin successful entrepreneurship. This may be due to impediments in access to education, training and job experience. These are usually compounded by the demands of domestic responsibilities.

Time constraints further limit women entrepreneurs’ formal networking, which, in turn reduce access to skill and capacity-development opportunities. Formal networks, such as business associations, provide a wealth of information on business opportunities, access to government officials, grants and support programmes, as well as credit credentials and access to loan packages, to name a few.

Good networks provide good access to information and resources. First-hand information allows entrepreneurs to move one step ahead and grab the opportunities. A good pool of resources would help entrepreneurs to survive in bad times and to expand more effectively.

The Government needs to take a proactive role in promoting women entrepreneurs. We need to put in place gender-responsive policies and capacity-building initiatives to address the structural, institutional and socio-cultural inequalities.

It would perhaps be best to start by enhancing their access to finance, which is essential in building a good business foundation.

By Datuk Michael Kang who is the national president of the SME Association of Malaysia.

Mind your finances

Up to 36 of business failures are caused by inadequate financial management, according to a report by the ACCA. —

IN GENERAL, more than 50% of startups fail within five years, and up to 36% of business failures are caused by inadequate financial management, according to a report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) entitled “Financial management and business success – a guide for entrepreneurs”.

The report says many entrepreneurs are not equipped to make informed and effective decisions about their financial resources.

“Having the right financial capabilities remains vital throughout the life of a business, whether you are just starting out, have an established business or are looking towards a final exit from a firm,” explains Rosana Mirkovic, ACCA’s head of SME policy.

“Businesses are changing and innovating more rapidly than ever, and the financial management needs of organisations must continue to evolve alongside their developments. Recognising the right financial management capabilities is therefore imperative to their success,” she explains.

Mirkovic adds that understanding financial information is vital for offsetting the risk of business failures as it reveals the early warning signs of impending problems.

The report by ACCA addresses the financial literacy skills gap, potentially serving as a guide to those starting their own businesses and are new to financial management.

Business planning plays a critical role at every stage of the business, says the report.

“Preparing a business plan pushes you to identify and assess the opportunities and threats facing your business. It helps ensure that you have an in-depth understanding of your market, the competition and the broader business environment,” it elaborates.

Effective planning takes into account long-term goals, objectives, strategy, tactics and financial review.

ACCA also advises startups to seek good financial advice and involve their accountants or individuals with financial expertise at the planning stage to take full advantage of their expertise in areas such as business planning, raising business finance, tax planning and setting up financial management systems.

Significant financial expertise may be needed to understand and evaluate the different financial options entrepreneurs may have. This includes knowing the company’s financial strength, financing cost, financial flexibility, business control, financial risk, personal finances and business strategy.

“Good financial control offers far more than just keeping track of purchases and sales. Rather than approach financial control as a chore to be left to the bookkeeper, your aim should be to see how the right capabilities can improve your business,” the report advises.

ACCA notes that business owners should gradually develop the capabilities of their in-house financial team.

“Choosing the right solution for your particular business takes careful planning. Your overall investment in financial capabilities — whether you are paying for additional employees, higher salaries for more skilled employees, training costs, use of external providers or upgraded systems — must be affordable and offer value for money,” it adds.

But financial management is at its most powerful when used to drive improvements in business.

Moreover, for many entrepreneurs, it could also lead to a successful business exit. Preparation for a successful exit typically begins far in advance of its final date.

Effective exit planning needs to start early and take into account a whole range of issues like timing, succession, management systems and tax efficiency.

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Jack Ma, Asia’s richest envisions the newspaper to leverage Alibaba’s technology & resources




Ma: 20 more years of enviable growth for China


In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Alibaba founder Jack Ma shares his views on the Chinese economy and the importance of entrepreneurship in supporting development.

CHINA’S economy will face “a difficult three to five years” but the slowdown will be good for its long-term development, Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) just before the e-commerce giant’s takeover of the 113-year-old newspaper.

Ma said the Chinese economy was indeed grappling with structural problems and that the authorities were working hard to steer it onto a new growth path.

But he dismissed fears that China would follow Japan’s route to stagnation, saying the country still had huge potential waiting to be tapped.

The rapid growth of China’s Internet economy and consumer culture could help the country through its temporary difficulties, Ma said.

China would likely continue to grow at a rate “enviable to most other major economies for 15 to 20 more years”, he said.

Ma gave the two-hour interview in Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang province, during which he also discussed his vision for the SCMP, cultural differences between the east and west, and his concerns for Hong Kong’s next generation.

Commercial and residential buildings in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

China’s economy has been grappling with structural problems but Beijing is working hard to steer it onto a new growth path.

On China’s economy, the businessman said it was unrealistic to expect an economy of such scale to maintain double-digit growth indefinitely.

“There is no reason to expect that an economy of such size can maintain such a growth rate indefinitely, nor is it good for China to continue to grow at such speed,” Ma said.

“After more than 30 years’ growth, spending a few years to adjust its course is reasonable.

“Some say the actual (growth) number could be just 5%. But even with 5% growth, there is no other economy of such size growing at that speed in today’s world.”

Comparing China with an ocean liner, Ma said the Chinese leadership understood that the country’s old growth model was unsustainable and that they needed to chart a new course.

“It is easy for a small boat to change its course. But as the world’s second-largest economy, China is like an ocean liner… we have to choose either to not slow down and overturn the ship, or to slow a bit to make the turn,” he said.

The key was to create enough jobs to keep the economy stable and buy time so the country could complete its much-needed transformation, Ma said.

Fortunately for China, he said, the rise of its Internet economy happened at the right time.

China’s gross domestic product grows 6.7% in first quarter – a good start to 2016

“The traditional industries are struggling, but we also see growth in domestic consumption, the services industry and the hi-tech sector, and young talents are flocking to these areas,” he said.

“The logistics and delivery industries create plenty of jobs for low-skilled workers. We still have a lot of room for growth.”

Ma said the deciding factor in a true economic transformation would be the country’s ability to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit among the young and create an environment to help it flourish.

“I believe there will be some great enterprises arising from China,” he said.

“The monetary policy and supply-side reforms are very important and can help rejuvenate China’s economy.

“But to me, the most important thing is entrepreneurship. If this can flourish in China, China will become successful.”

China’s slowdown had triggered panic among foreign investors, with some choosing to leave the country.

But this actually created fresh opportunities, Ma said.

History had proven that those who bucked the trend to invest in China during difficult times always received good returns, he added.

“China needs to develop its rural areas; China needs to develop its cultural industry. It is also shifting focus to services and IT industries. There are still plenty of opportunities around,” Ma said.

Global media agency in the making



In the second part of an interview with SCMP, Ma says he envisions the newspaper to leverage on Alibaba’s technology and resources.JUST why does Jack Ma want to own a newspaper, and what will he do with it?

Those are the biggest questions that have confronted readers of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) since news broke of Alibaba Group’s acquisition of the 113-year-old English-language newspaper late last year.

Now, for the first time since the Chinese e-commerce giant’s takeover earlier this month, Ma has outlined his vision for the newspaper.

The acquisition has raised eyebrows, with some suggesting that the SCMP – which has for decades been reporting aggressively on China – would change its direction.

A few even believed the newspaper might henceforth gloss over sensitive or controversial issues that risked incurring the wrath of the Chinese leadership.

In a face-to-face interview with the SCMP in Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang province, Ma addressed these concerns, explaining why he believed in having a narrative on China that was different from that of both the mainstream Western media and Chinese state media.

“I don’t see it as an issue of (coverage) being ‘positive or negative’,” the Alibaba executive chairman said. “It is about being impartial and balanced… We should offer a fair chance to readers (to understand what is happening in China), not just a fair chance to China.”

China’s growth will remain enviable for the next 20 years, says Ma.

As a reader, Ma said, he valued the importance of obtaining unbiased information in order to draw his own conclusion based on the undistorted facts presented to him.

“I believe the most important thing for the media is to be objective, fair and balanced. We should not report a story with preconceptions or prejudice,” he said.

With its access to Alibaba’s resources, data and all the relationships in its ecosystem, the SCMP can report on Asia and China more accurately compared with other media who have no such access.

“Sometimes, people look at things purely from a Western or an Eastern perspective – that is one-sided. What the SCMP can do is to understand the big ‘why’ behind a story and its cultural context.

“I want to stress the importance of being fair to our readers. You should not impose your own view and prejudice on the readers and try to lead them to a conclusion. As a reader, I understand what a fair report is.”

The tech tycoon said his vision was to transform the SCMP into a global media agency with the help of Alibaba’s technology and resources.

Alibaba, the world’s biggest online trading platform, is aggressively developing big-data and cloud technology. Every day, it analyses and processes a massive volume of data that can provide powerful insight into the world’s second largest economy.

Ma reiterated his promise that Alibaba’s management would not take part in the SCMP’s newsroom operations. Rather, it wanted to represent readers’ interests and give feedback on how to improve readers’ experience, he said.

“As I said to Joe (Tsai), you are going to the SCMP as a representative of its readers. You don’t have to represent shareholders. You speak for the readers,” Ma said, referring to Alibaba’s executive vice-chairman who is now the chairman of the SCMP.

Ma, who last year unveiled a HK$1bil fund to help Hong Kong’s young entrepreneurs start up their businesses, said he invested in the newspaper because he “loves Hong Kong”.

Hong Kong was stuck in a rut and in danger of losing its direction, the billionaire said, urging Hong Kong’s youth to hold on to the city’s uniqueness and have faith in its future.

“The city has lost its can-do spirit. The big businesses are less willing to take risks. I talked to some young people in Hong Kong and they said they are lost. Young people indeed have fewer opportunities than before. But is it true that there are no more opportunities for them? No!” he said.

Hong Kong had many strengths that were unique to the city, Ma said.

“It has the best location. The ‘one country, two systems’ allows it to enjoy the good things from China’s growth and the best things from the West… The quality of Hong Kong’s graduates can match the finest from any other city. Its services industry is first class,” he said.

“Hong Kong people say Hong Kong needs to preserve its uniqueness. I say Hong Kong’s uniqueness is in its diversity, its tolerance of difference cultures… China does not want to see Hong Kong in decline. I have full confidence in its future.” – SCMP

By Chow Chung-Yan The Star


In talks: A photo illustration shows the South China Morning Post website displayed on a computer in Hong Kong. Jack Ma is in talks to buy a stake in the publisher of SCMP. – Reutersicon videoLet our readers see China from more angles and perspectives’

Bearish market: An employee is seen behind a glass wall with the logo of Alibaba at the company’s headquarters on the outskirts of Hangzhou. Alibaba is trading below its initial public offering price of US68 after plunging 20 in the past year as it grapples with slowing growth, the result of its reliance on a decelerating Chinese economy. — Reuters


 Jack Ma’s potential entry lends fire to SCMP

China start-up ‘Little Red Book’, Xiaohongshu valued at US$1bil

Colour of success: A Chinese actress dressed as a Red Guard and holding a ‘Little Red Book’ performs in front of a portrait of the late Chairman Mao Zedong at a restaurant in Beijing Xiaohongshu says its name has nothing to do with Mao’s famous tome. — Reuters

HONG KONG: The “Little Red Book” has become a symbol of capitalist success in Communist China.

E-commerce start-up Xiaohongshu, which means “Little Red Book” in Chinese, has raised US$100mil from Tencent Holdings Ltd and other investors at a valuation of about US$1bil, two people familiar with the matter said.

The online shopping site co-founded in 2013 by Charlwin Mao, which connects overseas merchants with local buyers, becomes China’s newest billion-dollar startup. It also attracted investment from Genesis Capital and Tiantu Capital in its latest round, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.

The funds will help bankroll the Shanghai-based startup’s expansion. Xiaohongshu — which calls itself RED and stresses its name bears no relation to Mao Zedong’s book of quotations – works by letting its mostly younger female users post pictures of favorite products. It then connects them with sellers abroad of everything from Body Shop anti-dandruff shampoo to Lotte peach liquor.

Its fundraising comes as venture capital firms grow more cautious about valuations in China, an economy forecast to grow this year at its slowest pace in a quarter-century.

Genesis Capital is a late-stage investment firm founded by Richard Peng Zhijian, who oversaw Tencent’s investment unit. Genesis and Tencent didn’t respond to e-mailed queries. Calls to Shenzhen-based Tiantu’s general line went unanswered. Xiaohongshu co-founder Mao said he couldn’t immediately comment.

Three-year-old Xiaohongshu claims 17 million registered users on its LinkedIn page and had attracted investment previously from GGV Capital and Zhen Fund.

It specialises in cross-border e-commerce, marketing foreign brands to increasingly wealthy local shoppers.

That’s a market forecast to reach 6.5 trillion yuan (US$1 trillion) by 2016, the state-run Xinhua News Agency cited the Ministry of Commerce as saying in March.

It didn’t elaborate on that figure.

The company says its name has nothing to do with Mao’s famous tome, considered one of the most-printed works in history and known to English-speakers as the “Little Red Book.” The late Communist leader’s book is called “Hong Bao Shu” or “red treasure book” in Chinese. “Why isn’t your website called ‘Little Black Book,’ ‘Little Blue Book,’ ‘Little Purple Book’ or ‘Big Red Book’?” reads a question posted by Xiaohongshu in a section of its website sketching out its origins. “We don’t know. But anyway, our name isn’t because of Hong Bao Shu.” — Bloomberg


IT WORKS! The Famous Little Red Book That Makes Your Dreams Come True! Law Of Attraction



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Entrepreneurship is not a job but providing a solution…

Entrepreneurship is not a job but providing a solution

Coming up with a winning idea

Entrepreneurship is not a job. It’s about providing a solution, and pulling people and resources together to make that change. Workable business ideas are all about solving problems.

Q: I’m an engineering student in Portugal, but I feel I really was born to be an entrepreneur. I started creating logos for companies when I was about 15. I’m passionate about entrepreneurship and I’m always trying to think of new ways to start businesses. I want to follow my passion — but it’s tough when you have a great business idea, and no support. How do I find the right path? — João Bandeira, PortugalJoão, it’s always heartening to hear a young would-be entrepreneur talk about passion being a key driver in his life. The most successful entrepreneurs share that indescribable desire to change the world and make a positive difference in people’s lives.

And while it can be a struggle in the early days to find one project to pour all your enthusiasm into, just remember that successful entrepreneurs always manage to come up with an idea that’s right for them, and they make it work.

Your question reminds me of the origins of Ring — a wildly successful business that I have invested in.

For years, founder Jamie Siminoff had attempted to come up with a winning business idea — he even turned his garage in California into a lab for prototypes. As he worked there, though, Jamie was annoyed that he couldn’t hear the front doorbell.

One day he decided to fix this problem — he created a program to link the doorbell to his smartphone so that he could answer the door remotely with a video call. It was a great solution.

Jamie’s wife loved the idea as well: When Jamie was away, she could always see who was at the front door, and she felt safer.

Later, Jamie invited friends around to check out his other inventions, but the only thing anybody cared about was the doorbell!

He soon realised that this was the best business idea he ever had, and Ring was born. Just like that, the hours of searching for a winning idea were over.

João, the fact that you are constantly thinking of new businesses to start is a hugely valuable asset. Being proactive is a good thing, but I would strike a note of caution about the idea search.

I recently joined a host of fellow entrepreneurs in Los Angeles for Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural “Business Is an Adventure” event, and the topic of generating business ideas came up in a panel. Sean Rad, the CEO and founder of the dating app Tinder, made a great point.

“Entrepreneurship is not a job — it is a reaction to you wanting to solve a problem,” he said. “You have to wake up and say: ‘I am passionate about making a change, and I am passionate about pulling together people and resources… Not wake up and say: ‘I want to be an entrepreneur’ because I think you’ll kind of be lost… you’ll be looking for a problem instead of finding a problem looking for a solution.”

It’s a shrewd observation, and one that underlies the success of many companies, including Tinder.

In our daily lives, we all come across problems, annoyances or frustrations that we would love to see solved. Luckily, entrepreneurs are perfectly placed to solve those problems.

Interestingly enough, that’s how Virgin Atlantic began. After one particularly terrible experience as a passenger with an unscrupulous airline, I decided there must be a better way to fly. The next day, our team was on the phone with Boeing asking if they had any second-hand 747s that they were willing to sell.

Thankfully, they didn’t laugh and hang up — and the first Virgin airline was born.

So keep in mind that generating ideas is a great strength, but make sure that you’re spending your time and energy searching for solutions, not problems. That’s the best way to approach workable business ideas. Become a passionate problem-solver, and you’re half-way to being a successful entrepreneur.

Also keep in mind that once a great idea has been sparked, getting it off the ground can feel like a daunting task for anyone — especially if you have nobody there to support you, as you point out. I would advise you to take advantage of the connectivity offered by the Internet. Plenty of resources, networks and fellow entrepreneurs are just a click away.

Additionally, getting a mentor who can point you in the right direction and share his experiences is one of the best things you could ever do. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to help if you just ask. — Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

By Richard Branson

Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Please send them to Please include your name, country, email address and the name of the website or publication where you read the column.

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We don’t need billionaire philanthropists, we need change !

Society needs people who adopt business models that can enrich ordinary people’s lives and free them from a life bound by servitude and dependency.

These days we praise charitable donations and philanthropy; however, we must understand that they are the symptoms of a dysfunctional society, not the remedy.

It’s similar to the Red Cross during wartime; they can’t stop the war. In many ways, they propagate the dysfunctions because the biggest funders of these temporary resolutions are also the greatest oppressors of our society, from whom these dysfunctions stem.

There are, for example, many people suffering around the world from curable diseases simply because they don’t have access to proper medical assistance. Why do they have no access? Because they are too poor.

That is to say, this problem is derived from the massive income inequality around the world. If they could earn a sufficient living on their own, they wouldn’t need any charitable aid from developed nations. They don’t need rich philanthropists giving them millions of dollars. What they need is rich philanthropists to stop hoarding money and allow them to make a sustainable living.

Let’s look at Bill Gates, who was simply driven to make as much money as possible at any cost. Along the way, he has smothered many smaller companies, copied others’ ideas, and snuffed out many innovative competing products. Yet, all is forgiven and forgotten because now he donates a lot of money.

It is exactly this type of thinking that breeds income inequality around the world, which leads to people dying from poverty, and thus preserves the need for these billionaire philanthropists to remedy the situation.

Another exemplary indication of this problem is Lance Armstrong. He cheated to further his career and eventually got caught. Yet, today he is still a millionaire and is respected by millions of people: 3.8 million followers on Twitter to be exact. Why? Because he is a philanthropist who donated lots of money to cancer charities. None of this would have happened had he not cheated, but people forgive and forget. In our society, winners prosper no matter the means, as long as they become philanthropists in the end.

Take a moment to think of the other cyclists who didn’t allow themselves to cheat. Where are they now? Can you name them? Are they rich and famous?

To address the real origin of the problem, we need to change the way we go about earning and spending money at the very basic level. Instead of being driven to become philanthropists, treat people around you without greed and with consideration. Make your living and enable others around you to do so as well. If you aim to save money in order to be a philanthropist, you provoke everyone to be protective and hoard money also in order to control how the money gets spent. The more everyone does it, the more we are compelled and even forced to do it. We need to stop this vicious circle.

The resolution I’m putting forward is not a utopian concept. We simply need more people investigating and adopting business models that can enrich ordinary people’s lives, which can free us from a life bound by servitude and dependency.

In turn, this would empower us to solve our societal problems without asking such billionaires to solve them for us with their accumulated wealth. Nowadays I’m starting to see more and more entrepreneurs and business owners trying to figure this out, and it is quite inspiring. I think the real change derives from the ordinary things we do.

If this type of mission is to succeed and be sustained, the principal function of business must be ordinary. It is impossible for a sustainable economy to remain healthy and upright if it is only supported by the crutch of charitable donations and philanthropy.

The principal drive to better our society must come from ordinary businesses.

Hero-worshipping rich benefactors and philanthropists encourages everyone to accumulate more wealth than they need. We do not need billionaire philanthropists; we need ordinary business owners who treat other humans with respect and encouragement.

They are not rare or even uncommon; they exist all around us if we look carefully enough. It’s just that we are so busy looking up to iconic figures like the Bill Gateses of the world that we can’t see them.

By Justin Hiraga

/  Asia News Network

Justin Hiraga is an assistant professor at the Department of International Business Languages of Seokyeong University in Seoul. He can be contacted at –Ed.


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Building the startup ecosystem

To build a successful ecosystem, you need to first identify the end goal. Then, piece together all the components and players that will play a fundamental role in making that goal happen.

AS my tenure at MaGIC draws to a close, I wanted to reflect on my thought process for building the startup ecosystem in Malaysia and the region.

When I was asked to be the founding CEO of MaGIC, I came up with a comprehensive gameplan to build the startup ecosystem within the country and Southeast Asia and presented it to an interview panel in February 2014. One interviewer asked: “Sounds like you want to do a lot. It’s a very ambitious plan. But if there’s only one thing you want to accomplish at MaGIC, what would that be?”

I answered without hesitation: “I will put Malaysia on the global map. Because Malaysia has so much untapped potential and my job is to show what’s possible.”

When I was appointed and shortly after President Obama and our Prime Minister launched MaGIC on April 27, 2014, I sketched the ecosystem map above.

You can’t build an ecosystem without first understanding what the end goal is – to help startups succeed at a regional and global level. Only then can you piece together all the components and players that will play a fundamental role in making that happen. As a healthy ecosystem requires various parties to play different roles towards a common objective, this charted a clear path for me to fill in the gaps in the current ecosystem.

One of the reasons why MaGIC has been able to make such an impact so quickly is because I’m a returning Malaysian with an international perspective; no historical baggage, no hidden agenda and nothing to lose.

MaGIC’s initial focus on education, exposure and acceleration charted an agnostic platform and foundation for all parties to genuinely come together and create a critical mass much needed to take this ecosystem to the next level.

To create this, we strived to equip entrepreneurs with the right startup skills via our education portal, MaGIC Academy, expose entrepreneurs to other ecosystems like Silicon Valley and big markets within Asean, and accelerate startups via a global platform such as our MaGIC Accelerator Program (MAP) and 500 Startups’ Distro Dojo.

This critical mass, complemented with our media strategy of exposing and highlighting successful entrepreneurs, generated visibility that did two things: inspired the masses, private corporations and GLCs towards understanding and adopting startups, and generated massive regional and global mentor/investor interest in Malaysian startups.

For example, before MaGIC existed, there was only one accelerator called 1337. Now, there are seven more on top of MAP: Tune Labs, Game Founders, Maybank Fintech, Infinity Ventures, WatchTowerFriends, DistroDojo, 1337. Before MaGIC existed, investors would usually skip Malaysia and fly to other countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia to seek investment deals. At the MAP Investor Demo Day in November 2015, over 150 investors from all over the region and world came to hear 50 MAP startups pitch. Before MaGIC existed, there was a dearth of interest in startups. Now corporations like Axiata, Khazanah, Maxis, Accenture, Sime Darby, Sunway Group, YTL Group, all the way down to family businesses are trying to set up programmes and funds for entrepreneurs.

On the social enterpreneurship (SE) side, we’ve published a National Social Enterprise Blueprint, a Social Enterprise 101 guide, and the team has been traveling all around Malaysia, doing workshops via SEHATI in Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak to create more awareness on SE. There’s a big opportunity for MaGIC to be a thought leader in SE because it’s a relatively new concept to the country.

These forces come together to make up the so-called magic recipe (pun intended) for a successful ecosystem. This ecosystem will only be self-sustainable if all parties can work together in a neutral, agenda-free environment.

Looking into the future beyond our initial core focus, MaGIC’s leadership should continue to focus on the exits and acquisitions of startups, which most other fledgling ecosystems in the world don’t pay enough attention to. There is also a need remove roadblocks via government and regulatory policies to make it easier for startups in Malaysia to flourish, regardless of race, gender, age or nationality.

In my opinion, MaGIC’s mandate and goals should be flexible to change every two to three years to adapt to rapidly evolving market and ecosystem needs, to ensure the agency remains relevant in continuing to fill in the gaps. At the same time, because MaGIC utilises public funds, we should continue to spend very wisely to ensure that it commensurates with the impact and effectiveness of our programmes. This should be the mantra of any government-funded ecosystem builder in any country.

I believe in the past two years, my team and I have laid the groundwork for MaGIC and the larger community while showing real impact for what’s achievable within a short amount of time. As with startups, if you put the right team of people together with a vision for common good, anything is possible.

Ultimately, it’s the software (people) that matter more than hardware (infrastructure, capital or assets). A good ecosystem’s foundation is built on good people coming together, and even the most expensive buildings or funding can’t replace that.

Our playbook and strategy has been shared across other countries. We’ve had multiple interest and hosted delegations from Czech Republic, Hungary, South Korea, Thailand, Kazakhstan, India, Japan, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and many more. Most of these countries are keen to have their startups join MAP next year or collaborate with MaGIC in some ways.

As I approach the end of my contract and time at MaGIC, I can say with confidence and pride that the MaGIC team will continue to deliver as MaGIC moves on to its next phase under new leadership. Despite the initial challenges we faced as a new agency, we have gained the trust and respect of the community and entrepreneurs, and achieved regional and global recognition through our initiatives.

I hope you will visit to view all the programmes we’ve set up and the accomplishments we’ve achieved in the past two years. This is a testament to my team’s absolute focus and commitment to deliver on our mandate.

I am truly proud of the MaGIC team and the empowering and transparent culture we’ve established. While I’m sad to leave my MaGIC family behind, I am privileged to have worked with each individual who will continue to give their all so passionately because they believe in elevating their beloved country and pushing boundaries for positive change in Malaysia.

And for true change to happen, we should have the courage to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, and be familiar with the unfamiliar.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan for convincing me to return to Malaysia to be the founding CEO of MaGIC, to all our ecosystem partners who’ve collaborated with us, to the mentors, instructors and investors who’ve generously stepped forth to give back to the community, to the entrepreneurs who believed in MaGIC, and last but not least, the MaGIC family who’ve worked so hard to make sure we create a sustainable and impactful ecosystem for entrepreneurs to thrive in, especially my first 10 hires who believed in me and my vision back when I had nothing.

I am ever so grateful to the Ministry of Finance for entrusting me to set up MaGIC and steer it in the right direction where it will benefit entrepreneurs not only within Malaysia but the larger Southeast Asia, and to truly put Malaysia on the map.

By Cheryl Yeoh

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Crowdfunding is slowly gaining credibility, helped entrepreneurs achieve their dreams

This alternative source of funding has helped many entrepreneurs achieve their dreams.

Ng (right) handing over a mock cheque to Jamaliatul Shahriah bt Jamaluddin, the project creator for YAKEEN Honey Booster after a successful round of funding on the platform.

CROWDFUNDING has gained a strong following as an alternative funding option over the past few years. Small businesses that have not been able to secure conventional financing are looking more and more towards the practice as a source of financing.

However, the level of awareness and interest in crowdfunding in Malaysia is still at its infancy stage, noted chief executive officer Kristine Ng.

“Maybe about one in 20 people have heard of the concept and understand exactly how it works. There are currently just a handful of noted platforms in the market. Some local companies try to raise funds on international platforms such as

“There is still a lot more which local players need to do to gain the credibility and recognition to grow further. And having the support from the local community would be a great boost for us,” she said.

Fundaztic, which rolled out in June this year, is among the handful of local crowdfunding players in the market. The platform was founded by a group of ex-bankers and a lawyer who have been following the development of financial technology (FinTech).

The potential of crowdfunding as an alternative funding platform is huge, said Ng, because access to funds has always been an issue, especially for new businesses and new business sectors that are viable but yet to have proven track-records.

Furthermore, Malaysians tend to be generally cautious when it comes to adopting new technology. Additionally, having to overcome the hurdle of building confidence in the credibility of the platforms would take a lot of time and effort for crowdfunding to be a significant part of the funding scene here.

Fundaztic has listed eight projects on its platform so far, with four projects currently in active funding stage.

But crowdfunding has taken the world by storm in the western countries and established strong platforms such as and that have helped many entrepreneurs bring their dreams and aspirations to life. Reports have even noted the possibility that the crowdfunding industry could account for more funding than venture capital (VC) in 2016.

A recent report by Massolution said global crowdfunding is set to raise US$34.4bil for 2015. In comparison, the VC industry invests an average of US$30bil each year.

“We truly believe that crowdfunding is a proven platform for like-minded people to support each other, and epitomises the meaning of ‘people power’ in an extremely positive manner,” Ng said. Fundaztic has listed eight projects on its platform so far, with four projects currently in active funding stage.

“We are happy that two of the projects are over-funded and have helped the project creators, who are both women and homegrown entrepreneurs, to grow their business in a risk free manner.

“This is the strongest benefit of crowdfunding. Entrepreneurs can leverage on the platform to gauge the level of public acceptance and support towards their products before having to splash out the funds on their own to commercialise a product or to stock up on inventory,” said Ng.

Funding on Fundaztic is through the concept of cornerstone funding whereby projects that are not able to meet its funding goal but have managed to generate at least 80% of the required funding, can get a maximum of 20% of the required funds from Fundaztic itself.

“Because we truly want all projects to be successful, we would be more than willing to hand-hold in the curation of the project so that the message will sink in well with the local community and thus, enjoy a higher degree of success,” Ng concluded. – The Starbiz

Entrepreneurs Slow to Market Via Equity Crowdfunding Platforms


Brian Gallagher, CEO of United Way Worldwide, talks about the rise of Giving Tuesday and the latest trend in charitable

Equity crowdfunding platforms are providing a new and innovative way to  raise money from angel investors that centralizes, streamlines, simplifies and shortens the fundraising process. Equity crowdfunding pools money from a group of investors via internet platforms, using social media and other types of marketing.

You might be surprised to learn that entrepreneurs, who are known for innovating in their products and services, are not innovating when it comes to the way they raise money. And  angel investors, who put money into innovations, are not innovating in the way they invest. Few entrepreneurs are marketing their securities offerings to angels online via crowdfunding.

That’s unfortunate, since angel investors provide about half as much financing as venture capitalists: $24 billion compared to $48 billion, according to the Center for Venture Research and MoneyTree, respectively. Angels, defined here as accredited investors who earn $200,000 annually (or $300,000 as a couple), or have a net worth, excluding their homes, in excess of $1 million, are more likely than VCs to focus on  seed and early-stage companies.

The State of Private Companies Publicly Raising Financing

This new public-facing financing method became possible on September 23, 2013, when the SEC put into effect the rules and regulations that allow private companies to advertise their securities offerings to angel investors. Previously, public solicitation was prohibited. Entrepreneurs now can market their securities offerings through websites such as AngelListCircleUpCrowdfunder and Portfolia.

Yet surprisingly few companies choose to seek funding publicly. Last year, 382,000 companies sought to raise money from angels in the real world. Fewer than 100 companies were added to those already trying to do so in the online world between January 1 and June 30, 2015, according to Crowdnetic, which aggregates data from 18 equity crowdfunding platforms.

The reality is that concerns about a new way of doing business often hold back adoption. I tackle these concerns in 6 Common Misconceptions About Equity Crowdfunding. The good news is that entrepreneurs who are embracing public-facing financing are blazing the trail, and best practices are emerging. I’ve written about some of those practices in How to Ensure a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign and in Stand Out In the Crowd: How Women (and Men) Benefit From Equity Crowdfunding

Women Entrepreneurs and Equity Crowdfunding: A Gap and Great Potential

Raising money via equity crowdfunding platforms has the potential to level the playing field for anyone raising money, but its impact may be greatest on underrepresented groups—such as women—who lag even further in taking advantage of this new approach. Women entrepreneurs are twice as likely to seek money offline from angels (36%) than publicly online (18%), according to the Center for Venture Research and Crowdnetic.

The average amount raised via crowdfunding is rising for companies in general ($412,000 as of the end of 2014 to $432,000 as of June 30, 2015) and falling for women-led companies ($331,000 as of the end of 2014 to $323,000 as of June 30, 2015).

This gap highlights tremendous potential. “The Kauffman Foundation reports that women build capital-efficient companies, generating 12% more revenue on one third less capital,” according to Kay Koplovitz, chairman and co-founder of Springboard Enterprises, an accelerator for women-led businesses in technology, media and life sciences. “[Think] how much more productive they could be if they raised capital on a par with men!”

Types of Securities Used

You may wonder what types of securities other entrepreneurs use when raising money. A majority (58%) issue stock as their method of financing. Nearly one third of entrepreneurs choose  convertible note, which allows them not to set an equity valuation at the time of the investment or to simply pay back the money within a set period of time prior to taking in permanent equity capital.

There are other financing structure options, such as revenue sharing or royalty agreements, but these are far less likely to be used. Depending on your long-term goal for the company, a securities lawyer can  advise you on which is the right form for you..

Top Locations for Equity Crowdfunding

It’s no surprise that the top location for equity crowdfunding activity and deals is the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area, both for entrepreneurs in general and for women-led companies in particular.

Over the past few decades, this area has developed a strong culture of entrepreneurship. It takes a village to build a growth company and to provide the ancillary support that makes growth possible. San Francisco/Silicon Valley has a long tradition of assisting high-potential entrepreneurs, not just with capital but with expertise and connections to customers, talent and vendors.

New York City is in second place. Worth noting are the high performance of relatively small cities such as Austin and Las Vegas, which rank among the top ten cities for raising money publicly online.

Other Signs That Equity Crowdfunding Is Gaining Credibility

Venture capitalists recognize the potential of crowdfunding and have invested in these platforms to the tune of $250 million in 2014, according to Massolution’s 2015CF Crowdfunding Industry Report. Big-name companies such as Coca-Cola, Nike, General Mills and Chrysler use crowdfunding platforms not to raise money but to gain insights into consumers.


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Real estate crowdfunding in Malaysia

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