This week, we are delighted to have 13 Malaysian Startup Founders answer the question:
“What would you do differently if you have the second chance to launch your business?“
The advice they share today will definitely shave a few inches off the learning curve in starting your own business in 2016.
1) Tham Keng Yew – Socialwalk (www.Socialwalk.com)
Startups are a gold mine of “should have’s” , ” told you so’s“, and “I wish I had’s“.
I’ve had my fair share and my top 3 biggest mistakes during this 4-5 years period:
There was a TED talk by this guy Bill Gross evaluating startups across multiple success factors and the interesting thing was 1 factor stood up above all – timing. Similar ideas, executed by similarly talented teams, had varied results depending on when they launched.In our own backyard, Malaysia, 2015 was one of the most exciting periods for early stage startup funding, the govt, private sector and even HNW individuals stepping into the game.There was no better time to start a high growth internet startup, and you would have gotten the support that no one in 2010 ever saw! A golden time indeed. The same timing factor applies in various industries, a tipping point is always there, and our jobs as entrepreneurs is to spot it.
Most inexperienced founders (myself at the time), go with a simple rule, “raise as much money as possible, by giving out as little of the company as possible“.
Unfortunately, it’s a lot more complicated than that, and no founder should ever allow his/herself to think in such a simplistic manner.
Three of the most valuables concepts to remember:
1) It matters how your current round ties into your next round (don’t ever think of funding as a singular event) – remember that a higher valuation will cause your next round to be a lot harder.
2) It matters who is funding you and who they have funded before, and whether or not those guys attribute success to them, and even whether or not you like them.
3) Once you have mastered 1) and 2), then you will be ready to apply rule 3) cash is king.
Startups in year 2 onward that survive the initial product market fit usually get killed by cash flow. It’s that fine balance between the 4 pillars that will crush you. Growth vs revenue vs profit vs fund raising, it’s not easy to balance out and the score card is how much you have left in the bank to pay the bills. Failing that, you might have to then sell off shares at sub-par value to make the bills.
Hire A+ only (from the start)
This will come at a huge cost because you will need to fork out more cash at a time you don’t have cash (well you have your not-so-valuable shares to bargain with) But it’s the right thing to do and it will be very worth it.
The critical stages for this are when you are doing product market fit, 1 super developer + 1 super sales guy will make a bigger impact than 50 interns.
The next period is during scalable ramping up, when you need to hit multiples in growth, then you will need killer management and strategic skills – to manage your 50 interns.
Mr. Tham Yew Keng serves as Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Socialwalk Sdn Bhd. Socialwalk supplies ordering platform, for cafes, restaurant, grocery shop, & businesses to order monthly supplies at discounted rates from over 1000+ verified suppliers. They offer kitchen supplies, baking ingredients, cleaning, equipment and more.
Mr. Keng had 5 years of working experience in multiple Silicon Valley start-ups, developing hi-tech telecommunications products. He is also an exco member of Technopreneurs Association of Malaysia (TeAM), founding member and mentor of Greyattic (an ideas stage funding program designed specifically to accelerate high potential web/mobile-based startups). He is a graduate of Michigan State University with a Bachelor in Computer Engineering.
Visit his official business website @ www.socialwalk.com to get in touch with business suppliers that suits your F & B business’ needs.
2) Edwin Tay – Easy Uni (www.easyuni.my)
I would say – have mentors that have done something similar to what you are doing, and did it successfully; to guide you from the beginning.
This mentor would be able to save you a lot of effort, time and money by pointing out to you the potential bumps that will appear and stand in your way.
He will also be able to point out hidden opportunities that you may not have identified and finally, guide you through the maze of fundraising.
Edwin Tay is the CEO and co- founder of easyuni.com – Asia’s leading Education Portal, dedicated to connecting students with Universities Globally. EasyUni attracts students from 202 countries applying into Universities in 33 countries worldwide. It has clients from 16 countries, which include brand names such as University of London, Curtin, Singapore Management University, Monash, British Council, Nottingham, Heriot-Watt and more.
Prior to that, he co-founded a digital agency & e-marketing software company – NetInfinium Corporation, which he has since sold to a public listed company. In there, he led the company to win multiple awards including Red Herring Asia Top 100, Deloitte Asia-Pacific Top 500 Fastest Growing IT Company (2005/2006), AWSJ Asia Innovations Awards, MC2 Creative Awards and more.
Edwin is an Endeavor Entrepreneur – a testament to his entrepreneurship capability. He is an active mentor for Founders Institute, Cradle Coach & Grow Program, and NEN Wadhwani. He gives regular talks especially in the topic of e-marketing and entrepreneurship.
Looking for the right university and courses to pursue your dream career? Visit www.easyuni.my now to get your perfect match!
3) Ting Shijin – Traquer (www.traquer.my)
To answer that question, I will tell myself:
1) No matter what, spend as many times as you can on talking to your prospect or your ideal customer and find out what are the things they really need.
2) Traction is the king.
3) Focus on the growth of the startup.
4) Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, be afraid of losing out an opportunity because most of the time it is not about making the right decision, it is about making a decision and make it right.
5) Always remember your core vision, why you do what you do.
6) Passion is what will keep you moving on.
7) Always find the right person to talk to because it will save you a lot of time.
Ting Shi Jin is currently pursuing his degree in Software Engineering, and besides juggling university, he is also the founder of Traquer. Traquer is a socially empowered road safety app and is essentially a speedometer app which alerts the user if the vehicle they are traveling in is increasing in speed.
Download the app now from www.traquer.my to ensure your road safety before you hop on your next bus.
Lessons 1: Prioritize on Launch, not User Interface (UI)
During the initial stage, the team struggled by wanting to integrate the best user interface for our users. In fact, we spent too much time assuming what users want, instead of studying them when engaging our portal.
Our mistake: Plan to build the best website
Steps to be made: Launch prototype > Gather feedbacks > Improvise > Gather feedbacks > Improvise
Lesson 2: Being health conscious increases productivity
I used to work 24/7 on UniSTAY without getting much rest, neglecting my workout routine and thinking this will allow me to be more productive. In fact, it harms me in 2 perspectives: health and efficiency.
Case study 1: If your business were to be a success, but you no longer have much time to live.
Case study 2: Working 8 hours per day (Efficiency: 100%) > 20 hours per day (Efficiency: 30%)
Lesson 3: Proper allocation of talents contributes to efficiency
Time is the most valuable asset for every startup company, therefore treat it as an asset. Assigning your talent to work on a task he/she isn’t good at will have a high tendency on the increase of time spent and/or failure rate. This is by far the most expensive lessons made by our team. Costing us a deferment of 3 months in launching our UniSTAY platform.
Austin Wong is currently a sophomore in Bsc of Business Information Technology, a creativ-istand passionate problem solver. His business ventures include his involvement in the founding of 2 student-oriented startups – ClassCART and UniSTAY.
Furthermore, UniSTAY has been selected to be part of Malaysia’s Largest Telco’s Accelerator Programme – Telekom Malaysia. He started his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 19, and has expanded his networks with prestigious global brands like the International Franchise Association (IFA), IBM, Microsoft, Axiata, Stanford ASES, MaGIC, AngelHackKL, Startup Weekend KL, Thriving Talents and more.
He is a strong believer of peer-to-peer learnings and is passionate in contributing his knowledge back to the community and allowing them to be empowered and enlightened on starting their own leadership journey.
Stay tuned with his recent progress with Unistay at UniStay Facebook Page.
5) Jazz Tan – YouthsToday (www.YouthsToday.com)
If I have a chance to re-launch my start up with all the knowledge I have now, it will definitely help speed up 10 times on reaching my goals earlier. I will still be doing what i love most.
Youth Development 😉
Firstly, it will be on the user acquisition side.
Secondly, on technology development.
Thirdly, reaching out to brands.
Fourthly, improvement on the operations and managing expectations.
Fifthly, improvement on team selections.
But nevertheless, wouldn’t have today if it wasn’t for the experience that I have gotten throughout the years of building this company.
Jazz Tan is the founder of YouthsToday.com. Their mission is to fund, educate and support students and young professionals by turning their ideas into successful projects through experiential events.
With more than 40,000++ active youth event organizers connected to their portal, YouthsToday.com is the first and largest platform to connect over 50 corporate brands reaching out to millions of youth across the world through student events. It is one of Malaysian Youth organizations that has made a huge impact in the lives of thousands of Malaysian youth. It has opened up many opportunities to our younger generation.
Visit www.YouthsToday.com to find out how you can make a difference.
6) Benson Chang – Table App (www.tableapp.com)
If I had a second chance to launch my startup, I would try not to get affected by other people so much.
Follow what you think it is your first priority to do and what is not to, because founders know their company better than others.
Benson Chang is the CEO and the founder of TABLEAPP. TableApp is a restaurant booking mobile app which enables consumers to collect points and redeem reward via scanning merchant QR code. TableApp is currently funded by Chang’s brother, who is also in the business of F & B.
Don’t want to line up for restaurants on your hot date? Visit www.tableapp.com now to reserve a spot for your favorite restaurants.
7) Faez Murshidi Adnan – Smart Care (www.smartcare.my)
First of all, I wouldn’t rate myself as one of the top young influential entrepreneurs. I am very new to this challenging world to be honest. and SmartCare is really still young. But yeah we believe we can go far, despite the challenges and obstacles.
Back to the question. “What would you do differently if you had a second chance to start your business?”
It’s really a good question to be honest and it really got me thinking. If I had the second chance, I would…
1) Start early.
I would start earlier maybe in my first year or heck maybe even high school. Because even if you fail, you’d still have a long way to go and you’ve gotten a lot of experience along the way -which is very expensive and surely you can’t get that in class.
2) Learn from someone first/get a mentor.
When I started SmartCare, I didn’t have experience before -which cause quite a headache in the start. I think it’s a reasonable advice to join a startup/get a mentor before even start your own company. You will learn a lot.
Faez is currently in his final year studying in the Bachelor of Computer Science, majoring in Computer System and networking at University of Malaya. He is also the founder of SmartCare, which is a secure mobile personal health record solution accessible via the app and the web. With SmartCare, the team wanted to empower users and patients with mobility and accessibility to their health record so that they can access to it whenever and wherever they are.For Faez, managing his startup and being an entrepreneur meant that he had to personally give up a thing or two that he always did before. “So for me less gaming, less gym time, less lepak, and probably less sleep, but it’s not that much and I can cope with that,” he shared.[Bio credit: Vulcan Post]
8) Lee Ching Wei – iMoney (www.imoney.my)
If I had a second chance, I would:
1) Build my management team a lot earlier. Good people drive growth, and if I had put together my current fantastic and competent team a lot earlier, we would’ve grown even faster
2) Invest in brand sooner.
We’ve certainly seen how a strong brand contributes to every part of the business, whether it’s in business development with customers, or conversion on our website.
3) Be a lot more focused. We’ve been guilty of being too ambitious in the way we’ve grown our business and that came with a cost.
Ching Wei Lee(Ching) is the group chief executive officer and co-founder of iMoney. Prior to iMoney and since a young age, Ching has always had a strong interest in business and entrepreneurship. At university, Ching completed a bachelor of commerce, majoring in finance and accounting. Finance and particularly investment has always fascinated Ching, who ended up working as a financial advisor as his first job out of university, where he advised high net worth clients on personal financing.
Ching moved on to investment consulting a year later offering investment advice to clients with large pension funds ranging from $500 million to $30 billion. It was at this time, where Ching learned the most in the finance. It was also during this time, he completed two prestigious professional qualifications, the CFA, and CAIA charter holder.
Ching’s first venture took place, whilst he was still in University. 2 months into living in Melbourne city, Ching found “parking” to be an issue most working class adults that drive into the city for work pay a lot of money in parking. So, being opportunistic, Ching started a “parking rental” service. Essentially, renting from students at a low price, and re-renting out to working adults at a higher price. Ching would eventually come to co-found iMoney, a highly successful website used by many Malaysians today.
Having trouble searching for the right credit card? Need professional advice on money management?
Visit www.iMoney.my now!
9) Athirah Rosik – Thrift-On-Wheels (wwww.ThriftOnWheels.com)
These are the things I’d tell myself if I had the chance to go to day one of
starting Thrift On Wheels:
1. I praise you for not daunted by most things that you don’t know about the business world. Not knowing is scary, having arrogance of not admitting that fact is scarier. Keep doing it for the passion and going at it head first works in some cases. So, Kudos! (Because learning new things is fun!)
2. Your naiveness doesn’t always work at your advantage. Further research on certain areas would do you some good along the way.
3.Soft skill DOES matter! All businesses revolve around people, you can’t run away from meeting and engaging with people. Learn to get used to crowded places. Skill(s) to take up : Pull a topic out of thin air, learn how to conserve energy while being around people.
4.Accounting and finance are not siblings. You need to take up both. And no, being locked in a room with 1,001 Sudoku puzzles wouldn’t help with that.
5. Find balance inwho, when and how to trust the people you meet. It is completely okay to let people know that you need time to make a decision, however small or big the impact is. More time taken to think it thru meaning more angle and issues being tackled, hence less consequences. Lesson learnt, the hardest way.
6. You win some and you lose some so just keep calm and carry on. Don’t be tied down by the things that you can’t change and aren’t in your control. Beating yourself up is time expensed on the business’s future.
At the beginning of the business, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. Little do I know that time management that I’ve known all these while is just too basic to take on a business. Looking back, same date last year, I was easing into a semester of 3 subjects and preparing SOP for Thrift On Wheels. Now, I am in the midst of incorporating my enterprise business to a private limited company, paying 2 employees and brainstorming on growth plan.
For an idea of thrifting from two sisters who giddily thinks that there might people out there who are like us, I am still blown away by our tractions. We have proven our MVP and having emerging competitor only confirms the fact that there is a market to penetrate. Thrift On Wheels turns 1 last Christmas! It has been a ride, and I see that the learning curve is averaging over time. More to come our way and we have a long way to go from where we are right now!
Athirah Rosik is one-half of Thrift-On-Wheels, ASIA’s FIRST MOBILE BOUTIQUE which is a platform that connects those who are lacking with those who wish to donate pre-loved items, and they are essentially a mobile boutique.
Pop some tags with 20 ringgit in your pocket now @ www.ThriftOnWheels.com.
10) Andrew Chee – Running Man Food Delivery (www.Running Man.my)
So, let’s spend some time to talk about what would I tell to my former self in the Day One of this startup. Since it was during the age of 19, at that time, I did not really know much about handling a startup or even realized that I don’t know what I was doing was a startup. Nobody saw this coming that this delivery service actually had the potential to grow large and to be provided to more people on Day One.
First, I would tell myself that not to start a startup just because I want to get rich but starting it to truly wanna solve a real-world problem. That’s what some of the startup founders think about at the beginning. I started this delivery service from day 1 because I wanted to get some side income. But in the process of growing this startup, I found my passion here. I realized that I can really make a truly affordable instant delivery service for everyone that can help the public to save so much money or time.
Secondly, I would tell my former self that I must learn to trust my partners’ ability. To go fast, I can go alone; but to go far, we must go together. There are quite a few times where I used to think that I can do a job better than the others and I’m not comfortable of letting the job done by them. I used to think that I can do better than others. I should’ve learnt to give more trust and chance to others on doing some important task. By doing this, now I have more time on doing something that I’m really good at and saved a lot of time and focus.
Thirdly, I would also tell my former self that I shouldn’t be worry about the competitors but focus more on customers. In that time, few copycats were started to copy our service and even lower price than us. That trouble me for few months. But then, I finally understand that it is always impossible for all the people to use your service and ignoring the others. The competitors are just providing a different options with different value which are essential to some users. Focus on serving your current user rather than having price war or fight with competitors, you will eventually gain more trust and value from your current users.
Finally, I would say, I am glad that my former self didn’t give up until today, and also giving a leap of faith in starting a startup without any business knowledge or necessary skill. I also feel grateful that my former self did actually pick up so much skills and successfully work together until this far with my best partner together until today.
Andrew Chee is the founder of startup Running Man Food Delivery, which is a service that provides an instant food delivery service to your doorstep within an hour. At the same time, he is also pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in TAR University College. His business solves three of the most practical daily needs that most people in KL face: TIME, AVOID HEAVY TRAFFIC and GOOD FOOD.
Feeling hungry and don’t have time to hassle through the traffic? Visit Running Man Food Delivery and order your first order with them now!
1) Don’t be fooled by the statement of ‘do something that you love’.
You can get misled easily. Doing something that you love doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll achieve great things. It’s important to remember that this world is not simple as everything happens because of a single causation. Rather, look at it as a compilation of correlations, will cause something to happen.
It’s not just doing what you love. But also, doing what’s right, doing something that you’re capable of, doing something that’s perfect during the time of its execution. Mark Zuckerberg succeeded by founding Facebook in 2004. But he probably won’t be successful if he founded Facebook in 1994, when internet is not that accessible yet. Timing is essential. Because it’s not just about doing what you love, it’s the totality of it. It’s everything.
And when you have found it, do it full-heartedly, or don’t do it at all. Doing something half-heartedly is like telling a half-truth. There’s no such thing.
2) Choose your co-founders/partners wisely.
Don’t invite someone to join your undertaking and business just because you know them, or they’re your friends. Some people might appear to be interested in helping you, but sometimes they just want to reap what you sow alone.
Don’t just choose co-founders because they’re great. Rather choose those who supplement you, because let’s face it, everyone has their weaknesses. Choose those whose strength, is the antithesis of your weakness. A football team is not great when they have 11 world class strikers. They need world class goal keepers, defenders, and midfielders.
When you found the perfect partners, stick with them, and appreciate them. Only choose partners who will strengthen your weaknesses, if you cannot find one, do it alone. Never settle.
Imran is the founder and CEO of Ombré, which is an upcoming app that helps to point out clothes which are suited to an individual, and this is all done based on the complex algorithms of the app.
Imran has just completed his semester of studies this month, whereby he pursued his Bachelor of Legal Studies (Hons) at Universiti Teknologi MARA. However, as Ombré was founded 4 months back, Imran was essentially juggling his startup alongside studies at the same time.
Ombré is the most personalized fashion consultant on your palm.
Visit their website at www.ombre.me to dress up as if you just walk out from a fashion magazine front cover.
12) Jefrey Ong – Flexiroam (www.flexiroam.com)
1) I will focus more on traction than profitability. I may have over emphasized in margins and missed the chance to engage different types and segments of customers. As a startup, you have EVERYTHING to lose, so why not give your products/services to almost free to the market so that you can gather valuable feedback?
2) I will start fund raising from day 1. It took me about 2-3 years to fully understand the funding ecosystem. If I can obtain this knowledge in the early days, I can do a better business planning, knowing how much money I need to raise so that I can grow at a faster pace. It’s too slow to for a tech business to grow organically, it’s a slow death for any tech company without capturing a substantial market share within 2-3 years.
3) I will have more courage to hire. Instead of hiring people to fill up roles WHEN I could not handle myself, I should be hiring talents in different areas so that I can focus what I’m really good at.
1) Determine and consistently monitor your key Metrics – Build systems to consistently and accurately monitor your key metrics like subscribers, conversions, sales by channels and etc. These metrics are going to be required constantly by stake holders and potential investors.
2) Systematize to scale – Start early with highly scalable cloud based solutions such as payroll (Payroll2u), support (Zendesk), Point of Sales (StoreHub) and accounting softwares (Xero) to accommodate for growth company grows.
3) Solid corporate & financial governance – Starting early with good sets of practices such as meticulous book keeping, corporate document management, and having clean corporate structures will help when the company is going through due diligence process before a potential investment. This is particularly true for companies they may wish to list their company in the future.
Flexiroam is one of the most exciting startup ideas that have come out in Malaysia in a while. Original and actually solving a problem faced by many Malaysians who are traveling for work and pleasure. It has helped many to save cost in roaming charges and allows their contacts in Malaysia to call their Malaysian line to forward to another line when they are traveling.
As the CEO and the founder of Flexiroam, Jefrey Ong has 14 years’ experience in the Telecommunications Industry. He has managed numerous projects and provided different solutions to major Telecommunication companies, such as Telekom Malaysia, Packet One, time dotcom etc.
As one of the co-founders and the Vice-President of Business Development, Jason Khoo has 7 years’ experience in raising funds and market expansion for business start-ups. In less than 3 years, he has raised more than RM2 million worth of grants for the global expansion of Flexiroam.
Going overseas soon but still want to keep in touch with your loved ones? Download Flexiroam App now for FREE voice & video calls, messaging worldwide!
Bonus Founder Contribution: Jeremey Ong – VapeClubMY (VapeClubMY.com)
1) Have enough financial buffer and times 3
2) Finding like minded co founders that complement your skill-set
3) Test your idea before investing in product development
Jeremy Ong is the founder of VapeClubMY. VapeClubMY is the fastest-growing vape service in Malaysia. VapeClubMY is the provider of the first and best flavour subscription service in Malaysia. They consist of a team of ex-smokers who love vaping and want to help the general public in understanding the benefits of using vape as an effective and cost-effective smoking cessation tool. They personally test all the mods, tanks, drippers and juices that we introduce, working towards a healthy & happier Malaysia.
Besides being an entrepreneur and a professional vaping educator, Jeremy is also a great writer/blogger. You can visit his blog at iamjere.my where he logs his journey after quiting his 9 to 5 job. He just wrote a great article about his successful launch with VapeClubMY: “My Experience of Running VapeClubMY While Being A Freelance Web Developer”. Great job, Jeremy ~! Keep it up.
For those of you who are looking for the best vape supplies, build your personalized vape juice subscription box now at vapeclubmy.com .
As you have read above, every entrepreneur here has made some mistakes in their past. Despite their mistakes, the key to their current progress in their startup businesses is because each of them have a strong purpose to succeed, have a clear vision, and know what sacrifices they need to take to achieve their goals.
For those of you out there who have a desire to get into the startup business or pursue your dream in your field of choice, all it takes is taking your first step. Just make sure you take notes on the golden pieces of advice these 14 entrepreneurs have given you so you can avoid some mistakes on your path. All the best! 🙂
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