“I am mixed Chinese-Kadazan from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The government school I went to had a strict language policy – when you speak English, it has to be proper English, same goes if you are speaking Malay. Education is done differently there compared to government schools.
My school shaped who I am. They allowed us to express ourselves, be how we are, in what we were aligned with. There were no restrictions or values to practice as long as its legal. I noticed that some of my friends in the Peninsular only got the same exposure in university or college. So we become more outspoken and outgoing.
And so it has always been my childhood dream to become a pilot. When I saw the birds fly in the sky, I used to imagine myself up there. After STPM, I took a few gap years where I graduated as a certified commercial pilot. But life has it in such a way that when times go bad and you are only left with an STPM qualification, you better find a way out.
In 2010, the aviation industry was going through a lay off period. I realised that if I get retrenched, I can’t get a decent job. Eventually, if I don’t get retrenched now, and I am laid off at 40, how bad is that? If I have a degree, I can still be an office boy or a clerk.
At 22, I did my degree in international business and marketing. College was also the place I met my co-founder for my startup Catjira, Sheng who was a finance student. We were two eccentric guys with spare time over the weekday nights and weekend, and we came up with our own side project. That was how we started tinkering with softwares and when we saw a little form of traction, we went all out.
How CatJira is today is very different from when we first started. We have pivoted across multiple products to come to what we are now, which is social media analytics.
Think of it as Facebook 2.0, where we are able to give you more information on your Facebook page insights and turn it into an easily understandable presentation.
We can tell clients what kind of audience might have potential pockets of opportunity, with proper cross-reference age and the location of these groups of people.
In the beginning, the nature of our work took us a year and half to two with no revenue. It took us three years to gain proper traction. Three years of tightening your belt, cutting cost wherever is necessary. The seed funding helped keep us sustainable, if not we both would have gone back to the corporate field.
I have been in both corporate and startup; it’s the same to me. The only difference is, you will have an emotional tie to your own company, so your drive is higher.
That is something I won’t deny. Even in start ups, you don’t wake up everyday loving what you do. There will be days when you feel like quitting, and question whether it’s worth it. But when those days happen you just have to ask yourself why you started it and is it worth continuing.
MaGIC has been integral to our early days as a place where like-minded people and resources gather. I’d akin them to be a safe space or a nursery for early stage companies. There’s workspace, educational modules, and a team that looks after our welfare to enable us to focus on what we do. They eventually became the bridge for us to move forward into things such as growth and investments. They joined MaGIC for a cause, and that is translated into how they touch our lives.
If time and opportunity arises i would like to move my company back to Sabah. Its an environment where its conducive for software development. It’s peaceful. Mountains are an hour’s drive away; islands, 20 minutes away. It allows creative work to be more productive.”
Humans of Kuala Lumpur is partnering with Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) in featuring inspiring and impact-driven entrepreneurs, problem solvers and startups in their mission to solve Malaysia’s problems! #HumansofMaGIC
Photostory by Christine Cheah
Edited by Mushamir Mustafa and Amalina Davis
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(This post was first published on July 15th 2018)