Back in Malaysia, its quite hard to find a success story…

“I am from Sungai Siput, a small town in Perak, and furthered my studies in London. I was struggling a lot there – I didn’t know how to speak English and living cost is very expensive. Food is cheap here, but in London its very expensive. I didn’t understand the value of money then.

At one point, when I did my PhD at the Imperial College of London, my wife and I wanted to come back (to Malaysia). We wanted to rent a place near the college but it costs 1000 pounds per month when we only had 850 pounds. We persisted, found a place a bit far off, took the bus and managed to push through.

The four years in London changed me. I learnt how to do many things on a small budget. I watched free movies in the cinema by giving reviews about the movie and managed to watch up to 50 movies every year. I rented a car for 1 pound per day, for 3 days, which allowed me and my wife to tour the UK. I once paid 1 pence for a flight to Portugal. My friends called me the ‘lubang king’. They would come to me and say ‘Hey Yeong, I want to go to Greece, can you give me a good deal?’

I had a culture shock when I came back. When you are in London, everyone wants to do something big. They want to create a company, they want to create a startup. The main difference is, in that part of the world, they have the ecosystem, but here in Malaysia, they don’t.

In Silicon Valley, they have Facebook and Google. University students can look into them for inspiration when they want to start a startup. You go to Korea, you have Samsung, you go to Japan, they have Sony and other companies. Back in Malaysia, its quite hard to find a success story. Right now we have a few, like Grab and The Lorry.

What about tech companies? In 2010, I started to look for an opportunity. The first company that I really wanted to start up is a healthcare robot company, which is my phD subject. I thought it was going to be smooth, because when I was in London, it was quite a smooth ride in dealing with a product, but it was not the case. The ecosystem here is not ready for it yet.

Eventually, I started up DF Automation and Robotics with a few other co-founders.

We build robots that can do specific and autonomous tasks for different purposes, to reduce the need for human labour. One robot can do different tasks so you don’t really have to customize the robot, you just add or change and do different applications.

When I came back from London after finishing my PhD, I had a change of mindset – rather than spending so much time and energy to win competitions, I should focus in developing something that can bring economic value to country for long run. That’s how me and with my two students founded this company. We design and manufacture Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV).

In a production and manufacturing company, components and parts need to travel and be placed in different locations. The parts can weigh up to 500 kg and have to be moved as far as 3km. In Malaysia, we hire low skilled operators, mostly foreigners. We build robots for this purpose, to reduce labour reliance.

As an academic going into business, I had no idea how to do business. So, I started to look for mentors and guidance. In 2012, MaGIC was founded to address the entrepreneurship gap in Malaysia.

I joined their very first programme called MaGIC PitchIN Challenge where you have to pitch for funding from the crowd, and we raised the highest fund, a total of RM 50,000+. We also had to be in MAGIC’s office every 3-4 days.

I had to travel every week to attend these powerful courses and syllabuses, even getting to learn how to measure your business – when it’s not even up yet.

They helped me to grow the business, mentorship guideline and also providing a platform by gathering all the entrepreneurs, like Anthony Tan from Grab (MyTeksi) last time.

And for us, the future is AI (artificial intelligence). We want to be the first AI company in this region.

When you order from a sushi restaurant, the chef makes but the robot serves you. In Korea, a BBQ restaurant uses 8 robots to serve to 80 tables. Now we are working to go kopitiam in Malaysia.

I hope DF can grow big and successful, and hopefully; it can inspire academicians and students to venture to entrepreneurship and commercialise the research outcome in universities.”

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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 Amalina Davis and Mushamir Mustafa

Do you have a story? Let us know here: https://forms.gle/ht4HsvbxgSgcKS5h8

(This post was first published on July 22nd 2018)

Sometimes when you don’t get what you want but you get something else in return, something that’s for you…

“When I was about 10, I used to help my father sell pisang goreng and cakoi for a living. That’s how I first learned about business.

My family was always into ‘berniaga’ (selling). My family’s environment was all about business, business, business. Kerja is still kerja but mindset is all about the business. And I had to learn all of that when I was young.

And where first year university students would usually be ‘lepaking’, I challenged myself to do new things. If people don’t do it, I want to try and do it myself. So, I started designing t-shirts and made it as a preorder business on Facebook groups. After that, I went on to developing websites for clients, then app development and after that game development.

And the fact is, I didn’t even want to do computer science when I was in university. It was my 5th choice. My first choice was Architecture.

If you understand ‘hikmah’, this best describes where I am today.

At that time, I didn’t even have my own computer. So when I got my fifth choice in my university, I felt down.

It was only after starting the course that I learned about programming, like C++ and other softwares, and that’s when I fell in love with computer science.

So you see – sometimes when you don’t get what you want but you get something else in return, something that’s for you – that is ‘hikmah’.

And now computer science has become my ‘rezeki’. It lead me to what is considered my first tech startup, RunCloud, where we are a middle man to help web developers simplify their task in the configuration and management of websites. A control panel to automate the configuration process.

Within three months of launching our software in 2017, we were featured as the top most viewed community project in Digital Ocean.

A year later, we joined the MaGIC Global Accelerator Program. They have helped us tremendously in digital marketing and connecting us to mentors, and this has helped in our business growth.

And we now manage over 35,000 domains with 6000 connected servers across 80 countries with an 80 percent of our clients from Europe and Americas with our staffs covering different time zones.

As you can see, I believe that everyone can start their own business. To start, is easy. There’s plenty of ideas. But to maintain it? Partners fighting, businesses not making enough money – if your business can survive for 3 years, that is a great marking point.

Not bad for someone who wanted to be an architect, interested in ‘lukisan kejuruteraan’, and whose university degree choice for computer science ws only his fifth choice!”

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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 Amalina Davis Mushamir Mustafa

Do you have a story? Let us know here: https://forms.gle/ht4HsvbxgSgcKS5h8

(This post was first published on July 21st 2018)

(2/2) “If I were to write a book about myself, I would call it ‘The Roller Coaster’.

(2/2) “An important life lesson that my mom taught me is to keep staying positive. One thing about her is her infectious positivity – even when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer, she kept on saying ‘you know what? I am okay and I will be okay’. We all know the survival rate for cancer is very low, but now she is recovering. Of course we don’t know what will happen in the future, but because of her positivity, it has brought her through it all.

She was suffering so much from cancer. She was in so much pain and discomfort but she never bothers us about it.

She would always say ‘nevermind, just go do your work, don’t worry about me, I am okay’. She tries to stay as independent as she can. We really appreciate our mother’s effort, she is the one always pushing us to do better and tell us not to be contented with a 9-5 job. It made me want to achieve bigger things.

Growing up as a kid, I always dreamt of making a change and contribute to the society in my own tiny way. It is all influenced by my mother. She is the most important woman in my life. She is a very strict mom and she always teach me to respect others and to help others. She is my inspiration from when I was young until up to this day.

The life lessons that she taught me has been useful for running my own startup. We always go through ups and downs – in fact, we always go through more downs than ups.

What people see on social media are always half the truth. Most of the time they don’t see what is behind the scene – all the shouting and arguments. Always be positive and look at things from different angles. That’s how you can fix your mind and go through these issues, one step at a time.”
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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 Samantha Siow
Edited by Mushamir Mustafa and Amalina Davis

Do you have a story? Let us know here: https://forms.gle/ht4HsvbxgSgcKS5h8

(This post was first published on July 19th 2018)

(2/2) “I started off as an engineer, and have worked in corporate finance, IPOs, and even the sales line – so what was next?

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, eyeglasses and outdoor

(2/2) “I worked in China for 8 years, 5 of which was spent in Microsoft. My job in Microsoft was very stable with good pay. Not only that, it is a great company with products impacting the world. So when people ask me why I decided to come back to Malaysia, I told them it was for my two kids. I felt very strongly in bringing them back to grow up as Anak Malaysia.

I was born and raised in KL. Growing up in Malaysia, I had so many lovely memories here; the padang that I played in, the childhood friends and of course the food. We Malaysians are hopeless food lovers.

But the most unique is the diverse multiracial culture we have. I want my kids to grow up in this diversity and understand the differences between different people. I always thought that Malaysia is a great place to bring up children.

I married a Malaysian, and she moved with me to China. After 8 years in China, we were debating on a thousand things on what to do. If I continued building my career in Microsoft, should we go to Seattle, Microsoft’s HQ, but we felt that it was too far from Malaysia.

I’m a guy who loves challenges and startups. I used to have a very stable job and comfortable life, so why do this to my wife and kids? Thankfully my wife is very supportive and helps me take care of the family.

For a married person with two kids like me, the entrepreneurship journey is very very tough. You need to work the balance and harmony with family.

Family always comes first. With kids and without kids is very different life. With kids, you have to give up a lot of your personal entertainment. Say goodbye to your online games, your football matches at mamak.

Life is a lot of decisions to be made – no one has a crystal ball to see the future. Everything is a journey. If you chose the journey to start a business, make sure you are well prepared for it.”
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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 Amalina Davis
Edited by Mushamir Mustafa

Do you have a story? Let us know here: https://forms.gle/ht4HsvbxgSgcKS5h8

(This post was first published on July 14th 2018)

(1/2) “I started off as an engineer, and have worked in corporate finance, IPOs, and even the sales line – so what was next?

(1/2) “I started off as an engineer, and have worked in corporate finance, IPOs, and even the sales line – so what was next? I wanted to do something that could change the world. At that time I naively thought, of joining a Silicon Valley startup – go to the US – and join Google or Microsoft. So I blindly applied to do an MBA in Stanford University – and was rejected.

Life is like a box of chocolates. A month after the rejection letter, I got interviews from Microsoft, Google and a few venture capitals. Eventually I decided to join Microsoft in China. Microsoft‘s HQ is in Seattle, but they have two big R&D centres in India and China.

I joined China’s engineering team on Microsoft Office, starting from Outlook, to Office Android, to Sharepoint Online. Sharepoint was the fastest selling Microsoft product ever.

They hired thousands of engineers for China. China has a big talent pool – every year China is producing 7 million graduates, the majority are engineering students. That’s the talent pool that they have the luxury of tapping from. I will always remember HR telling me, how they hired 1 person out of 2000 candidates.

A lot of people complain about the lack of talent pool in Malaysia. Last time we used to have a lot of Malaysians who are top students in universities abroad. But when they come back to Malaysia, its hard for them to find job opportunities where they can learn.

If there are more big tech organizations like Microsoft, Google and Amazon or well-funded local startups like Grab and Lazada – setting up global product engineering teams here in Malaysia, it will bring world-class engineering practice, that will nurture the local talent pool and subsequently benefit the local startup ecosystem.

This is exactly what happened in China 20 to 30 years ago. When Microsoft moved to China, it took them about 20 years to build up the talent pool. At the very beginning, they only employed junior engineers from China, whilst senior engineers were brought over from the US.

The senior engineers will nurture the junior engineers. In a few years time, the juniors became a strong middle layer. The middle layers came out and joined forces with the likes of Alibaba and Baidu, and continue to nurture homegrown startups.

Luckily, I managed to pull one of my colleagues from Microsoft China to start up a software business together. That’s how Kakitangan.com started.

We wanted to build softwares previously only available to big corporate companies, for smaller companies. Kakitangan.com automates HR (Human Resources) operations such as leave submissions and payroll operations, so the staff can spend more time building their business and their people.

In smaller companies, HR spend most of their time doing payroll and leave applications. These are the kind of things you should use software to automate, and let your staff focus on the important work – how to keep employees engaged, how to keep employees improving.

If 3 years down the road, we help Malaysian SMEs (Small-Medium Enterprises) become 10{eb97150a49149dc6c9e8165e90f1c9129bb6172e02a598b4264a1fc329d7d5bc} or 20{eb97150a49149dc6c9e8165e90f1c9129bb6172e02a598b4264a1fc329d7d5bc} more efficient, that’s a relatively good contribution to the country.

Agencies like MaGIC has helped us grow, by introducing us to other startups that eventually became our clients. By joining the ASEAN Accelerator track, we also made friends with startups from the rest of Southeast Asia, which we still keep in touch until today. It even taught us how to explore and move the business to other countries.

That’s how I hope to contribute to a better Malaysia, by bringing international world class engineering knowledge to Malaysia, due to our experience as founders of a software company, where we can help build Malaysia’s talent pool. I always tell my colleagues, the future is not talked out, the future is built out. The future is built by you, one step at a time.”
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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 Amalina Davis
Edited by Mushamir Mustafa

Do you have a story? Let us know here: https://forms.gle/ht4HsvbxgSgcKS5h8

(This post was first published on July 14th 2018)

(1/2) “If I were to write a book about myself, I would call it ‘The Roller Coaster’.

(1/2) “If I were to write a book about myself, I would call it ‘The Roller Coaster’. When I first entered university, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t know what to study. I think this stage happens to a lot of people. In my first year of uni, I failed my subjects. But something happened that changed my life forever – my father was hospitalized for 6 months and it was a wake up call for me.

After he entered into hospital, I decided to stay in Malaysia, I studied in a local university so I can be close to my family.

In my first year of uni, I failed my subjects, so you can see that I was not too keen on studying, but after my father got hospitalized, that’s when I woke up and I realized I want to start a business to support myself and I said ‘you know you need to study hard’.

My results improved in second and third year of university when I started getting Distinctions.

While studying, I also started working to support myself. I made a decision to start a contracting company, for renovation. It was tough and I didn’t have a wonderful university life – it was always spent either working, going to meetings or studying. This is how I started my career and background in this industry. That actually changed my whole life.

When I graduated, I went into the construction business. I remember there was one project where we lost a lot of money due to a combination of factors. Because of this loss, we realized that we have to change the industry by increasing the transparency and options for homeowners and contractors. I won’t call it a failure, I call it a learning curve, and it taught us how to recover from a loss.

From there, BuildEasy was formed.

BuildEasy is an online platform that connects freelance interior designers and homeowners. We help homeowners find the right designer, design their dream home and turn their dream home into a reality.

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is this – idea is cheap and execution is a lot of hard work. Success is 97{eb97150a49149dc6c9e8165e90f1c9129bb6172e02a598b4264a1fc329d7d5bc} hard work and 3{eb97150a49149dc6c9e8165e90f1c9129bb6172e02a598b4264a1fc329d7d5bc} luck. I believe luck will only come when you set the right conditions, and the right condition will only come when you work hard for it. There is no substitute for hard work and there is no shortcuts.

Along this journey, MaGIC has really changed the way we look at things and we are very proud to be a part of them. We participated in the Stanford Go2Market programme, where we had a one week course with a professor from Stanford. We even went to Stanford University in the US for two weeks! It taught me to see things from a global perspective – from my small tiny dream to be a Malaysian champion, to eventually become a regional champion.

I think MaGIC really stands for magic – it has given us the magic and through it, we created our own motion and spell.
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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 Samantha Siow
Edited by Mushamir Mustafa and Amalina Davis

Do you have a story? Let us know here: https://forms.gle/ht4HsvbxgSgcKS5h8

(This post was first published on July 18th 2018)