CEO Series

“Sometimes It Comes As A Surprise”—KL-Based VLT Labs Spills About The McKinsey Acquisition

The startup-friendly Malaysian company VLT Labs just got acquired by McKinsey, or to be exact, certain assets and talent from VLT Labs were acquihired.

And based on our conversation with Izwan Ismail—co-founder and Director of Design & UX at VLT Labs—the team is very excited about what’s to come.

The merger with VLT Labs was aptly announced at McKinsey’s first ever Digital and Analytics forum in KL. It’s all almost symbolic of heightening international attention towards Malaysian-grown companies and talents. This also marks McKinsey’s first acquisition in Malaysia.

In a phone call, Izwan told us what all this might mean for the company.

“In the beginning, we were brought in by the client to work with them,” Izwan revealed.

A story that almost sounds like a romcom meet-cute; as McKinsey and VLT Labs spent a lot of time working together, the pair discovered that they had a lot in common.

He wasn’t able to disclose too much of their earlier interactions, but Izwan added, “At the end of the project, I think we left a lasting impression, and the both of us really gelled.”

And during this same process, they discovered that both of them had the same endgame. Looking at the region and how important it is, the both of them understood how important KL is for its talent. They’re also interested in growing the talent in the area, so why not join forces to make that happen?

“They proposed: what do you guys want? We said we’re open to anything, and it all started from there.”

As it turns out, this exactly how McKinsey likes to do things. They only sealed the deal with one of their previous acquisitions, Agiliti, after a year-long period of working on projects with the digital marketer.

“This is one thing that every entrepreneur say: I want to plan for an acquisition! But when it comes truly, sometimes it comes as a surprise. Thankfully for us, it was a good surprise.

The negotiations finally settled into their current arrangement. CEO Andrew Tan and Izwan will become the Digital VPs in McKinsey, and “everything else will slot nicely in between”.

Image Credit: VLT Labs

From now on, VLT Labs completely absorbed into McKinsey.

“We’ll be integrated fully into McKinsey, and McKinsey’s way is the way forward for us. We’ll be bringing some of the VLT Labs magic to them. Our nuances—the reason they acquired us—we’ll bring it into the McKinsey digital team, and they’ll help us in that sense as well.”

The VLT Labs team will henceforth be known as McKinsey Digital Labs. They’ll be part of the global digital labs team, mainly watching over the Southeast Asian region.

VLT Labs will be joining McKinsey’s existing team here—about 100 consultants, an operations team, and a couple of existing digital labs.

Besides the name, would there be a lot of change for VLT Labs?

“I think the only thing that would change is that instead of wearing shorts and slippers, we just have to wear pants.”

“We’re bringing in our experience building a couple of startups. We’ve been around close to 5 years, and we’re bringing our experience in building MVPs, concepts, workshops, Version 1s Version 2s, even helping some corporations in Malaysia to build apps onto the table, as well as some designers, developers and product managers.”

Izwan concluded by saying that it’s an exciting time for the team. “I’m very happy to be putting Malaysia on the map, and being a part of this journey. And also thank you to the community that has built a strong support for us, we really appreciate it.”

How this partnership will move forward will remain to be seen, but what’s certain is that McKinsey will be growing and strengthening their presence here in Malaysia though the former VLT Labs, and we’ll be keeping an eye out for how they’ll change up the startup ecosystem here in Malaysia.

Editor’s Note: Since publication, the article has been edited to clarify some points and statements made about the acquisition. 

Feature Image Credit: VLT Labs

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