This article series is in conjunction with Entrepreneurial Nation (E-Nation) Symposium, a 4-day event at MaGIC with the theme “Shaping An Entrepreneurial Nation”. The event will cut across 6 main pillars (Creative, Corporate Innovation, Education, Entrepreneurship, Policy and Social Entrepreneurship), with the objectives to:
1) Bridge ecosystem players together to exchange ideas, promote collaboration and foster networking opportunities;
2) Highlight recent entrepreneurial initiatives;
3) Gather influential entrepreneurs and speakers to share rich knowledge and information to attendees;
4) Promote the concept of social innovation and social responsibility to encourage the adoption and understanding of the conscious entrepreneurship concept.
This article is in line with the Entrepreneurship pillar.
“Everything you touch, whether it’s plantations, whether it’s plastics, whether it’s factories, anything you touch is tech-based. So that would put everybody in the tech base. We’ll see various entrepreneurs coming up, but one thing will be certain, they will be tech-based. They will be ones that go much further, much faster.”
This was said by Gopi Ganesalingam, VP of Enterprise Development at MDEC, during a forum entitled “The Future Of Tech-based Entrepreneurship”.
With a statement like that, it would seem there is no longer a need to discuss the future of tech-based entrepreneurship any further. Tech-based entrepreneurship is the future.
Instead, the panel shared how being a tech-based entrepreneur is less about the tech and more about what you do off the grid.
The panel, moderated by StartupMamak founder, Heislyc Loh, included:
- Vicks Kanagasingam, Chief Operating Officer, Xperanti IoT
- Gopi Ganesalingam, VP Enterprise Development, MDEC
- Tan Yee Siang, Acting Vice President, Tech & Innovation, MaGIC
- Reez Nordin, Partner, Monk’s Hill Ventures
- Dato’ Henry Goh, Chief Operating Officer, Macrokiosk
With each of them having at least 15 years of entrepreneurship experience, here’s just some of the advice they gave to aspiring tech entrepreneurs that have very little to do with “tech”.
Be A Problem Solver
Generally, one of the main problems with entrepreneurs is short-term thinking.
“A lot of entrepreneurs want to make money, and the moment they think an idea can’t make money, even if the idea can change the world, they give up on the whole thing,” said Yee Siang.
“I always believe that if you look at the big picture, and you build yourself towards that big picture, the money will come,” he added.
“You don’t need to be into technology to start a technology business, you just need a problem and an idea to solve that problem, it does not even need to be a crazy, unique idea,” added Heislyc.
For example, Dato’ Henry jokingly pointed out that Tony Fernandes probably does not know how to fly a plane himself, yet founded Air Asia.
“Generally, entrepreneurs have a one-track mind. We find a problem and we focus on solving it, that is where non-entrepreneur companies find it difficult to compete with entrepreneur based companies,” said Dato’ Henry.
This problem-solving philosophy can also be applied to your hiring and leadership processes as well.
Calling it the “Inside-Out” approach, Vicks stated that you should solve outside problems by first addressing the problems inside the company, by hiring people that can solve those problems.
“We always look at people as the problem, but sometimes you have to look at yourself, your thought processes, the way you sell, the way you hustle, people are looking at you as the leader, and the team you build starts from inside,” Vick said.
On the topic of talent, Reez brings up how soft skills may be more important than technical knowledge.
For an example, Reez shares that there are programs that code by itself with self-coding algorithms, leaving coders out of a job.
“I would imagine that education in basic technical skills are still needed, but on top of that is a liberal art education about hustling, discipline, time management and resourcefulness,” Reez explained.
No, not 3 dimensions. The 3Ds here stand for “Discipline, Document and Dangerously Positive”, as shared by Vicks.
Vicks warned that even if you have talent and funding, with no discipline and no structure, you will fail.
Discipline can be applied to most points raised during the seminar, as it is a necessary part of handling the difficulties inherent in being an entrepreneur, from how you run your business to how you live your life.
Another reason why entrepreneurs fail is the lack of documentation.
“Entrepreneurs often don’t document everything they do, they have it in their head or in a laptop somewhere, they just expect people to understand them when they are all talk,” Vicks shared.
He implores entrepreneurs to document everything, from projects to customer data and even finance.
“Whatever ideas, what works, what does not work, if you don’t document it, it’s as if it didn’t happen.”Heislyc
Vicks even encourages entrepreneurs to take up handwriting, stating that even Bill Gates continues to write down his plans on whiteboards and books to this day.
“It is scientifically proven that what you write, links back to your brain, and produces action. What you type, only 20% becomes action. It’s so powerful, the old fashion way of writing,” Vicks said.
Putting this into practice, Vicks shared how he would have making writing on a whiteboard a part of the interview process for new hires, and how he has his own team fill in weekly journals for their own benefit.
And finally, be dangerously positive, which, while the panel did not elaborate on, should speak for itself.
Experiment With Yourself
“It’s not whether if you run the company then you are considered an entrepreneur. You are the company, you are the brand,” said Dato’ Henry.
“It’s not about leading 100 people, or 1,000 people, or 2,000 people. It’s you yourself that you have to lead. It’s not about running a better company, it’s about running a better self.”
He pointed out that you could be working for someone else and still be innovating at your job, if you have a good entrepreneurial attitude.
And one entrepreneurial attitude to hold onto? Reez brought up Silicon Valley, the cradle of tech entrepreneurship in America, and summed up its success in just two words: “Embrace failure.”
Reez suggested that entrepreneurs should instil those two words into themselves.
“You as your own person, should embrace little failures by running small experiments throughout your life. Do something different everyday, take different routes,” Reez said.
“This will help you before you decide to take a big leap and do something that will really bring risk into your life, like starting a company or jumping to a different industry to work in.”
Companies and even countries should not be afraid of experimenting with new products, new markets and new customer segments, failure can be a learning experience.
And as proof that not all entrepreneurs will be in perfect agreement, Dato’ Henry attributed part of an entrepreneur’s success to “daring not to fail” and trying hard not to fail, in contrast to the common “embracing failure” or “failing fast” schools of thought.
We’ll leave it to you, which philosophy you want to instil in yourself. Stay dangerously positive.
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