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Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneurship’

On 7th May 2009, Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) and Technopreneurs Association of Malaysia (TeAM) organised a very interesting Forum with 5 leading panelists on the topic “Bust2Boom: Are you ready for the recovery”. The premise of the Forum was that the recession is coming to an end and that companies now have to prepare for the recovery that always follows a recession. In economic terms, there is always a cycle of boom-bust-boom and its only a matter of timing when a boom will follow a bust.

We had an eminent set of panelists for the session comprising leading Technopreneurs, the CEO of the largest technology project financing company in Malaysia (Debt Ventures) and the VP of industry development at MDeC and I had the pleasure of moderating the session:

Panelists:

Mr.Chris Chan, CEO, The Media Shoppe Bhd (TMS)

Mr. Michael Lai, CEO, Packet One Networks (M) Sdn Bhd

Mr. Low Huoi Seong, CEO, Vision New Media Sdn Bhd

Mr. Zubir Ansori Yahaya, CEO, Malaysia Debt Ventures Bhd

Mr. Saifol Bahri Shamlan, VP, MDeC

Moderator:

Dr. V.Sivapalan

See below for the slides that I presented at the session to explain the premise of the Forum.

The Panelists concluded that we will definitely see a recovery in 2010 if not by end 2009, so companies should start preparing for the recovery. The Panel also gave several concrete recommendations for companies:

1) Get yourself benchmarked. A slowdown is a good time to get yourself benchmarked and to prove to customers that you have high standards in place. For example software companies can get themselves benchmarked to CMMI standards.
2) Do more R&D. When business is good, you will be busy serving clients but a slowdown is a good time to analyze your business and improve what you have to offer by spending the time on R&D.
3) Take advantage of the many grants on offer, not just R&D grants but also marketing grants. They can help you build up the business for the coming recovery
4) Build more partnerships, locally, regionally and globally. When times are slow everyone will be more willing to look at new partnerships so this is a good time to do this.

5) Build credibility and a good track record, both for the business and personally.
6) Spend time exploring the needs of your customers and fulfilling those needs.
7) Broadband and convergence is a powerful medium that will disrupt the way business is done globally. It is no longer only about the Internet but convergence will happen with other devices and the most powerful of these will be mobile. Study how this will affect your business and your customers and use it to build new disruptive businesses.
I totally agree with these panelists. So start preparing for the coming recovery and then the boom that will certainly follow in 2010 – 2012.

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Following up on my article on how to teach Entrepreneurship, this New York Times op-ed article by David Brooks “Genius: The Modern View” is relevant. An Entrepreneur is like a genius. They both have talent and great potential but talent alone does not make a Genius great, nor does talent or Entrepreneurial traits make for a successful Entrepreneur. Like all great people even talented individuals have to practice, practice, practice and learn and improve on their skills before all that talent can flourish into something special. As Brooks says in his article, “The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft. Mozart played a lot of piano at a young age, Einstein read every book on physics he could get his hands on and Tiger Woods spent many hours every day at the driving range and golf course even after he had won all the majors, still fine tuning his game. Practice never ends and learning is a lifelong profession. So its the same for Entrepreneurs. You may have the talent and the traits of an Entrepreneur, but you still need to learn the skills of Entrepreneurship and management and then execute, execute, execute. And the learning never stops. Even today after 25 years as an Entrepreneur I am still learning new things.

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My friend Dinesh asked me this question today: ” I’m curious, how does someone teach Entrepreneurship? Its those traits I am talking about, the ones which can’t be taught and have to be cultivated. The culture to take a risk, plug at it even if the going’s rough, to be able to think on your feet and out of the box to compete when you’re the smaller fish.”

Many Entrepreneurs generally believe that you cannot teach someone to be an Entrepreneur. That is true to a certain extent, but Entrepreneurial education is not about making an Entrepreneur out of someone who either does not have the interest to be an Entrepreneur or does not have the traits of an Entrepreneur.

To be a successful Entrepreneur, what do you really need? For sure you need to have traits like passion, desire, drive, risk taking culture, thinking out of the box etc. But is this enough? Will having these traits alone make you a successful Entrepreneur? Sadly I think not because I have see so many Entrepreneurs who have most if not all of these traits, yet 80% fail to create a successful entrepreneurial venture.

My own personal experience as an Entrepreneur of 25 years is proof. I had many failures, not because I lacked the necessary traits but because I lacked the skills.  If I had known then what I know now, especially the skills necessary to create a successful venture I would have been a more successful Entrepreneur at a much earlier age and would not have failed so often.

Can you even “teach” someone these traits? I have my doubts. One cannot teach someone to be passionate or driven or to take abnormal risks. It may also be difficult to teach someone the ability to “think on your feet” or “out of the box” but this is possible, as there are courses on creative thinking and innovation that can help with this.

So, traits are a necessary but not sufficient condition to create successful Entrepreneurs.

Today, there are literally hundreds of thousands of Entrepreneurs around the world who have these traits and have taken the plunge into starting an entrepreneurial venture. Yet the vast majority will fail. Why? Its definitely not because of a lack of passion or drive or the risk taking culture. No, they fail because even a startup, an entrepreneurial venture, is ultimately a business and like any business there are management skills that are necessary to make it a success.

But the skills necessary for an entrepreneurial venture are different from a mature company. Its those skills that we teach in Entrepreneurship education. For example, strategy – how do you create a competitive advantage, how do you ‘position’ your business within the competitive space (this is a different form of competitive strategy compared to what you would do in a mature company).

What is a good Value Proposition for Customers (you’ll be surprised at how few Entrepreneurs even understand what a Value Proposition is and how to effectively get that message across to customers). How do you market your business, what marketing strategies do you use & when.

Entrepreneurial education or training cannot make you an Entrepreneur, but if you have Entrepreneurial traits & want to create a successful business you don’t have to learn by trial & error, there are skills that can be taught to make you a better Entrepreneur and help you minimize the risks of your venture.

You still need to have the passion, desire, hunger and risk taking nature of an Entrepreneur, we cannot teach you that. But if you have these traits and want to embark on an Entrepreneurial venture we can help you better manage that journey and this has been proven numerous times even through my own teaching of Entrepreneurial programs and my coaching of Entrepreneurs.

Yes we can teach Entrepreneurship and we can help create better Entrepreneurs.

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A Full House

Audience Voting for What's Hot

Karamjit Singh of Netvalue, The Edge wrote an article on the What’s Hot 2009 Forum. Click here for the article.

Here are some photos of the event

The Panel

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Check out the Would be Entrepreneurs Handbook from CNNMoney.com

Its not very comprehensive but a simplified 10 step guide on what “would be Entrepreneurs” should think about.

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I hope you had the chance to read my last post on What’s Hot 2009. At this event there was also the usual ‘doom & gloom’ scenarios being discussed by panelists and participants as that is what everyone seems to be thinking about. Yes times may be tough today, but we all know tough times never last.

Entrepreneurs should be the last people on earth to think like this. To be a successful Entrepreneur you have to be contrarian. Following the herd should be the last thing to do. Your ideas and businesses have to be different to succeed. Where people find problems, you find opportunities. Where there is gloom you should see hope.

So let me leave you with something to think about. In investing Warren Buffett has a famous saying, “When everyone is greedy, be fearful and when everyone is fearful be greedy”. That is great investment advise from THE investment Guru.

So for Entrepreneurs in tough times this is what I say,” When everyone is optimistic, be pessimistic and when everyone is pessimistic, be optimistic”.

Today, when most people are pessimistic and thinking of recessions and depressions thats when you should seize the day. Your chances for success are far better because this is the time when you should be positioning yourself for the boom that will surely come. If not the end of this year then definitely next year will see the start of the next boom. Where will you be then? Will you be at the beginning of the new bull run in business or will you just be starting out. If you start today you will have 12 to 18 months to prepare and this will give you a tremendous head start.

So be optimistic, get out there and start a new business or work hard on your existing one to position yourself for the next bull run. You won’t regret it.

Carpe Diem!

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Kuala Lumpur, Monday 12th Jan:

We had a very interesting Dialogue on Monday entitled “What’s Hot 2009”.  Organised by Cradle Fund and Malaysian Entrepreneurs the Panelists discussed what 2009 held for Malaysian Entrepreneurs.

Panellists:

Professor Zainul Faziruddin Zainuddin

Director of USM Innovation Office

Mr. Sharil Tarmizi

Chief Operating Officer of Malaysian Communication & Multimedia Commission (CMC)

Mr. Peter Tam

Director of Local Software Innovation Malaysian Software Economy

Mr.Hazani Hassan

Senior VP, Kumpulan Modal Perdana (KMP)

Mr. Hasnul Shah

Manager Industry Policy & Research, Multimedia Development Corporation, Malaysia

Generally while the Panelists agreed that 2009 will be a difficult year, there were still some bright spots and Entrepreneurs can find some good opportunities here. The following areas were discussed and the consensus of the audience is given in  brackets.

1) Creative Content (HOT)

This area includes digital animation especially movies and Japanese Anime. With the release of the first fully animated Malaysian movie “Geng” in February, the consensus is that this is one growth area for Entrepreneurs. This also includes gaming tecnnology where there is still a lot of scope. Finally while 3D may be the future, 2D is still the bulk of the market especially Anime so 2009 is still a good year for just plain ol 2D. Consensus is that this is a HOT area for 2009.

2) Shared Services & Outsourcing (HOT)

With the global economic recessions (Developed nations) and slowdown (Asia) companies will seek to lower their costs and outsourcing is one area that will continue to grow. Malaysia offers lower costs and well trained people although issues remain with proficiency in English.

3) Broadband (HOT in Kuala Lumpur, COLD elsewhere)

With High Speed Broadband (HSBB) and Wimax taking off in 2010 & 2009 respectively expect this to drive more mobile & Internet businesses. However outside KL HSBB will take at least another 3 years so it will be slower elsewhere.

4) Funding: Venture Capital (Lukewarm), Grants (HOT), IPO (stone COLD), Private Equity (HOT)

The funding environment is going to be tough. While there will continue to be plenty of government grants for startups and for R&D, VC will be tough as they are more choosy with investing. Early stage is going to be tougher than expansion stage. However the IPO market will be virtually dead for 2009. Private Equity however will be HOT as PE players seek out the mature companies that need short term funds and restructuring because of the crisis.

5) Web2.0 (HOT)

There are many new players in Web2.0 and this will still be a hot area. Web2.0 is however expected to evolve and may not be just social networks as more businesses will adopt Web2.0 like Dell has done. Uptake will be slower but it will still be a good year.

6) Clean Tech (HOT)

Hazani of Modal Perdana the VC fund is very keen on Clean Tech and expects this to be a hot area in 2009.

So thats the gist of this very interesting dialogue.

We took videos of the Dialogue and will post them shortly.

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