Youth Economic Forum 2017
TL;DR: Startups are bound to prosper in the following year. Success lies on 90% individual and 10% external support; hardwork, ability to adapt quickly and courage to take a leap.

“You are going up until you hit a plateau. You have to find a way up again. You are always going to continue going through this” Yeoh Chen Chow, Co-founder of Fave

These words spoken by Mr Yeoh, who wishes to be addressed as CC, on the secret to a start-up success story is fitting to both young economists and entrepreneurs alike. In fact, they can be adapted to any Malaysian.

With a strong keynote speech delivered by PNB’s Group Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, this year’s Youth Economic Forum 2017 began on a strong note. The forum kicked off with a session on Developing Malaysia Inclusively and Sustainably, moderated by BFM’s Umapagan Ampikaipan with three notable statesmen, namely Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa and Dato’ Sri Idris Jala.

Plenty of questions were raised regarding the government’s efforts to foster and encourage entrepreneurship as one of the means of development.

“What can young people do? Where are we falling short?”

To this, Dato’ Sri Idris Jala responded that creativity rest within the individual, that they need to ask themselves how to create a product better than existing competitors. He cited the success story of CeriaTone, a bold venture by our local entrepreneur which can now proudly stand up to international competitors.

All three panelists agreed that financial literacy is a significant contributor to entrepreneurship and initiatives by the government through MaGIC has been set up to boost the entrepreneurship spirit in Malaysians. At the end of the day though, it is down to 90% of the individual and 10% of such external support.

Quoting the former President of India, Abdul Kalam, Umapagan asked: “Entrepreneurship comes from those who are hungry” Are we Malaysians hungry enough?

Startups : The Recipe for Success

In this session, Perdana Fellows Alumni Association has outdone itself by bringing together the co-founder of Fave, Mr Yeoh Chen Chow with two outstanding ladies in the local start-up scene, Miss Raja Jesrina of PurelyB success as well as Miss Dzuleira Abu Bakar, the CEO of Cradle Seed Ventures.

The definition of success differs from one start-up to another; they are gauged on different metrics at varying stages. However, a start-up is a temporary setting, it is a gradual process of transformation from its humble beginnings to becoming a Small Medium Enterprises through strengthening demand for its products and improvement of its technology medium.

CC went on to comment on the numerous Malaysian success stories, citing Jobstreet, Grab and iProperty. He reminded us that pioneering a start-up isn’t about fame but rather years upon years of hard work. It all depends on individual tenacity of its founders to flourish. After all, Jobstreet founder did not find rest until after 18 years of its conception.

CC shared with us how Fave managed to convince their investors despite being caught off-guard by a sudden pitch session. One needs a passionate story and a vision. At Fave, they continuously ask themselves how their platform can help mom and pop stores to grow together with their brand.

Bootstrapping is not a foreign concept for start-ups, and Jesrina reminded us that it is not a permanent strategy. PurelyB had its catalytic turn from bootstrapping to growing bigger with funding because a start-up risks losing momentum when if it continues to only rely on bootstrapping itself.

Alternatives to angel investment and VC investors such as equity crowdfunding should be explored. With around 6 to 7 local platforms for equity crowdfunding, an entrepreneur can take his start-up to “a whole new level”. Such is the success story behind PurelyB’s funding and how it has come to where it is today.

An important concept to a successful start-up is also its founders’ ability to pivot and adapt its products. The move must be timely and it also must cater to your customers’ demand. Grab quickly adapted itself, changing its focal point from MyTeksi to Grabcar. Starting as an online book supplier, Amazon pivoted successfully to supply everything its customers could think of purchasing. Indeed, Fave too adapted itself, trimming its initial major focus on fitness to only 5% of its brand now.

In a nutshell, the recipe for success is persevering, adapting and courage to take a leap into a calculated risk. In this, CC’s words should be heeded by all hesitating entrepreneurs:

“Remember that owning a 100% of nothing is still nothing, but owning even 1% of 1 billion is something”.

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