Learning from the school of hard knocks


By JO TIMBUONG bytz@thestar.com.my

KUALA LUMPUR: Entrepreneurship is never easy but seasoned entrepreneurs will tell you that passion, a good team, and vision can help turn a startup into a successful business.

At the Silicon Valley Comes to Malaysia Conference here, several Malaysian entrepreneurs shared their business-building experiences.

The common theme in their stories is never give up, think big, and get the right talents.

Green Packet Bhd managing director and chief executive officer C.C. Puan did not allow his failure in Silicon Valley get him down. He was trying to start a company providing networking equipment in the US technology hub in 1990s.

“For every success in Silicon Valley, there are millions of failures and I’m one of them,” he said.

But Puan was determined to keep his dream alive. “Then a representative from the Multimedia Development Corp (MDeC) encouraged me to come home and build my business in Malaysia,” he said.

MDeC is caretaker of the MSC Malaysia initiative to turn the country into a knowledge-based economy.

Today, Green Packet is a prominent provider of networking products and through its subsidiary, Packet One Networks Sdn Bhd, it is also a wireless broadband service provider.


Another success story is MoL Access Portal Sdn Bhd, the company that developed an online payment system (MoL Points) for computer gamers. It made waves when it bought lagging social-network Friendster in 2009.

In three years, it turned Friendster into a viable social gaming site that’s popular in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Ganesh Kumar Bangah, the CEO of MoL and Friendster, said the site which was relaunched last June, now has more than 115 million users.

He looked back at his experiences when MoL bought Friendster and laughed. He remembers his friends laughing when they heard the news.

“But I plodded on. I knew that Friendster had the right ingredients to take MoL to greater heights,” he said.

“Many people are still surprised that I bought Friendster, but without it, MoL wouldn’t be the global company it is today.”

MoL isn now a payment partner with the world most popular social networking site, Facebook, as well as with game developer Zynga, which made its name through popular social games such as Farmville.

Both Puan and Ganesh were speaking during a panel discussion, themed From Klang Valley to Silicon Valley, which was part of the activities for the conference.

More advice

Attendees of the panel session also learned that entrepreneurs need to aim high, right from the beginning.

“The trouble with local businessmen is that they set their sights too close to home, when there is a larger market out there,” Ganesh said. “If you can’t aim for international success, then at least go for a regional target.

“The South-East Asian market is a viable one and a good place to start before going global,” he said. This is what he aimed for and realised with his MoL purchase of Friendster, which had a strong following in the region.

However, entrepreneurs shouldn’t be too obsessed with a global vision that they forget the local market, which has its own importance.

He said it will be difficult for entrepreneurs to be successful in the global market when they cannot first prove themselves in the local arena.

“It’s good to have ambition, but entrepreneurs should take it one step at a time while maintaining that vision of global success,” he said.

The Silicon Valley Comes to Malaysia Conference was organised by Warisan Global, a company that helps businesses and other organisations hold corporate social responsibility activities.

MDeC supported the conference, which was being held for the first time.

Several entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley also attended the conference and met their local counterparts. Among them were Jawed Karim, co-founder of YouTube, and Shawn Fanning, creator of the Napster online music store.

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