THE PERFECT NETWORK

Malaysia 2017 | IT & INNOVATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ashran Dato' Ghazi, CEO of Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), on the company's partnership with Uber, entrepreneurship development, and the many resources at MaGIC's disposal.

 Ashran Dato’ Ghazi
BIOGRAPHY
Ashran Dato’ Ghazi assumed the position of CEO of MaGIC in 2016. Prior to that, he led many organizations. He also served as Deputy Chairman of the Global Innovation & Entrepreneurship Foundation, Advisory Board Member to Malaysian SME Development Academy (MASMED), and is a Board Member for SME Corp. Ashran Dato’ Ghazi holds a bachelor of business administration from University of Michigan, and started his career in the oil and gas sector with PETRONAS MITCO. In 2011, he co-founded Joota, a social content networking site that secured private investments of USD2.1 million. His recent initiatives include creating ComicXcel, an accelerator for the creative sector via comics, and a new ASEAN regional award for start-ups.

What can we expect from your “ideation lab” organized with Uber and DIGI and concluded at Global Entrepreneurship Community (GEC)?

MaGIC has always had an ASEAN point of view in its approach to programs and topics. Even our parent accelerator program is inclusive from an ASEAN participation point of view. Partnering with two major players helped us spark interest from the whole region, and we received around 200 submissions from startups around the whole community. We shortlisted 10 of them for a presentation at the GEC, and we support them via a boot camp to refine their ideas and prepare them for a strong pitch to investors. Uber will take the final five to Silicon Valley to network with investors. This project is a pilot for us to learn how to harness entrepreneurs, and for next year we have decided on a more problem-centric approach. Our objective is to foster better corporate and start-up collaboration—corporate here not is the sense of a typical blue-chip MNC, but established players across all sectors. In finance and telecoms, the innovation ecosystem is relatively mature and we focus on other, less savvy sectors. For the GEC, we depicted 8+1 categories, the latter a more horizontal one, namely social innovation. The sectoral ones include healthcare, education, finance, lifestyle, creative industries, supply chain and logistics, biotech, and smart cities. Our organization looks at entrepreneurship development, not industry development, so our categories are not cast in stone. ASEAN has a young population, and young people tend to be more impressionable about working within the start-up ecosystem. We want to put our young and creative minds in touch with corporates. This can be driven by ideas from the corporates as well, especially problem-centric ideas that have the highest chance of being commercialized. Though we have an ASEAN focus, we invite companies from across the globe to use Malaysia as a creativity and innovation hub—the world of ideas is borderless.

Is there a large enough supply of entrepreneurs and ideas?

There are many aspiring entrepreneurs; however, viewing their ideas from a commercial point of view is less common. We tell entrepreneurs to be aware of this as they go out and validate their business ideas. Human beings having a tipping point threshold in paying for a new product or service to improve their lives. Entrepreneurs tend to wrongly assume that just because their idea is well received, people are willing to pay for it. Companies need to figure out the tipping point, no matter how advanced their application is—entrepreneurs need to size themselves up here. One success story comes in the form of our accelerator program, which is a four-month program that we run twice per year. For each batch we bring onboard 50 start-ups for a learning experience. The companies that have gone through get an average of 40% month-on-month growth at the stage where they come in, be it user traction or revenue traction. These are not huge revenues but they are traction to actually validate their business model. Within those four months, our goal is to put them in a solid position to present and pitch to a private-sector investor.

How do you bring academia into your work, like you did with your Stanford partnership?

Stanford has an excellent success rate of entrepreneurs coming out of its program, which is why we were keen to partner with it. We took some of its modules and teaching methodologies and now have guest speakers from its faculties here. Stanford has also hosted a two-week immersive program, an executive education skewed toward entrepreneurship for our participants. The net content is a week long, while the other week is for networking and being exposed to other startups in Silicon Valley. We will extend our global collaboration and partner with the Institute for the Future in San Francisco as well, in line with our conference's theme of reimagining the future of entrepreneurs.