CEO Cheryl Yeoh lays out MaGIC’s ingredients

Cheryl Yeoh, CEO of MaGIC. — DNA pic
Cheryl Yeoh, CEO of MaGIC. — DNA pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 — The Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) was officially launched in April, envisioned as a one-stop shop for entrepreneurship and tasked with building up the ecosystem in the country.

After months of head-hunting and speculation, the Malaysian Government announced it had appointed as chief executive officer Cheryl Yeoh, a Malaysian entrepreneur who had launched a startup in New York, made it in Silicon Valley and saw it sold off WalMart Labs, the investment arm of the US retail giant.

When she took the role, Yeoh told Digital News Asia (DNA) that her first task would be to map out the ecosystem and identify the gaps. She and the team she was building up spent four months doing that, and late last month she sat down to a chat with DNA to lay out her blueprint.

MaGIC’s underlying mission is to “fill the gaps and connect the dots,” as she puts it. The overarching vision is to act as a catalyst to transform Malaysia into the regional startup capital.

“In a way, we want to put Malaysia on the map. A lot of the times, regional and international VCs (venture capitalists) bypass us, but the fact is that we have a lot of really successful tech companies and entrepreneurs — they’re just not known,” she says.

This, despite the fact that Malaysia has produced the most number of tech IPOs (initial public offerings) and has some of the largest Internet companies in Southeast Asia, she laments.

Among them are MyEG, the e-government service provider; Catcha Group’s iCar, iBuy and iProperty; regional online recruitment player JobStreet.com; and even less well-known but no less phenomenally successful companies like Fusionex. Early in October, dotcom pioneer MOL Global will be listing on Nasdaq.

Indeed, in August, a blog post on the Malaysian edition of Business Insider listing the eight biggest Internet companies in South-East Asia noted that six of them are from Malaysia — and four of them are Catcha companies, including Rev Asia, which incidentally runs the Malaysian edition of Business Insider.

This lack of disclosure aside; and despite an inexplicable reference to MySpace as a Malaysian company that is preparing for an IPO — which could be a mistaken reference to MOL Global’s impending listing — the gist of the blog post is true enough.

Yet regional and international investors believe the regional startup hub is down south, a problem that Yeoh is keenly aware of, and a misperception she is intent on correcting.

Thus, MaGIC’s mission statement is to increase the number of Malaysian regional and global success stories, and under this mission statement, there are three core activities the MaGIC team has settled on: Connectors, Gap-Fillers and Storytellers. — Digital News Asia

This article was first published here.

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