Malaysia: A Disneyland for entrepreneurs

Malaysia: A Disneyland for entrepreneurs

There have been many success stories and Malaysia has even been called the "Disneyland for entrepreneurs" but amidst the triumphant startup company stories, there are also the failures that no one hears about.

Even successful entrepreneurs say that starting up one's own company may not be the best course of action, if one does not have the drive and tenacity required.

Soft Space director of strategy Chris Leong says that a person needs to know what his or her path is before venturing into an entrepreneurship.

"Don't just go for the 'cool' factor. You must be willing to sacrifice," he adds.

Thirty two-year-old Leong does not even introduce himself as an entrepreneur even though he is one of the founding members of his company - Soft Space - which has produced a product that allows any smartphone or tablet to be converted into a mobile point-of-sale device.

With a product like that, even the nasi lemak seller at the street corner would be able to accept credit or debit card payments as he would no longer have to pay the hefty sum required for the normal card machine. All he needs is a smartphone or tablet, a mobile application and the card reader.

Soft Space has signed agreements with banks not only in Malaysia but in Thailand and Vietnam and for its cutting-edge effort, it has won multiple awards. The idea for the software came about when Leong's childhood friend, Chang Chew Soon, had a chat with his father.

During the conversation, Chang's father talked about how his company salesman had run off with a large sum of money that he had collected from customers.

Chang's father had been unable to obtain the mobile electronic data capture terminals from a bank because of the cost as it was way beyond what most small or medium enterprises could afford.

Realising that there was a gap in the market, Chang decided to address it since he had the technical background.

Leong says that the idea for Soft Space spawned because a son was desperate to seek a solution to his father's financial and business dilemma and others who might face the same problem.

This is not Leong's first entrepreneurial stint. In the past, he started his own business and worked with Cradle Fund - an agency under the Finance Ministry.

He also founded an angel investment group and mentored students in the Microsoft Imagine Cup. (An angel investor is someone who provides financial backing for a startup. The capital the investor provides is to help a business succeed, rather than reaping a huge profit from the investment.)

"The life of a true entrepreneur is full of worry and sacrifice," he writes in a blogpost, as a reply to the frequent student programmes that promote entrepreneurship as "a cool thing to be in".

"The first thing an entrepreneur loses would most likely be the social life. Clubbing and drinking sessions and any other non-essential activities would most likely be the first to go," he writes.

He adds that entrepreneurs must be prepared to work on holidays as "every day can be a workday" and they might have to be conscious of their personal cash flow.

Leong has a Master's degree in Business Administration and the knowledge gained comes in handy when expanding a company.

"But if you apply all the business theories to a startup, you might never start. In the beginning, you have to 'do more' than plan, and be able to make quick decisions," he shares.

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