Home of the Silicon Valley of the East, Malaysia has produced some of the big names of Asia’s startups.
The original home of ride-hailing giant Grab and the headquarters of startup darlings 123RF, iFlix, and HappyFresh, the country’s young population is technology-inclined and has an enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. With a history of producing disruptive technologies and the entry of corporate partnerships and foreign mergers, Malaysia’s startup ecosystem is on its way to being one of the strongest in the Asia.
As with anything, the startup and business ecosystem is only as good as the people running it. So here is a quick list of 9 CEOs you should know in Malaysia.
Ai Ching Goh | Piktochart
The biggest part of running a company really wasn’t about the product or the technology, it was about the people.
A graduate of experimental psychology at the University of Bristol, Ai Ching spent 15 months working on media management in manufacturing giant Procter & Gamble prior to starting up Piktochart. Her fascination with tech startups and interest in design led to her co-founding the web-based infographic builder now boasting over 3 million users.
Jeeshen Lee | Softinn
Even when I started with very few customers, I knew how much value I was providing to them with our skills and knowledge, and that has kept me going.
A computer engineer both by passion and profession, Jeeshen Lee has founded two software-related startups before finding success in Softinn, a tech company providing cloud-based reservation systems for boutique hotels and vacation rentals. With Lee at the helm, Softinn has gained over 700 clients and has won various awards such as the Australia Talent Unleashed Award Best Startup Finalist and Malaysia winner of Echelon Top 100 Startup Search.
Joel Neoh | Fave Group (formerly KFit Group)
The key aspect to localising this model [O2O] is to have a deep understanding of the language, culture, consumer habits, and regulations in each country we want to serve. There is no shortcut to his knowledge.
Harvard Business School-educated Joel Neoh had an impressive resume prior to starting up Fave. He started his first company at age 20 and grew it into a million-dollar business while still studying engineering at Monash University and has joined and won The Firm, Malaysia’s version of The Apprentice, as the youngest contestant at age 23. Noeh was also the co-founder and former CEO of Groupon Malaysia (formerly Groupsmore), which was acquired by KFit before rebranding to Fave. Neoh was named Ernst & Young’s Emerging Entrepreneur of the year in 2012, World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader in 2013, and was named as one of the Top 10 Young Entrepreneur in Asia.
Ching Wei Lee | iMoney
It’s much better releasing ideas, products early and receiving feedback fast, instead of spending too much time creating a “perfect” product, that may not be perfect in the eyes of users.
iMoney group CEO and co-founder Ching Wei Lee has an extensive finance background, having served as financial advisor and investment consultant in various financial service institutions in Australia. A charterholder of both the CFA Institute and the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association (CAIA), he launched iMoney in 2012, the highly successful financial comparison website created for the sole purpose of helping users make quick, informed decisions for banking products and services in the market.
Petrina Goh | Nuren Group
Identifying a problem, being able to solve it, and seeing a happy customer keeps me motivated, especially knowing that what we do impacts the lives of many.
Nuren Group co-founder and CEO Petrina Goh started her career in Accenture as a consultant. After pursuing her CFA, she joined CIMB Investment Bank to manage an investment portfolio focused on evaluations of the technology sector. The first product of Nuren Group, weddings.com.my, was launched when Goh found an opportunity in the wedding industry – a content and community platform and marketplace purely for the wedding industry. With Goh at the helm, Nuren Group has launched another product that focuses on motherhood and is active in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.
Syed Ahmad Fuqaha Sd Agil | Katsana
We’ve realised that behaviour insights have been our most valuable asset.
Architecture graduate Syed Ahmad Fuqaha Sd Agil founded Katsana after his brother and a friend lost their cars to thieves in the same week. Katsana is a GPS vehicle tracker and fleet management platform that allows users to locate stolen cars and track its whereabouts. Prior to Katsana, Fuquha’s career included a stint in customer service, projects management, and operation management in other software development and IT companies.
Also read: 4 reasons your startup needs a mentor
Nadhir Ashafiq | TheLorry
Never do everything yourself. There will always be someone smarter than you.
Finance professional Nadhir Ashafiq first discovered a love for entrepreneurship at age 11 while playing on online pet game Neopets. Armed with a Master’s degree in Finance, Ashafiq worked fat various finance institutions before launching TheLorry, an online platform for booking lorries and vans for transportation services. With Ashafiq at the helm, TheLorry has grown to currently working with over 300 partners providing over 1300 vehicles for both private and commercial customers.
Karl Loo | Servishero
What we’ve created is a new way for people to live and work, we are changing cultural norms, which means a lot of really tough problem solving.
Servishero co-founder and CEO Karl Loo has an extensive resume in establishing, operating, and optimising internet companies globally. Before launching Servishero, a mobile marketplace for local services, Loo served as entrepreneur in residence and regional director for Groupon, founded three other companies in three different countries, and worked on strategy and operation of leading online Korean cosmetic retailer Memebox Corporation. Prior to being an entrepreneur, Loo was a corporate lawyer specialising in Information Technology.
Benson Chang | TableApp
We built something people didn’t need several times before, and of course it failed. Luckily, we failed fast and learned fast from all the failures.
Having grown up helping out in his family’s 5 restaurants, TableApp founder and CEO Benson Chang experienced firsthand how restaurants worked from waiting tables to cashiering. After earning a Masters’ degree in Computer Science and IT from the National Cheng Kung University, Benson went on to launch TableApp upon noticing a gap in online reservation systems for restaurants in Malaysia. Prior to TableApp, Benson served as director at platform development company MV Technology.
Want to see more of Malaysia’s startups? Register for your Echelon Malaysia access pass for two days of speaking sessions, panel discussions, and exhibits as the best of the country’s startup ecosystem dives into Hardware and IoT, Creative Content, and Travel Tech. Echelon Malaysia 2017 happens on 12-13 April in Royale Bintang, Georgetown, Penang.
Featured image credit: cienpies / 123RF Stock Photo
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