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From Student to Entrepreneur

by FutureLab | 08 May 2020

In the third episode of online series FutureLab Live, Jay Chong Yen Jye, the Founder cum Managing Director of Jagole made an appearance as a guest speaker and addressed how he navigated his way from being an undergraduate student, juggling university coursework while simultaneously managing his business, to finally venturing out to the world as a full-fledged entrepreneur. On top of his other remarkable feats, Jay is also the proud author of “Technology Simplicity” and was featured in Britishpedia’s 2019 edition of “Successful People in Malaysia”.    Founders Malaysia: What was it like starting off your business early on during your undergraduate years? Jay Chong Yen Jye: Looking back, it was quite a memorable time. I actually founded my company with the winnings from a competition I had participated in at the time. After my business idea was validated, there was an overwhelming amount of support. But before that, I would say it was quite tough. I remember proposing my first commercial product as a feature in my final year project, and it was rejected a total of three times.  From my experience, I recall three main things, firstly being responsibility. When you start your own company, there may even be friends who end up as co-founders with you. Your responsibility as a leader is to ensure that it is a success as these individuals rely on your strength and leadership to provide them with a source of income.  The second element here would be discipline. I find that students are generally caught up in a honeymoon phase before setting foot into the corporate world. As a junior, I used to hear tales of the challenges and hardships of the corporate world from my graduated peers, and I could not believe my ears. But I finally understood when I joined the workforce myself. I discovered that when your actions hold a real-life impact, rather than just another mark on your assignment, that is when you realise that discipline plays a major role when you start working. My advice here would be to plan a daily schedule that you can stick to, as well as set long-term goals and plans.   Thirdly, I recall all the sleepless nights. When an initial plan does not work out, you have to come up with a solution for it to work. Oftentimes, this means that you will have to put your own needs and wants aside. This includes sleep, travel or any other pleasures in life.    Founders Malaysia: How do you create the chemistry and understanding within a team? Jay Chong Yen Jye: It starts with charisma. When you start a business, it is always with a purpose and a goal in mind. When you find and pursue a goal in your business, the team will tag along for as long as there is a sense of confidence and reassurance that their hard work will ultimately pay off.  The second thing would be to sell a long-term vision. Your goal here is to gain the ability to share that same vision with your team. Once all of you are on the same page, your team will be a force to be reckoned with.  Thirdly, you must lead by example. More likely than not, one of your team members may not be able to complete a certain task. At this stage, you must shoulder the responsibility yourself, or find another member of the team that is able to finish the task. Once completed, you will be able to tell your whole team “It took some time, but it can be done.”   Founders Malaysia: What do you think are the typical mistakes most student entrepreneurs are guilty of, and how do you think they can fix it? Jay Chong Yen Jye: One of the most common mistakes is to offer a product or service that does not gauge consumer demand. This is primarily due to a lack of market research prior in the earlier stage of developing the product. Before proceeding with an idea, a good practice would be to monitor consumer patterns and trends, as well as run your idea by someone else and get a second opinion.  Another common mistake here would be to celebrate a milestone too soon. Say you make a record number of sales in a single period. When this happens, they tend to get carried away and become fixated on short-term pleasure. At this stage, some may lose sight of not only the business’s long-term plan, but also their own drive and passion in making the business the best within the industry. My advice here would be to celebrate small victories and move on.  The third mistake would be that some student entrepreneurs take, but never give to the community. While a business’s main priority is to make profit, be it through deals or another,  one must never forget the people that contributed to their sales and supported their business. Student entrepreneurs should take note that one of life’s greatest pleasures is to be able to give back to the community.   Founders Malaysia: Student graduates are now in a limbo due to the pandemic. What do you think they should do? Do you think now is a good time to start their entrepreneurship journey? Jay Chong Yen Jye: I feel like no one is ever truly ready to start their entrepreneurship journey. Just do it and see how it all unfolds in time. In the midst of this pandemic, I think that it is the best time to start, as cards are being reshuffled, the industry players are changing and we have no indication of how it will all turn out after it is done and dusted. If you want to be a pioneer or leader, now is the time to step up.    Founders Malaysia: Who would be the right mentee for you, and what are the three things you look for in a mentee?  Jay Chong Yen Jye: I would look into someone that is passionate. Passion is a powerful tool, and is easily one of the best traits to have. Another thing I look out for in a mentee is optimism. Someone that will not give up halfway through, and will stay true to their goals. Lastly, I will observe a potential mentee’s level of self-awareness. This person will likely be honest and truthful to not only me, but themselves in terms of self-improvement. In short, someone who is not afraid to say that they are not perfect, and will work to better themselves in the best way they can. We hope that the session provided you with the necessary takeaways and key insight into the current issue. Click here to watch the video.  FutureLab Live is an online session where we mutually engage our mentors and the audience to discuss and share contemporary trends, tips and other opportunities.

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How to Build a Sustainable & Successful Startup

by FutureLab | 07 May 2020

In the second installment of FutureLab Live, we had the opportunity to talk with our mentor Stanley Chong, a partner at Ingenious. Stanley has been very active for the past five years in coaching and investing in businesses and startups, but his experience has played a huge role in what he is doing today. With close to thirty years of experience in the tech industry, he had the opportunity to be involved in various roles be it intechnical, sales and also management in companies such as IBM and Siemens. Get to know more on his insights and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and startups founders out there through the article below, and at the end we have included the full video of the online session as well as some links to engage with him as a mentor.   Founders Malaysia: Can you start off with a little bit of history about yourself? Stanley Chong: I have been in the tech industry for close to thirty years now. I am a computer graduate myself, and have been involved in the technical side for the first ten years of my career, and for about five years, I have been in various other divisions such as sales, marketing and management roles in the companies I have worked with. I had the privilege to be in a startup myself, on top of being in multinational companies such as Siemens and IBM.  Personally for the past 5-years, I have been very active in coaching businesses as well as investing in some of them, just to gain more experience in helping companies to grow and scale.   Founders Malaysia: How would you define a startup? Stanley Chong: There are a lot of definitions of what a startup is out there, but I define a startup with an entity or a company that is in search and are currently experimenting with a repeatable and scalable business model. Once the company is able to work their way through and scale their business, they are no longer considered as one.   Founders Malaysia: How do we build a sustainable and successful startup?  Stanley Chng: That is the million dollar question, but unfortunately there is no silver bullet or playbook for that, as every company has their own sets of unique challenges and business models that require attention. At the end of the day, it is the founders team that matters the most. Eighty percent of the time, experience and adaptability plays a huge role in creating a sustainable and successful startup.  Always start from the fundamental, because creating and growing a startup is not that difficult, but sustaining it would be challenging especially after the growth. I believe that the founders’ mindset matters throughout their journey. They have to be observant, always curious and are able to apply what they learned to the company itself.  Also, planning and execution is also an important factor. Having one without the other would definitely jeopardize the successfulness of a startup in a longer term. Make sure to have the right business model that is sustainable, while at the same time making sure that the unit economics makes sense. Study and forecast business scenarios as that will definitely help to gauge the growth of your startup. On a side note, take care of your team and the culture that you are implementing, as it enables you to move and adapt much faster as opposed to doing things alone. Cash flow management should not be left out, as a ton of startups out there struggle to pay their overhead as they burn more cash than they do earning it. The advantage of a startup to a corporate company is how disruptive and innovative they are. Startups are faster and more flexible, but of course do keep in mind that corporate has better resources when it comes to marketing and branding. You can definitely see this happening in the financial tech industry with the amount of electronic wallets out there. As a summary, to be successful, a startup has to be able to plan and execute, while in order to be sustainable, the business model and the team has to be scale-ready.   Founders Malaysia: From your experience, as I know that you have been involved in mentoring new startups, what are the common mistakes by these eager entrepreneurs, and what could they do to fix it? Stanley Chong: I would say that it still falls back to the founders’ mindset. My suggestion is to get the right mentor to bring in experience into the team, because lack of experience has been a huge bottleneck to new startups.  The next common mistake is the fact that they do not plan out properly. Most startups only plan up to six-months to a year, and failure to plan would be disastrous especially when they are looking to grow their team. Whenever they reach a milestone, they would rather celebrate than to look into what they could do to grow the business even further. My advice – have a long term strategy even before you reach your first milestone. All-in-all, as a startup, you can’t afford to make too many mistakes. As a wise man once said, learn from another person’s mistake, with the help of mentors. Furthermore, foresee the growth of your startup and your team by planning ahead to avoid crisis.   Founders Malaysia: I’m interested to know your perspective of the current pandemic. What do you think of it, and is it possible for startups to emerge successful and sustainable?  Stanley Chong: 8 out of 10 discussions today are focusing on that. In business, it is undeniably difficult to pivot in a short period of time. It always comes back to planning, if a bad situation were to happen, what would you do? At the end of the day, these things that are happening are beyond our control.  It is also dependent on which industry you are in, as some industries are badly affected while the others, not so much. My advice to startups out there, preserve as much cash as you can. You may opt to pivot, but make sure it is not done for the sake of following the trend because you will be spending more money to do that.    Founders Malaysia: Who’s the right mentee for you, and maybe what are the three things you look for in a mentee? Stanley Chong: The first thing I look at is the mindset of the mentee, whether they are coachable or not. They also need to be passionate in whatever that they are pursuing, and if they are in a startup, they need to have a proper business model to grow. We hope that the session provided you with the necessary takeaways and key insight into the current issue. Click here to watch the video.  FutureLab Live is an online session where we mutually engage our mentors and the audience to discuss and share contemporary trends, tips and other opportunities.

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From Mentee to Mentor

by FutureLab | 29 Apr 2020

Oftentimes, a common issue faced by students and fresh graduates is finding their true calling when seeking employment opportunities. While a bachelor’s degree may set the foundation for a career in a specific field, one may benefit from valuable insight from figures currently working within the industry.  In the debut of an online series dubbed FutureLab Live, Izzat Mohtarudin, Frost & Sullivan APAC’s Consulting Associate, was invited to share his journey and experiences from being a mentee under the program to being inspired to become a mentor himself. Interestingly, he initially pursued a bachelor’s degree in Chemical and Environmental Engineering before turning to the consulting landscape. Today, Izzat strives to extend the guidance he was shown to other mentees in a similar dilemma.    Founders Malaysia: What actually inspired you to sign up to be a mentor? Izzat Mohtarudin: I would mainly attribute my inspiration to become a mentor to Brian. Brian saw a gap in the education system,  and that was where he came up with the idea behind FutureLab. His vision inspired me as we shared a common sentiment. Personally speaking, I went through some difficult times while pursuing my studies, and was inclined to seek a career within the engineering sector. Now, I feel strongly towards helping people with similar stories and pursuing their career goals.    Founders Malaysia: How did it help shape your ambition and goals? Izzat Mohtarudin: There are visible flaws within our education system. Speaking from experience, an issue within the education system is that there is a lack of flexibility in terms of where a student can proceed to pursue their future career prospects. Students are funnelled into either the arts or science streams after the third form, limiting students to a narrow range of career options. The unavailability of formal career advisory services in high schools further complicates the issue, as students are uninformed of careers available to them beyond the fields of the arts or science. Personally, FutureLab provided me with insight into a wide range of alternative careers available for me to pursue.    Founders Malaysia: You are known to be active in volunteering back in the days, what are some of the tips to juggle between studies, social and personal growth? Izzat Mohtarudin: The idea here is to prioritise your commitments, and to stick to things you are good at and enjoy. In terms of studies, practicing a regular schedule is a great start. It is also important to focus on both short and long-term goals, as well as gaining skills relevant to your professional ambition. Another practice to consider is self-reflection. At the end of the day, personal growth is subjective and is only measurable according to the metrics of one’s own beliefs.    Founders Malaysia: Now that we’re dealing with a worldwide pandemic, what’s your advice to the students especially, to prepare themselves for the future based on the current situation. What should they be doing now on top of studying? Izzat Mohtarudin: The priority here should be on their studies and examinations. As most examinations have now been geared towards coursework-based assessments due to the outbreak, another practice to consider would be planning ahead of time. From there, students should research companies they are interested in, as well as stay up to date with news relevant to their industry. There are powerful networking tools such as LinkedIn and its features such as LinkedIn Learning, to be utilised for maximum learning effect.    Founders Malaysia: What are the three things you look for in a mentee? Izzat Mohtarudin: I’m open to speaking to just about anyone. To quote another FutureLab mentor and former CEO and co-founder of iflix Malaysia, Azran Osman-Rani when he was on the subject of mentoring  said that “mentoring is really driven by the mentee.” I am particularly interested in building a mentor-mentee relationship with the type of mentee that displays traits such as being proactive, curious and open to criticism.    Summary We hope that the session provided you with the necessary takeaways and key insight into the current issue. Click here to watch the video. FutureLab Live is an online session where we mutually engage our mentors and the audience to discuss and share contemporary trends, tips and other opportunities. To book Izzat as a mentor, or learn more about us: Click here to book Izzat Click here to learn more about us

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How to choose a mentor

by FutureLab | 06 Aug 2019

Many have compared the process of choosing a mentor with other kinds of relationships. Two of our favourites are these: Choosing a mentor is like choosing a spouse, but for only a short while Choosing a mentor is like hiring an employee, in reverse. Both of these analogies work well for us. Choosing a mentor is like a marriage of sorts because the mentors can make or break your career. The process of choosing a mentor is quite similar to hiring a new employee for a company. It is a funnel-like process. When you are faced with a pool of mentors with different qualities and different fields, as you would find at FutureLab, you need to be able to narrow down the pool to the few who would impact your career positively.      First, you will need to focus on the skillsets of mentors, in order to find those who have expertise in the specific skills that you are looking to hone. Among these mentors, there will be those who started in that field and are still thriving in it. There will also be those who were previously in a different field and have now transitioned. Decide which of these groups match your experience, or is more likely to have what you are looking for. Also, if you are searching for certain specifics, such as years of experience, level in the hierarchy, this point will be a good place to make that distinction.     By now, you should have a list of mentors who have the necessary skills and experience to help you succeed. Now, you can focus on personality, IQ, EQ, listening skills and values to choose your mentor. You definitely want to choose someone with a high IQ and EQ. If you are an introverted person, you may want to choose an introverted mentor to match you, or an extroverted one to emulate. Also, you need to ensure that your core values match those of the mentor that you will eventually choose. Most importantly, the person you choose should be a person of integrity. This is non-negotiable.   While choosing a mentor, understand that mentors are not life partners, they will not be with you forever. A mentor is there to walk you through that particular phase, and once you have moved on to the next level, you might need a new one.   Now that you know how to make your choice, head on over to FutureLab where we have experienced mentors from different industries waiting to connect with you.  

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