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Attitudes towards failure changing

EARLIER this week I was interviewed by four MBA students from MIT’s Sloan School of Management on the tech ecosystem in Malaysia.

The students were part of the Global Entrepreneurship Lab (G-Lab), a cool programme where student teams have delivered insights and analyses to more than 250 startups and growing companies in emerging markets around the world.

The teams typically work on business problems with their host companies in areas such as strategic growth, new market entry, human resources and organisational development, financial modelling, and marketing.
In a nutshell, I told them that all the signs I see are positive and that the ecosystem – from a funding, policy and infrastructure point – is heading north, although the pace is not to my liking. I wish it were quicker but you can’t expect a vibrant angel community to sprout just because we have the best angel tax incentive in the world.

Only the success and excitement of the early angel investors can quicken that pace as they share their stories with their friends and family. No amount of publicity or media campaigns will come close to creating the excitement that comes from someone making money and feeling great about being able to play a role in advising a fledging tech startup to success.

Interestingly, the MIT students wanted to know about the attitude towards failure. I answered spontaneously that, at least within the tech ecosystem, I felt this was becoming more acceptable. For instance I know that Cradle does not hold your past failures against you and has even recently funded an entrepreneur who has failed in the past.

I know I was not afraid of failure when I embarked on my DNA journey with cofounders A. Asohan and Edwin Yapp. I told them there would be no shame if we failed because we could not work out a business model.

“But let’s make sure we work hard to create a great product at least!” I urged.

An even greater shift in attitudes towards failure is the greater respect that society accords to those brave or foolish enough to walk the path of the entrepreneur. This is only anecdotal, but I have felt a real change in how people view entrepreneurs and the rocky journey that all of us have to go through.

There is greater awareness that it is tough, deeper appreciation of the sacrifices entrepreneurs have to make, and more respect for their courage in walking the path few dare tread.

This is in fact what I shared with a senior executive who had just left a cushy job. While he was looking around for another corporate gig to land, he asked me if he should become an entrepreneur.

My standard answer to this is, “If you spot a market opportunity that you think you can fill, attract at least one or two other good people to join you and are willing to make sacrifices to your lifestyle, then go for it.”

I told him that he would become even more valuable in the corporate world if he tried something on his own but failed. He is still weighing my advice!

On that note, let me wish all our Chinese readers a Gong Xi Fa Chai and a Galloping Year of The Horse. May you ride your entrepreneurship journey to success.

I would love to hear from you at  admin@digitalnewsasia.com.
Best regards,

Karamjit Singh

-Digital News Asia

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