Timothy Tiah: How I Redefined Purpose And Happiness After An Exit

Leadership

November 13, 2017 | BY Timothy Tiah

Timothy Tiah, entrepreneur and founder of Colony, ponders on how he rediscovered success and personal fulfillment through a journey of self-discovery.

Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

"I’m passionate about the blogging community and how we can help full-time bloggers create better content.” That was the answer you would’ve gotten if you asked me why I started Nuffnang 10 years ago. I never thought about the money or the success, what drove me was a pure mission. 

In the following years, I was fortunate to have some success in the company we started, finally registering it as an IPO in 2015. Building Nuffnang to where it is, even before the IPO, brought a modest level of financial freedom; my wife and I went for holidays around the world. We travelled business class, stayed in five-star hotels and bought expensive goods, like bags and watches. Sure, we didn’t outwardly flaunt it on social media, but we wouldn’t be honest with ourselves if we said that peer pressure didn’t play a role. 

This in turn affected my work life. I no longer had the passion for what I did. If you asked me why I still stayed in Nuffnang, or what is now known also as Netccentric, I stopped answering in the way which I did when I first started the company. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it revealed that I was no longer passionate about what I was doing.

I found purpose in my family life, as a father, a husband and a son, but the same cannot be said for my career and personal life. So I decided to make the difficult decision of leaving the company I founded. I wanted to start something new that I was passionate about, something I could fully control and make my own. What I had to do was find my purpose once again, something that motivated me like when I first started.

Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

The idea hit me towards the end of 2016. It dawned on me that while our lifestyles have changed for the better in the past 10 years, work as we know it is still the same. Yes, technology has made us more productive at work, but the typical corporate work environment today is no different from the one 10 years ago. We still go to work in the same cubicle-like offices, have tight lunch hours and limited food options.

The lack of innovation in our work experience is affecting us too. Walk into a HR conference and you’ll often see a panel discussion on how to attract and retain millennials. How staff turnover is increasing across the board because our ‘strawberry generation’ of millennials are spoilt by a lifestyle of instant gratification.

"Sure, we didn’t outwardly flaunt our success on social media, but we wouldn’t be honest with ourselves if we said that peer pressure didn’t play a role. This in turn affected my work life. I no longer had the passion for what I did."

It hit me then that attracting and retaining good talent is not the real problem. It’s that companies fail to create opportunities that attract and make staff want to stay. I went through study after study that touted how the work environment plays a role in an employee’s job satisfaction and productivity—it is after all, where we spend most of our day. So why aren’t we all having great offices?

That’s when I realised that there is an opportunity to create a shared workspace with all these facilities and rent them out to corporate companies. I worked together with my wife Audrey to turn this idea into reality. Six months later, Colony was born. Our mission is simple: we want to challenge the typical work environment.

This story marks the end of the first part of my life, and the beginning of the second. More importantly it’s the story of how I found my mission in life again. Go on and visit www.colony.work to discover my new purpose.

For over a decade, Timothy Tiah is known as the co-founder of Netccentric and a pioneer of Malaysia’s digital media business and was once nominated for the Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur award. Together with his wife Audrey, he is focused on their co-working space business Colony to change the way people work. Please email us your thoughts about his story at priyanka.mohan@edipressemedia.com or check out his journey with Colony on Instagram at @timothytiah