How Endeavor Malaysia Is Helping High-Impact Local Entrepreneurs To Scale Up Their Businesses
A global platform established in America to nurture high-impact entrepreneurs from developing countries, Endeavor opened its first Kuala Lumpur office in 2013 with the intention of creating a self-sustaining ecosystem of entrepreneurial talent in the country.
To do so, they started off by assembling a line-up of advisors and mentors to drive the initiative. As of 2019, Endeavor Malaysia’s list of mentors include entrepreneurs such as Azran Osman-Rani and Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, alongside top corporate figures such as Raja Teh Maimunah and Datuk Zainal Amanshah, former CEO of InvestKL.
The process of confirming an Endeavor Entrepreneur takes months—even years, for some. Candidates are first reviewed via one-on-one sessions with paired mentors, before they are assigned to a Local Selection Panel, consisting of four to six panellists who will convene and decide if you are ready for growth. Finally, they are then called upon to meet with an international selection panel abroad, alongside candidates from other parts of the world.
Regardless of whether a candidate is successfully selected or not, Arthur Chan, managing director of Endeavor Malaysia, has seen many candidates benefit throughout the entire process. “At every session, our candidates will have a ‘wow’ moment; there’s always something new to learn when they see the different ways successful people tackle certain issues and challenges,” shared Chan.
Let's get to know the 4 Malaysians who are Endeavor Entrepreneurs.
See Wai Hun, Juris Technologies
Together with John Lim and Naaman Lee, See is part of the trinity behind fintech company, Juris Technologies. Founded in 1997 during the financial crisis, Juris caught a big break when it secured a project with a local bank to develop an effective debt collection IT infrastructure system. Since then, Juris Technologies has been on a mission to create the best credit management software in the world.
Their work attracted the attention of Endeavor Malaysia, who came knocking in 2013, to initiate its first-round of assessments. “During a mentor review session, Time’s commander-in-chief Afzal Abdul Rahim, who is also a director on Endeavor Malaysia’s board, asked where we've been hiding all these years. He was surprised that there’s a company like ours, scaling by ourselves without investors,” she said.
We had the perception that larger banks like CIMB and Maybank were out of reach because they were looking abroad for bigger talent, and not ‘small-fry’ players like us. But the Endeavor mentors kept challenging our beliefs.
— See Wai Hun
As the trio progressed through Endeavor Malaysia’s programme, See learnt a lot of valuable lessons.
“At the time, we had the perception that larger banks like CIMB and Maybank were out of reach because they were looking abroad for bigger talent, and not ‘small-fry’ players like us. But the Endeavor mentors kept challenging our beliefs. Why do we think they won’t want your services? What can we do to change their minds? I underwent my first paradigm shift under their guidance and decided to try pitching to the larger local banks. Today, we are proud to share that we have six out of eight local bank clients.”
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Loi Tuan Ee, Holstein Milk Company
A conversation with Loi Tuan Ee can get very technical at first because his passion for the farming sector runs deep. “Our speciality at Holstein Milk Company is fresh milk and we want our consumers to enjoy it,” said this businessman behind the Farm Fresh milk.
The nitty gritty of building a sustainable farming ecosystem takes up most of Loi’s time. On weekdays, he travels to all of the Farm Fresh farms in the country to check up on their operations and on weekends, he will hit the supermarkets to chat with customers for their feedback.
Today, Holstein’s Farm Fresh milk is highly in demand in the ‘horeca’ (which stands for hotel, restaurants and cafes) market. They have since diversified into direct selling as well with the limited edition kurma milk, proving that Endeavor’s support has helped them to think outside the box for revenue opportunities.
“Growing pains is a process that we had to adapt to. When we started, we were processing 10 tonnes of milk a day; now we are targeting 100 tonnes! That’s 10 times more output, which is quite overwhelming for our farm team! But Endeavor played a huge role in guiding me through the process of setting up the right infrastructure,” says Loi.
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Mark Koay, Photobook Worldwide
Mark Koay is an IT specialist who discovered a business opportunity in the late ’90s and capitalised on the rise of digitisation. He started Photobook in 2005—a platform that enables professional and amateur photographers to create physical photo books.
Today, Photobook Worldwide serves customers in more than 100 countries with four offices located in Australia, Canada, Malaysia and Philippines. Koay has also recruited a capable CEO in Leow Wee Jonn, the former managing director of Zalora, as co-captain of the business.
When he and Leow were both invited to be screened through as an Endeavor Entrepreneur, he said yes because he knew he needed to scale his company.
“Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. You don’t necessarily have the time and head space to analyse what’s wrong with the business without help, and Endeavor helped with this aspect,” he said.
Through Endeavor, we met with companies whose founders and executives advised us on market strategies and logistics. These conversations shortened our learning curve and we avoided making costly mistakes.
— Mark Koay
Photobook gained a lot through Endeavor’s vast network. “They secured us a meeting with Prashant Kumar of Entropia, a seasoned marketing expert who provided solutions to some of our marketing challenges and addressed our growth strategy in Malaysia. They also connected us with the CTO of Marcado Libre, a large South American e-commerce setup, who aided us in areas of tech and product management,” he said.
Currently, Koay and Leow are outlining strategic expansion plans in Indonesia. “Through Endeavor, we met with Indonesian companies whose founders and executives advised us on market strategies and logistics. These conversations were beneficial and shortened our learning curve. We also avoided making costly mistakes,” revealed Mark.
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Aaron Patel, iHandal Solutions
Engineer, inventor and businessman, not to mention and two-time Generation T honouree, Aaron Patel took over his father’s solar trading business after the latter fell ill. The company later spun off into iHandal in 2009 to provide him an outlet to pursue his passion—providing turnkey solutions based on energy efficiency instead of profit margins.
Today, iHandal specialises in improving the energy efficiency of commercial and industrial buildings, with a mission to save two million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually over the next decade.
Patel discovered Endeavor Malaysia in 2016 through a mutual friend. In 2017, Aaron was inducted into Endeavor Malaysia’s network of entrepreneurs.
“In the beginning, I admit I had a very conservative outlook on the company’s growth. The Endeavor mentors challenged every assumption I had about myself and the business. They would ask, ‘Why are you thinking so small? If we remove the stumbling blocks you are facing, what happens?’ They made me realise that I was complacent, and I needed to look beyond what I know,” he shared.
Inspired by his mentors’ encouragement, Aaron introduced a new business model at iHandal to increase growth for his company and improve customer retention.
“We used to sell our technology as a product. Now we package our systems as a long-term leasing service. This ensures long-term business for us, and less headaches for our clients because we are now also committed to the after sales services. It’s a win-win,” said one of the youngest Endeavor Entrepreneurs.
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- Photography Khairul Imran
- Art Direction Liew Chiaw Ching