Innovation and disruption have been the buzzwords for start-ups in recent years. For Dr. Sivapalan Vivekarajah, it is imperative that those virtues do not blanket the creative imagination of business modelling. Dr. Vivekarajah will be gracing the inaugural IdeaLab event in Kuala Lumpur on August 11-12, organised by the World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation.
Not so long ago, the start-up space was whitewashed with talk about harnessing the power of social media. Not just the influence of Facebooks and Twitters of this world, the birth of numerous mobile apps coincided with the explosion of broadband penetration globally.
Innovation became the buzzword within the start-up circles. For Dr. Sivapalan Vivekarajah, there is no reason to get confused between invention and novelty. Coming from a diverse 30-year background of regional entrepreneurship, the man who holds a Ph.D. in Venture Capital from University of Edinburgh, Scotland; MBA (Distinction), University of Hull, UK & LLB (Hons), University of London, definitely knows a thing or two.
And as author of the book ‘Blue Sky Innovation: Killer Innovations That Changed The World of Business’, Dr. Vivekarajah is a firm believer that many start-up entrepreneurs get too consumed by product and technology, and forget that it is just as important to be imaginative in business models, as well as operational, resource, customer, market and disruptive innovations.
“The objective of this book is to drive home a single important point: In the new world of business and competition everyone has to focus on more than just product and technology innovation,” Dr. Vivekarajah, who is also the Founder & Past President of TeAM, the Technopreneurs Association of Malaysia, and currently Director of the TeAM Policy Institute, explained to Aquila Style.
“As an entrepreneur, innovator, manager, government administrator, Chief Executive Officer or Chief Whatever Officer; if you continue to do what 90% of companies are doing today, your chances of success are slim and even if you have a leading position it will not last forever if you do not start thinking about and implementing Blue Sky Innovation.
“R&D and product and technology innovation are important but that alone is not sufficient to create long-term success. To be truly successful you also need to innovate other aspects of the business but you can only do this if you know what other forms of innovation exist.
“Blue Sky Innovations include innovations in different areas such as business model, operational, resource, customer, market and disruptive innovations, areas of innovation not normally considered for innovation by most companies or Entrepreneurs.
“From Apple’s iPhone to IKEA to Salesforce, the best companies have mastered the art of Blue Sky business innovations and are the leaders in their field. You too can innovate like these companies and this book shows you how.”
The herding mentality
Dr. Vivekarajah also warned against the herding mentality, something that he had noticed not just with entrepreneurs, but also Venture Capitalists as well. Trends and fads rule the start-up terrain, and it is important not to jump into a project, be it E-Commerce or Concierge services, just because it is in vogue.
Dr. Vivekarajah continued, “Very often, people move in herds. Not just the start-ups but I have noticed that with VCs as well.
“E-Commerce is a huge thing and everyone wanted to be part of it. Concierge service is now the new fad and more recently, accelerator programs to help start-ups. Things move in phases and large numbers. Because serving B2C (Business to Consumer) is a lot more public and able to reach out to a bigger mass, that B2C energy will always be strong.
“B2B (Business to Business) gets largely ignored for various reasons. On one hand, many do not understand the enterprise business and in reality, B2B projects are a lot harder to finance.”
From government influence to private equity
Dr. Vivekarajah’s main interest is in mentoring start up companies, venture capital finance, Angel investing and Entrepreneurship. He is currently a Partner and Co-Founder of Proficeo Consultants Sdn Bhd, an Entrepreneurial Coaching and Talent Development company entrusted with coaching 300 Entrepreneurs under a Malaysian Ministry of Finance and Cradle Fund program called Coach & Grow.
Dr. Vivekarajah is also a Co-Founder of AllStars Accelerator, a technology incubator that mentors Startup companies in the Information & Communications technology sector and is a mentor and Angel Investor in several Internet & ICT companies.
From close quarters, he has seen how the Malaysian government has implemented programs over the years, as well as invested cold hard cash since the late 1990s, into elevating the profile of the Malaysian start-up community.
“The Malaysian government has been providing a lot of funds over the years, and in reality, seed and angel investors are still quite new in this part of the world. The seed and angel firms are definitely appearing and growing though.
“Since the late 1990s, the Malaysian government has been playing a significant role in elevating the profile of start-ups here. In recent years however, the government role has reduced and taken over by private equity funds. The private equity funds carry less risks and running concurrently, we have also seen a huge shrinkage of bank basked investment. Risk adverseness is a big considering factor within the corporate sector.
“In recent years, a lot of VCs from countries such as Singapore are looking into Malaysia and looking for opportunities. We are expecting more foreign-based companies to increase over the next two or three years.”
WIEF IdeaLab a serious player in Southeast Asia start-up scene
Dr. Vivekarajah is looking forward to the World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation (WIEF) IdeaLab event when it kicks off at the Park Royal Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on August 11 and 12.
“WIEF has a strong network of investors from Middle East who actually have funds and can invest in this region. Networking is an important feature in business and most of the time, entrepreneurs and VCs alike do not have the right linkages to Southeast Asia.
“WIEF can help bring those linkages together and create a deal flow for them to invest here.
“Mentorship crucially, is even more important. Some young people can’t pitch properly to investors and customers. They are often, not very polished to be able to articulate their message across. It is important to understand the needs of their target audience and sometimes, they don’t understand that concept. IdeaLab will be able to improve those performances through workshops and talks.”
WIEF IdeaLab 2015 on 11-12 August 2015 @ Parkroyal Hotel KL, is a start-up empowerment conference bringing together some of the most highly fundable ASEAN start-ups for investment opportunities with global investors. IdeaLab invites ASEAN start-ups looking for investments within the range of USD15,000 to USD1 million, from the ASEAN region. Industries in focus are consumer goods, clean tech, Halal tech, software/mobile apps, oil and gas, education and fintech. IdeaLab consists of a variety of features such as the Ideation Stage by regional business experts, Networking Pods, the IdeaClinic, the City Mapping Project, the Startup Fair, and IdeaPad stage where 12 selected startups get to battle it out live on stage to a panel of investors and industry players.
- Startups with sustainable business ideas with some degree of funding and product commercialization
- Global investors looking for promising startups in the ASEAN region
- Young graduates looking for partnerships and jobs in startup companies
- Invest or partner with commercially viable businesses in the ASEAN region
- Explore investment prospects with global investors
- Learn from regional business experts
- Experience real-live business pitching on stage
- Experience KL’s start-up scene