Malaysian Today Article

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Tyson Beckford stands at approximately 6’ 2”. He has the perfect appeal a male supermodel has, and is arguably the most well-known name in the industry. With his career at its peak, he reaps hundreds of thousands of dollars per annum, gets exclusive invites to the most elite events and has thousands of girls drool at the sight of his body. I guess it would be rather swell to be Tyson – while it lasts.

Mark Zuckerberg has the perfect persona to fit the role of Harry Potter. That is, if Daniel Radcliffe had decided to bail out on the production of the movie (whom, by the way, isn’t doing too bad considering how he’s one of the richest young people in UK). Zuckerberg is the founder of Facebook, one of the most recognizable websites in the world, with a standing of over 70 million active users worldwide. At the mere age of 24, Forbes has named him “the world’s youngest self-made billionaire”. Now, how’s that for long lasting fun?

On a modest note, I founded and a couple of other decent ventures both online and on ground – reaching out to at more than half a million young Malaysians.

There were many instances where I was asked on how I started being an entrepreneur. Contrary to popular belief, I did not learn business from books. My entrepreneurial journey started when I was merely a college student (just like many of you) during my summer break – a startup which, surprisingly, made RM1 Million in revenue during its first year of operations.

Now if you were to ask me if I have been an entrepreneur for very long, I haven’t. During my earlier years, I found myself striding runways of fashion shows for global fashion brands such as Guess, Esprit, Adidas, Nike, Quicksilver and Levi's – an experience earned entirely by complete luck. Which wasn’t too bad – I'd like to believe that the confidence I have today is credited mainly to that.

While my parents have yet to come to terms with my career choice – still insisting that I’m an engineer by profession due to the nature of my degree – I see myself as a young individual with an entrepreneurial passion. I took up Mechanical Engineering by choice as I loved every bit of what I've studied. I’m sure most of us face similar expectations from our parents that there are only four viable professional occupations in the world – doctor, lawyer, engineer and accountant.

Now if you’re an entrepreneur, your key personality characteristic is the desire to strive for something better all the time. Coupled with my interest in Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" series, I signed up for Malaysia’s first corporate reality TV show, The Firm early last year. As the youngest contestant at age 23, I remembered the amount of hard work sown – which proved to be fruitful as it brought me the winning prize (along with a substantial amount of grey hair, of course.)

Since then, I receive emails from young people all over Malaysia – aspiring to be an entrepreneur. However, many do not understand what an entrepreneur actually is. I searched the term on Wikipedia (an Internet tool which you should not use as references for your assignments, mind you), and found that – an entrepreneur is someone who attempts to organize resources in new and more valuable ways and accepts full responsibility for the outcome.

The keywords to take note of are attempts, valuable and responsibility.

Now if you really think about it, to attempt is to try – again, and again until one gets it right. Not every entrepreneur is successful at first try – in fact, nine out of ten business startups fail within two years. Even Steve Jobs had his fair share of attempts at hand before finally reaping Apple’s gigantic success today. Valuable, on the other hand, is associated with the importance of creating value out of your idea to benefit others and responsibility would refer to entrepreneur being accountable for all the decisions made in the business, whether good or poor. Rather than viewing ‘entrepreneurship’ as a simple job term – it is more accurate to relate ‘entrepreneurship’ to individual capabilities in implementing valuable ideas for the society.

Last month, I received a business proposal to create diapers for grown men locally. Responding to him on my reflex thought process, I replied:
“Thank you for sharing with me your idea. Unless men in Malaysia are virally infected with a mysterious disorder of the bladder – I personally don’t think the idea will be very successful. I wish you all the best!”

So, what makes an idea successful?

A good idea must have innovative and intrinsic value to benefit the world in some way. I’ve always believed in sharing and brainstorming my ideas with friends from various industries as this will help shape and mould a fairly good idea into a great one.

Recently, a friend of mine was interviewing the founder of a Sri Lankan company which prints paper from elephant dung. The birth of the idea emerged from the local scenario where the villagers were attacking the elephants simply because they interfered with their agriculture lands – stealing food and stomping all over their farms, leaving them in ruins. As the villagers cleared more land for their use in the rural areas, the wild elephants reacted with increasing violence in return - by attacking the villagers.

Identifying the opportunity to bring both parties on peaceful terms, Thusita Ranasinghe ingeniously introduced a technique to enable the print of recycled products from elephant dung. Currently, the business model of the venture depends on the villagers’ act of protecting and providing food for these wild elephants just to gain their dung.

Now that’s the embodiment of a first class idea.

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve never once looked back and regret moving away from the modeling scene. Sure, Tyson Beckford may have his looks, glamorous red carpet invites and plethora of girls ogling him from all over the globe – but I chose the path that Zuckerberg has stepped upon, because if one is passionate about an idea, the end result of the painful and gruesome implementation process is truly a satisfying one.

For some ladies, well – you may relate that process to childbirth.


  1. Very insightful Joel. Love your most recent post. Very inspiring, especially coming from an engineer who discovered the confidence and passion of entrepreneurship!

    You have really set a new benchmark for Malaysian Youth Entrepreneurs to achieve!

  2. Good article. You are a model youth for others to look upon. I wish you keep up your good works and grow from strength to strength.

    While we strive for and achieve success, let us also not forget the virtue of humility. God (or whatever we call Him) can rise us up but He also can bring us down, if we let ourselves being blinded by our success.

    Well, at least I'm one such person who experienced this before :-)