Public-private partnership to Cradle entrepreneurs

By

renuka sena

There is no shortage of great tech ideas in Malaysia, but there aren’t as many success stories. Getting onto the first step on the ladder can seem formidable.

But the Coach & Grow programme hopes to make the process a little easier by getting entrepreneurs to inject a lot more strategic thinking into their business planning.

This unique programme places budding or even seasoned entrepreneurs under the wings of a business coach for a full year to guide them over the hurdles that can seem insurmountable.

The programme is under the auspices of Cradle Fund, an agency under the Finance Ministry, which supports new technology ventures. Fully funded by Cradle, it is run by a boutique training firm Proficeo as a public-private partnership.

It’s opened to all technology companies but only 120 to 130 companies are picked annually, said Renuka Sena, CEO of Proficeo.

In the two years since its inception, about three-quarters of the intake are in the IT sector while the rest are in other tech fields such as green tech or biotech.

All in, Proficeo had worked with 260 companies which saw their total revenues doubled to RM500 million in that time. More than two-thirds of these companies surpassed the target of a 20% revenue increase. Only under 3% failed to meet the target for various reasons, she said.

For instance, she said, a fairly successful software company which joined the programme last year increased its revenues by 180% after it revamped its business model with the help of a coach (pic).

Coach and Grow - Carolyn Hong

The success of the programme, she said, lies in its focused structure which zooms in on the company’s specific issues, and a set of clear goals determined at the outset.

Participants must attend group learning sessions, as well as one-on-one meetings with a coach at least once a month to work towards their goals.

The coaching sessions are highly focused as participants are given questions ahead of time, to prompt them to think through their business and growth strategies.

The coaches are also entrepreneurs running their own successful companies.

But Renuka stressed that the coach does not provide the answers. The coaching is intended to steer participants in the right direction by asking the right questions.

“Often, we find that entrepreneurs do not know what they don’t know, and can’t see the wood for the trees because they are so caught up with fighting fires all the time,” she said.

“This programme lets them step back to discover what they don’t know and how to find the answers. Once a month, they can take the time to work on their business instead of just working in their business.”

Most of the participants are at the start-up stage because this is where Malaysia is at this point in time. The others have been in business for a few years and are scaling for growth, whether domestically or globally.

After working with hundreds of entrepreneurs, Renuka said a typical problem faced by start-ups is their failure to get adequate feedback on their products before going to the market. They assume too much.

This makes it hard for them to break into the market especially in Malaysia where businesses tend shy away from being early adopters.

For more established businesses, they are often unable to scale because of a lack of deep insight into their customer base. They don’t know why their customers chose them over their competitors and are unable to leverage on their advantages.

Renuka said the coaching helps the companies get past these hurdles by forcing them to take a deep look at their businesses and strategies.

With this help, it is hoped that more of Malaysia’s many promising start-ups will actually make the transition to become thriving businesses.

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