Not many realise that universities have captive audience to test a service or product on, or that entrepreneurs will know right away if their ideas would actually work — based on the feedback or response given. And if the ideas need to be tweaked, student entrepreneurs could always refer to lecturers on campus or at their respective faculties to make improvements.
However, there may not be many role models to further spur the entrepreneur on at universities: people from the industry who could expose them to how things are in the real world; people who could demonstrate how one can rise from failure and then get up and move faster in the pursuit of success — not only at the local level but also regional or global.
This is what Global Entrepreneurship Movement (GEM) aims to provide, said its executive director Low Ngai Yuen.
The NGO, she said, focuses on connecting, networking and fostering collaborations to internationalise Malaysia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem where a major portion of its work revolve on growing student entrepreneurs at universities and help them be part of a global network of entrepreneurs.
“Job employment now is shrinking. Instead of being job seekers, students now go to university and come out as solution providers. And the best way to do this is through becoming an entrepreneur or having an entrepreneur mind-set,” she said.
Founded by the Ministry of Finance Treasury of Malaysia secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar, GEM was set up with the high-minded pursuit of democratising entrepreneurship in Malaysia as well as globally, providing a platform, collective of the ecosystem which include entrepreneurs of different industries from social entrepreneurship, technology, halal to creative sectors to converge.
Steered by a dedicated team of industry leaders, GEM aims to achieve its mission by strategically aligning with all current entrepreneurial initiatives and agencies by bringing them together to help airlift the Malaysian entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“GEM is also working with agencies like the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) to advance the knowledge of venture building to as many aspiring entrepreneurs as possible. Creating zero or near zero barriers to entrepreneurship and making the knowledge easily available to anyone is GEM’s first step towards democratising entrepreneurship,” said Low.
“We understand to feed the continuous growth of entrepreneurship, it needs to come from where entrepreneurs begin to build and seed their mind about what they want to be doing. One of the best places to do it is clearly at the grassroot — at the university level,” she said.
One such example of GEM working with MOHE is a programme called MAKISA (Majlis Keusahawanan Institusi Sabah) which kicked off in March this year.
“In Sabah, we work with an alliance of universities — both public and private with 25 entities coming together. We will see what can be taken to different states. The private and public universities form an ecosystem that would encourage entrepreneurship in their respective universities. They use each other’s strength and do a lot more sharing — not just at the lecturers or administrative level but also at the technology transfer office with the students.
“This is to make them more attuned to the changes that are happening around the world. They are more sehati sejiwa in building programmes that more students would enjoy,” she said.
“We also spoke about how we can build a more inclusive university so that students can become entrepreneurs. For example, should the intellectual property policy be updated? Students and lecturers are now using the university’s facilities but most of the patent or IP still belong to the university. So, it’s not exciting for students to do anything — they don’t get recognition and thus, do not feel the fire to do it.
“A slight update — rewrite the policy so that trigger points will kick in to say if the product service get commercialised, you get a certain percentage. It will allow both parties to benefit.
These are things that need to be thought through. Are universities really ready for encouraging entrepreneurship? Is there a policy in place disallowing students to have businesses? We need to relook at all that and undo,” said Low.
GEM also has an initiative called TENxCLUB which was designed to recognise ten high-performing Malaysian startups that hit at least RM1 million in revenue at the end of their first year since inception of no earlier than December 2015.
“With a goal to create a platform that will enable scale-able startups to tremendous resources and support network to become viable and to grow quickly, TENxCLUB is a by-qualification and by invitation only exclusive club that offers valuable network and entrepreneurial support on an international scale,” she said.
As a pipeline to create startups that are innovative, nine Ideation workshops that benefited 780 participants consisting of students and lecturers from local public universities as well as a half day Ideation challenge with 250 participants from local IPTA students were organised from May to create awareness to undergraduates on innovation and entrepreneurship as part of the TENxCLUB feeder program.
“The truth of the matter is that you don’t have to think about business after you graduate. Do it while you’re studying,” said Low.
“You must grab the opportunity during university to try something out and fail. There is a huge need to have products that were researched in university and commercialised,” she said.
And with GEM having presence in Asean countries, India and China, student entrepreneurs from Malaysia can learn more with different entrepreneurs across the region. “And it would be humbling to know where they stand in finding different solutions for different problems,” she added.