In April this year, the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and Technology Park Malaysia (TPM) was consolidated into a technology commercialisation agency.
This initiative was appointed by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) which has also selected former MaGIC CEO, Dzuleira Abu Bakar to head this department.
Officially launched in April 2014 by former Prime Minister Najib Razak and former US President Barack Obama, MaGIC has played a significant role in growing the startup ecosystem in Malaysia.
Until today, MaGIC is often credited as a great support system for budding startups in and out of Malaysia. Thus, we decided to take a look back at who its leaders have been, what they’ve done as MaGIC CEO, and what they’re up to now.
Cheryl Yeoh Sew Hoy (April 2014 – January 2016)
Founding CEO, Cheryl Yeoh Sew Hoy, was head-hunted to lead the USD$30 million (according to her LinkedIn) government-funded innovation programme.
Cheryl herself is a Malaysian entrepreneur who launched a startup, Reclip.It in New York. The platform matched users’ shopping lists with digital coupons and eventually made it in Silicon Valley, leading to an acquisition by Walmart Labs, the investment arm of the US retail giant.
As CEO of MaGIC, Cheryl played a role in creating all the agency’s programmes from scratch, building a team of 75 full-time employees and 25 interns within 2 years. Cheryl’s leadership also birthed MaGIC’s Global Accelerator Programme (GAP), which has continued on till today and is now raising its 5th cohort.
She also spearheaded Distro Dojo with 500Startups, a growth-stage accelerator that funds startups with USD$100-250K.
Educational and networking programmes were also created by Cheryl to build the angel and VC community in Malaysia. This was able to help the local startup ecosystem bring in funds and investors from China, Japan, Singapore, and Australia.
Cheryl stepped down in January 2016 after her contract period with MaGIC ended. However, it was also rumoured that her leaving the agency came after months of mounting pressure on MaGIC to reach out to entrepreneurs of all types, not just tech-based ones, reported Digital News Asia.
In spite of that, the same source also highlighted that Cheryl accomplished what she’d set out to do: put Malaysian startups on the world map.
Since then, she hasn’t slowed down in impacting communities and growing entrepreneurs around her.
Returning to the US, she became the Chief Marketing Officer at San Francisco-based coding bootcamp, Hack Reactor between June 2016 to March 2017. The company was later acquired by Galvanize, a software engineering education platform, partially financed by its US$32 million Series C funding round in 2018.
Simultaneously, Cheryl served as an Independent, Non-Executive Director from 2016 to 2018 on Flexiroam Limited, an Australian-based telecommunications company.
In 2017, Cheryl spoke out about her sexual assault by 500 Startups founding partner, Dave McClure. Her courage for speaking out was recognised and she was listed #13 in TIME’S “2017 Person of the Year,” as one of the 61 women featured in the magazine’s “Silence Breakers”. The list highlighted women who’ve spoken out against sexual harassment in the workplace.
Following the release of her account, Cheryl established the #MovingFoward public directory in March 2018. #MovingForward is an open-source directory with an aim to help founders know their rights and have a clear way to report harassment and discrimination.
By October 2020, it had grown to 175 firms in 24 countries participating in this movement.
What she’s doing today
Cheryl is currently an entrepreneur-in-residence at Silicon Valley Bank and the co-founder of healthtech startup, TinyHealth. It offers microbiome tests that provide insights into a pregnant mother and her baby’s gut health during conception to prevent chronic health risks later on.
She’s also an advisor to various startups including blockchain infrastructure company Tendermint, the team that built Cosmos Network and Kenzie Academy.
Ashran Dato’ Ghazi (May 2016 – November 2018)
Ashran Dato’ Ghazi was selected as MaGIC’s new CEO in May 2016 to succeed Cheryl Yeoh.
He’d also been an entrepreneur prior to this position and co-founded JOOT Ventures in 2011. The startup’s social networking site Joota managed to garner private investments of US$2.1 million, with patent and distribution partners in the US.
In addition, he has served as an advisory board member to the Malaysian SME Development Academy as well as a board member for SME Corp.
During his tenure as MaGIC’s CEO, Ashran helped expand MaGIC outside of the Klang Valley to also involve Sarawak. The agency built a co-working facility in Kuching and called it Borneo 744. Its main objective was to grow entrepreneurship within the immediate community and serve Kuching’s startup scene.
Ashran also helped bring GAP to the global stage with the inclusion of more foreign startups.
To combat the under-representation of females in Malaysia’s startup ecosystem, he also launched an initiative titled the Pre-Accelerator Bootcamp: Female Founders Edition.
In July 2017, he launched MaGIC’s Impact Driven Enterprise Accreditation (IDEA) initiative. IDEA was created to recognise and promote enterprises that created a positive impact within their respective communities.
Post-MaGIC career & what he’s doing today
Since stepping down as MaGIC’s CEO in November 2018, Ashran has moved on to focus on the consumer intelligence firm, Dattel Asia Group (Dattel), as its CEO from January 2019 till the present.
Dattel is a consumer intelligence and data analytics company, with a mission to democratise data and make good quality data and analytics accessible to the masses. Since this move, it appears that Ashran has still remained committed to nurturing talents and helping the local startup scene.
To help organisations capture and analyse data in a better way, Dattel launched a global consumer intelligence challenge called IDEAHACK. It was a competition aimed at bringing in inter-disciplinary talents to find new perspectives, ideas, and tech-based solutions.
Noticing entrepreneurs struggling with the abrupt shift in consumers’ behaviour due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Dattel launched UPLIFT Malaysia. It was an initiative to empower 10,000 businesses with actionable insights on the latest consumer behaviour through an RM50 million data fund.
Dzuleira Abu Bakar (April 2019 – April 2021)
Much like her predecessors, Dzuleira is no stranger to the entrepreneurship ecosystem. As a seasoned VC, she was once the CEO of Cradle Seed Ventures (Cradle), a growth stage venture capital fund.
Dzuleira was appointed for the role of MaGIC’s CEO in April 2019. Her case is a bit out of the ordinary because she technically is a past MaGIC CEO, but because of the consolidation of TPM and MaGIC, she’s back on the latter’s leadership board.
While heading MaGIC as the agency’s CEO in 2019, she managed to achieve notable milestones. In just 2 years under her leadership, the organisation achieved RM760 million in total value creation, impacted 26,327 participants via its various programmes, and secured 5 international partnerships, to name a few examples.
Through Dzuleira’s leadership, MaGIC played an important role in coordinating the implementation of the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS).
NTIS is the national solution coordination centre that allows innovators and startups to stress-test their business models and delivery mechanisms in a secure and live environment. This is possible because NTIS allows for some relaxation from all or selected regulatory requirements.
Through the 2020 PENJANA initiative meant to help stimulate Malaysia’s economic recovery from the pandemic, Dzuleira led the creation of MaGIC’s Social Impact Matching Grant (SIM Grant).
The grant was aimed at helping social innovators to sustain their initiatives and programmes via a 1-to-1 grant matching mechanism for successful crowdfunding initiatives.
In April 2021, Dzuleira was appointed by MOSTI to lead MaGIC’s merger with TPM to establish Malaysia’s very own Silicon Valley. This move is part of the government’s larger efforts to restructure and consolidate its agencies to ensure that they are well-positioned to execute the MySTIE 10-10 framework.
In its years of operation, MaGIC has achieved a value creation of RM409 million, organised 294 programmes, accelerated 189 startups, and created 690 jobs, according to a report in 2020.
Recently, the agency has also launched The Malaysian Research Accelerator for Technology and Innovation (MRANTI). Formed through the MaGIC-TPM consolidation, the soft launch of the new agency by MOSTI combines the hardware and the software needed to accelerate Malaysian innovation to commercialisation.
With the country set to develop startups to drive Malaysia from its current production-based economy into a knowledge-intensive one, building the right ecosystem to grow and cultivate innovations will be a strategic move in reaching this goal.
Seeing that the MaGIC-TPM merger is meant to do exactly that, all eyes will be on Dzuleira as she leads the government agency in achieving the goals set on the MyDIGITAL blueprint.