Archive for the ‘The Malaysian Scene’ Category

Now a GrabPay user, the promo will lead to inflated metrics

There are so many e-wallets in Malaysia now, it sure feels like I’ve got e-wallet fatigue and I don’t even spend much time in KL or use most of these wallets. I am more a fan of the AMEX, followed by Visa or MasterCard. Eventually e-wallets are going to have to implement merchant fees that seem closer to these credit card networks (your rewards have to be paid somehow…).

I have tried GrabPay before in Singapore where I loaded SGD$20 into my wallet from my credit card. I never did get to spend it. This balance sticks around for when I am next in Singapore. You have a separate e-wallet for Malaysia. I tried to set this up a few days ago, and they require a photo of your passport or IC to verify your ID (unlike Singapore). I seem to have failed this verification (it looks like an actual human does it, but when you fail it, they don’t tell you why; not that it matters, it seems you can still use it just fine). Also, Grab is now holding photos of the front of Malaysian’s Identity Cards… let’s hope they never have a data breach.

Today as I was trying to get a ride, a pop-up (potentially the first useful ad I’ve seen in the adware that is Grab…) said I could get RM5 off 2 Grab rides if I use GrabPay credits. So I promptly topped up my GrabPay wallet with RM20 (which came from my credit card), and then paid for a ride with GrabPay credits.

I see absolutely no difference with paying via a credit card. I believe you can use your debit card to pay for your Grab rides as well. There is an argument that cards are unpopular in South East Asia as evidenced by this Twitter thread, but if you have a bank account in Malaysia, you get a debit card by default that you can use for Grab. Maybe the play is that people will use it for peer-to-peer payments, like when you need to pay a friend for splitting the bill (like Venmo? Maybe I have a generation gap)?

However from a metrics standpoint, my desire to save RM5 off two rides (a total of RM10), has made me an active user of GrabPay. I loaded up a balance of RM20. Will I be able to bring that balance to zero or does Grab earn interest on my money (like they do for my Singaporean balance)? Will future promotions only apply to GrabPay payments that aren’t via credit card, but via this e-wallet service?

Yes, we Malaysians, and Singaporeans and probably most South East Asians love a good deal. One of the reasons that Grab probably won before Uber exited the South East Asian market was GrabRewards. If you could expense your Grab rides, participate in the loyalty program, and naturally keep the rebates, why would you ever use Uber?

Measure what matters. Anyway, back to e-wallets. The banks will wake up. The VC money will run out. Economics will eventually meet reality.

Bitcoin in Malaysia – January 2015 edition

This is more for me, rather than anyone else (just like everything here), but its worth keeping track of the Bitcoin scene in Malaysia (at a time when Bitcoin is tanking).

For Bitcoin news, its Bitcoin Malaysia – its no CoinDesk, but the founder, Colbert Lau, does evangelise Bitcoin quite a lot. It is from there, I learned that BolehVPN, probably the most popular VPN service in Malaysia, accepts Bitcoin. Or that a petrol station accepts Bitcoin too.

Then there are Arsyan Ismail’s list of startups, notably a Bitcoin Exchange Malaysia, (a marketplace), (a market/exchange). I’m not sure what the focus of these companies are (many look like minimum viable products).

Then what I think is the most interesting Bitcoin-related startup focusing on the blockchain? Neuroware (disclosure: I have been talking a lot to one of the founders and may end up advising the company). They focus on blockchain technology, and keep track of Bitcoin, Dogecoin and Litecoin. They have (similar to but opensource). They also have their main product: blockstrap – a HTML5 framework, also opensource. There are some good articles at Digital News Asia: Neuroware: New bit on the blockchain and Coindesk: Neuroware Launches ‘Future-Proof’ API for Cryptocurrency Apps.

Will we see more people accept Bitcoin? Will there be Bitcoin ATMs (there was one in Bangsar Shopping Centre but it has since closed)? It should be interesting to see how Bitcoin and the blockchain itself evolves in 2015.

Mamma Mia

I caught Mamma Mia on Sunday. This wasn’t my first time seeing it; the cast was new. It was a lot racier compared to the previous one about 5 years ago in KL.

Then, I sat within spitting distance of PM Najib & Rosmah, using the intermission fully to crack jokes about explosives. This time it was on the second row from the stage. I enjoyed both thoroughly.

I wondered why the hardline minority Islamists didn’t comment about Mamma Mia. They seem to take offense with plenty. Figured it’s probably because they’d have to pay for a ticket and that’s beyond them (lovers of freebies). They always have to remember the relation between tolerance and prosperity.

An arts scene is important for KL to become a world class livable city. This is something that is strong in New York or London, and I wish KL had more foresight. From what I see, Singapore is leading the way in South East Asia.

I don’t expect these things to develop overnight. It comes with work from both developing the local scene & inspiring the experienced to come for shows. It’s like the gallery/photography scene – again nothing to be developed overnight but I’m starting to see more interest and there are clearly auction houses at work. I find here that people try to leapfrog the basic collectors (which is a big mistake – that RM100 piece I buy today will help me buy the RM1,000 piece later on in life, and so on).

I reckon we will be building a base in the next decade. Yes it will shoot past 2020, but we have to contend with other issues (politically, etc) before Malaysia enjoys such first world livability. Then it will be another decade before things just work.

So people bearing kids today – don’t leave the nation. Make it better, for our future generation. Don’t be complacent, always question the status quo. It’s our nation, and we’ve got to lay claim & take it back.

To give back you need to create first

“My father was the first entrepreneur in the family,” Rohan Marley, the sixth of Bob Marley’s eleven children, said the other day. “He started his own record label, his own restaurant. He knew that, in order to give something back to the people, he had to create. You can’t be no philanthropist, no Warren Buffett, unless you make something first.”

Bob’s Boys – All Natural in The New Yorker

The article focuses a lot on the marijuana trade, but the choice quote here is about creation. You may read many books and articles about giving back, and they’re usually written by people that have created so much value already, that it makes sense to give back. Some of the best books on this topic that I’ve read include Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-and Revolutionized an Industry by Marc Benioff and Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur by Richard Branson.

This is also like mentorship. Sometimes you can’t mentor each and every opportunity because you’re stretched for time, and are still creating.

This comes back to my thoughts on advisors. How can you dole out advice if you’ve never been there (and done that)? How can you dole out advice if you yourself haven’t created? Sure, there are textbook examples at work, and people learn at schools (MBAs, etc) but sitting in a classroom is no substitute for experience.

So whether you’re looking for a mentor, an advisor, or a board member, remember that having some form of requisite experience (not just textbook knowledge) is something that will probably take you further.

Exciting events: MaGIC e@Stanford and DNA Disrupt

As the year wraps up, I have to take my hats off to MaGIC for running so many concurrent events in these weeks. Cynics would say they are spending this years budget to ensure they get next years allocation; my only complaint is that their events all have about a 5-day lead time from announcement (on their Facebook page) to the actual event itself.

For Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur, it makes sense to visit one of the two events tomorrow (a pity they’re back-to-back, so basically clashing):

1. MaGIC e@Stanford attendees presentation on Silicon Valley culture – Warren Leow, a VP at MaGIC referred to the batch of 60 as the creme de la creme of Malaysia, and with enough pressure, they launched not only a website so you can keep track of them, but also are organising this public event that people should attend, listen, ask questions, and hopefully write about. I’m personally very interested in what happens in an all expense paid (minus the cost of the visa) 2-week visit to Silicon Valley.

I think it’s important to attend because the second batch are likely going within Q1/2015. Mentioning that this brings positivity to the ecosystem in 2-3 years seems rather fluid. Things have to be measurable from the get go, especially when they involve public funds.

2. DNA Disrupt – they’re looking towards the future, i.e. 2015 by looking at the past (2014 has been an interesting year). It’s no secret that one of my favourite publications to read is Digital News Asia (DNA). Unless you’re living under a rock, you probably already realize that Malaysia is facing tougher times (currency at it’s lowest to the US dollar in years, oil prices slipping, cost of living going up, etc.), and 2015 should be a really challenging year ahead for entrepreneurs (either looking to fundraise or looking at working capital from the banks). The discussion that will happen here should be invaluable, and probably very forward thinking (by judiciously studying “history”).

Two exciting events, which do you go to? I personally wish that there would be some live streaming, like some old DNA Disrupts used to have (hook up a cheap video camera, have an Internet connection, and let YouTube do the rest) so I can watch from afar.

Whichever you pick, I’m sure the networking will be invaluable. Have a great Wednesday ahead.

The Malaysian Scene begins

I’ve been following MaGIC on & off since late 2013. I was very excited with it’s initial launch but with mostly everything Malaysian, I usually end up with having more questions than answers.

While shuttling between hotel lounges in Germany back in October, I started a thread on my Facebook wall, which garnered over 185 comments & numerous private messages. The discussion was initially positive till someone hijacked it on a tangent; it turned out he just didn’t comprehend the English language.

My simple reason for wanting to care again: I’m a proud Malaysian & want to see my country succeed. There are no shortcuts to success; it’s going to require a lot of work, not rah-rah smoke & mirror operations. I see a lack of critical thinking & reportage on this topic.

I believe in sustainable movements that have learned from history. After all, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. I believe in fixing things from the core – I may sound like an idealist, but multiple businesses & participation in distributed opensource communities has taught me to be a pragmatic idealist.

Time these days is limited, with me spending increasing amounts of time on the road. I’ve been wanting to write more for a long time, so why not reboot it here on the blog? Comments here (via Disqus) are a lot more manageable than Facebook’s system (no threading, hard to stop people from being silly, etc). Search is also a lot better. Who remembers the time we fought the Computing Professionals Bill (CPB2011)? Probably no one, since most of the work was spread on Google Docs and a lot of the “activism” was done via Twitter & physical meetings – we just forgot to catalogue/write about it.

So, with that, here’s a new category: The Malaysian Scene. I intend to cover technology, business (entrepreneurship) & policy thoughts in this area.

I’m open to topic suggestions – via comments here or via email. Sharing with me via private messaging will always ensure your anonymity.