Thursday, February 08, 2007

Countdown

Hi guys. Apologies for being kinda silent at both my blogs for just about more than a week now. It's not that there isn't much to blog about, there's plenty. But it has been an extremely busy week or so, not helped by a little bit of writing fatigue (too much writing over the past two weeks, besides blogging), and the little girl catching a flu which resulted in pretty much sleepless nights.

Some of the stuff I've been hinting at has been set into irreversible motion over the past month. I can now tell you that last month, I've disposed of all the shares in the company which I personally founded. The company would be exactly 10 years old come this March.

When I started the company with just RM50,000 in capital, contributed by my own 2-years' life-savings (that can't be much), a little contribution from my parents, a little from an ex-client, an ex-colleague and my brother-in-law. That was March 1997, when everything information technology was extremly rosy in Kuala Lumpur. Little did I know, that within 3 months of starting operations, the Thai baht crashed, bring about practically some 2 and a half years growth via living hand-to-mouth (or something like that! ;)).

With a little luck, I managed to secure a intermediate venture capital funding of RM1 million at the end of 1999. We continued to grow significantly by taking on larger and more complex projects as e-business and general information technology spend increased.

Then at the end of 2000, in the middle of the insane dotcom boom, lady luck smiled on us again. A new boutique investment bank was set up in Singapore with an aggressive appetite for listing small-medium enterprises. I was introduced to them by an investment advisor friend, David Fong (thank you, David) when they were in town scouting for listing candidates.

I was asked to present my company and business the next day, and within 2 weeks, they said they could take my company public in Singapore. It was a little unbelievable then, as I really didn't think we were "ready" for it.

We aren't a big company then, but that was a little window period whereby Singapore was actually encouraging small entrepreneurial firms to raise capital from the markets. Today, even though we are substantially larger now (but we are still relatively speak, a small company ;)), listing in Singapore would have been impossible as their focus now is really on larger cap listings. Hence, I'm certainly thankful that I agreed to the listing offer then.

By August 2001, we got our company listed on the Singapore Exchange. We were the first Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) company to be listed in Singapore. And at 29 years old then, I was the youngest CEO of a listed company in Singapore. The overwhelming bulk of our operations continued to be in Kuala Lumpur, hence essentially we were tapping capital in Singapore to fund our business in Malaysia.

The timing couldn't have been any "better". Within two weeks of listing, it was September 11th, and the global markets tanked. Had I not been listed before that, I might not have listed at all for the listing exercise might have been aborted.

Despite having listed the company, it was no bed of roses. We faced the economic repercussions of the September 11 tragedy, followed by the pan-Asian SARS epidemic as well as the tech bust. Of course, it wasn't helped by the fact we made 1-2 "naive" acquisitions as well as defaulting payments from clients in the early 2000s. A Berjaya Group subsidiary owed us more than RM2 million and refused to pay up despite having successfully secured a court judgement (they wound themselves up).

All the while however, as many of our peer competitors dwindled, we held up and are now one of the leading players in the business. We believe we have clearly turned the corner in 2006, having consolidated the business in 2004/5 and the future definitely "appears" bright for the company in 2007. ;)

But now, I've sold my shares in the company. Could I have obtained more from such a sale had I waited for another year or two or more as the company rides the upturn? Yes, most likely so. But life really isn't just about making more money.

There comes a time when you've got to put your foot down and say that it's "enough". I'm not a serial entrepreneur, hence I've no intention of starting another corporate business. I'm a huge admirer of Tony Fernandes, but I have no interest in working as hard as he does. (Yes, I'm a lazy git ;))

Now there's just a few more loose ends to tie up. Will keep you guys updated, so watch this space! ;)
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