This past week, from 17-20 September, thousands of people came through the doors of MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre) to attend the largest gathering of entrepreneurs ever to take place in Malaysia. The event, known as GREAT 2014 (Gathering of Rising Entrepreneurs Acting Together), was a convergence of workshops, seminars, bootcamps, hackathons, panel discussions, demonstrations, product pitches, and information booths. Attendees spanned the entire breadth of the entrepreneurship ecosystem – from government agencies and venture funders to local artists and teens interested in learning start-up basics.
Prime Minister Najib Razak and Tan Sri Irwan Serigar Abdullah officiated the opening ceremony on Wednesday, 17 September from the large outdoor stage. In the opening address, the Prime Minister gave a very uplifting and encouraging speech to entrepreneurs in developing a strong resolve after experiencing setbacks. He also called on agencies and financial institutions to be more supportive of entrepreneurs and their needs.
GREAT 2014 featured 100 workshops and 67 speakers, who are known names and experts in their own fields and that was just inside the building. For instance, over 200 young rising entrepreneurs from all around Malaysia participated in Startup Teens, a bootcamp-style academy organised by StartupSchool Asia. Designed to teach start-up basics from ideation to product pitching, the teens spent four full days brainstorming, collaborating, and practicing – and even more impressively, they led a flash mob to welcome the arrival of Prime Minister Najib Tun Abdul Razak to the GREAT 2014 opening ceremony.
The crowd at GREAT 2014 launch day
Similarly, local start-up builder Halal Tech Venture Builders organised the Halal Tech Power Challenge, which helped 100 would-be entrepreneurs in the halal e-commerce sector develop and present their start-up ideas over a four-day bootcamp. On the first day of the event, “cadets” (bootcamp participants) walked in with only ideas for halal tech start-ups – but by the end, each of the 20 teams had completed intensive training modules, developed a product, and pitched their start-up before a panel of esteemed judges.
Pitching at the Halal Tech Power Challenge in the MaGIC Auditorium
Other events included Artivate, a three-day workshop focused on teaching young artist-entrepreneurs how to turn their passion into a viable start-up business – or how to go “from passion to paycheck.” The workshops included speaker series, ideation sessions, design workshops, and a pitching challenge. Participants included artists across film, music, radio, digital multimedia, performing and visual arts, as well as literature, fashion, and advertising.
Art pieces and activities within MaGIC’s coworking space
50 budding social entrepreneurs joined the first 48-hour MaGIC – HUB Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, the largest ever held in Malaysia. During this time, 10 teams were given 11 tasks to complete, starting from identifying root causes of the social issues they wish to solve leading towards delivering their final pitches. The pitching competition was judged by a panel of of judges and team “INSPIRE” was declared the winner of the challenge. INSPIRE came up with the idea of developing a corporate mentorship tool that connects working professionals with students who need guidance in life.
A successful end to the MaGIC-HUB Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp – GoGREAT!
Women in Tech was another focus for GREAT 2014 and we saw the combined talents from WENA, Google Business Group (GBG) Women and Gorgeous Geek forming a powerhouse coalition with inspiring speakers, pitching session, motivational talks and an online sale.
Several notable speakers shared their experiences and success stories as entrepreneurs. The Women in Technology Conference, sponsored by Gorgeous Geeks, featured Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) CEO Dato’ Yasmin Mahmood, among others, who spoke about her journey as a leader in tech business. Other participants, such as MaGIC CEO Cheryl Yeoh, described the early seedlings of her interest in business when she began selling homemade goods to her schoolmates as a child.
On hand at the numerous booths filling the floor space inside MaGIC were representatives from every major agency and organisation that supports entrepreneurs. MaGIC’s own booth featured our own MaGICians to articulate and communicate how MaGIC’s supports the entrepreneurship ecosystem and to explain the newly-launched MaGIC Central web tool for connecting entrepreneurs in need of information and facilitation support with relevant agencies and organisations.
Other booths were staffed with representatives from agencies that support entrepreneurs to give on-the-ground advice and support. For instance, the Bumiputera Women Network Association of Malaysia (WENA) had “meet the experts” booths where entrepreneurs could receive free, on-the-spot consultations with specialists in marketing, intellectual property, finance, and even styling and grooming gurus offering make-overs. At the Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia (SSM) booth, you could even register your company on the spot.
Outside of MaGIC, ringing the Obama Oval, stood food trucks and booths selling juicy burgers, fresh-made juices, and unconventional curry puffs. The collection of vendors was selected and brought to GREAT 2014 by Fried Chillies, a foodie media group passionate about highlighting local “Foodpreneurs.” Some of the outlets were so popular that they sold out of their wares by mid-day, and several had long queues lined up to sample the food and drink whose reputations had spread quickly by word-of-mouth.
At one end of the lawn stood a large, multicoloured “container village,” made from reclaimed shipping containers. Inside the containers, a gallery and retail space showcased “buatan Malaysia” or Malaysian retail brands ranging from streetwear and accessories to pop-art calligraphy for home decor. The display was a project by Agenda Lokalism, a group under Majlis Tindakan Ekonomi Melayu (MTEM) that promotes local brands, products, and artists by helping them reach a wider audience. After experiencing so much success at GREAT 2014, Agenda Lokalism now intends to take the container store/gallery concept on a national level and bring it to other locations within Malaysia.
The launch of CAMNE with Tan Sri Dr Irwan
On Friday and Saturday, well-known Malaysian music artists such as Joe Flizzow rocked the stage, entertaining the lively crowd that had gathered despite occasional rain showers.
To top off the 4-day event, Cyberview organized an ice bucket challenge (with a twist), where brave souls such as Tan Sri Dr Irwan (MOF), Cheryl Yeoh (MaGIC), Ng Wai Peng (MDeC), Nazrin Hassan (Cradle), Dr Aminuddin Bin Hassim (NSU), Dash Dhakshinamoorthy (StartupMalaysia.org) participated and proceeds raised from the challengers was donated to the Pusat Jagaan Rumah Anak-Anak Yatim/Miskin and Pusat Jagaan Baitus Sakinah Wan Mahabbah.
Getting drenched for a good cause
GREAT 2014 is a relevant and timely platform to educate, inspire and connect entrepreneurs to a larger community and rich content. Congratulations to the National Strategic Unit and Ministry of Finance on a GREAT and successful event.