A fireside chat
27 Nov 2019
Three startups celebrated the end of their six-month mentoring journey with three partners from PwC Malaysia’s Assurance, Deals and Tax practice in a graduation ceremony on 27 November.
They were the first cohort of the PwC-MDEC Immersion programme, a two-way mentoring programme to immerse, exchange ideas and discover new paradigms for businesses in the digital world.
Mark Koh, CEO and Co-founder, Supahands | paired with Yap Sau Shiung, Tax Partner
Lennise Ng, CEO and Co-founder, Dropee; Aizat Rahim, COO and Co-founder, Dropee | paired with Yennie Tan, Deals Partner
Jimmy How, Founder and CEO, Involve Asia | paired with Kelvin Lee, Assurance Partner
“We would like to congratulate the startups for completing this mentoring journey. The mentoring programme was an opportunity for the participants to build trust with each other, a fundamental for any learning experience, be it in the course of making business decisions or through knowledge-sharing initiatives like this. We plan to continue growing the conversation on trust with the startup community with the support of this inaugural Immersion programme in collaboration with MDEC.”
“As MDEC continue to build local champions, we are excited to work with PwC in supporting these promising companies. We see growth in these companies, they could potentially be Malaysia's unicorn someday. At every stage of any entrepreneurial journey, guidance and mentorship are important to keep progress consistent and steadfast. We hope that this programme gives impactful value to the startups.”
The highlight of the event was a fireside chat themed ‘Start Up with Mentors’ moderated by Freda Liu, Producer and Presenter at BFM 89.9.
Lennise and Mark shared their takeaways from the mentoring programme, and how trust played a role in allowing them to make the most of their experience. Rounding off the panel was Malek Ali, founder of BFM 89.9, who shared his perspective as a business leader and mentor of several entrepreneurship programmes.
The event was attended by various players from Malaysia’s entrepreneur ecosystem, including startups, scale-ups, and small and medium enterprises.
Early on in the fireside chat, it was quickly established that mentors or ‘friend-tors’ can both be counted on to provide feedback.
While most of us know what mentors look like, friend-tors are people including colleagues, peers, friends, or even family members whose close relationship can create an environment of trust for startups.
Malek didn’t find his mentor until the age of 47. In the early days of his career, he relied more heavily on friend-tors.
“Mentorship is more of a one-way relationship. Friend-tors are more like peers that you exchange ideas with. I get so much energy from talking to my colleagues.”
3 reasons to get a mentor
From left to right: Freda Liu (moderator), Mark Koh, Malek Ali and Lennise Ng
Lennise knows of startups who ask feedback from everyone they know, and take the most consistent one they get. Chemistry doesn’t play a huge role here.
However, chemistry becomes important when the relationship evolves. Malek experienced this firsthand when his mentor became a shareholder in BFM.
But it's not just about chemistry. Mark was open about many aspects of his business with Yap from PwC whom he was paired with. Yap shared contacts with Mark when he felt others were better equipped to assist, which helped Mark expand his network.
This goes to show that being open and honest can nurture trust in a mentoring relationship.
“I tell my mentors the truth about where we are and how we’re doing.”
Beyond helping startups succeed, mentorship presents opportunities for personal growth.
Malek recounts his ‘earliest mistake’ of not seeking help when trouble was brewing, and not following up with people who had reached out to help him.
“It’s easy to be single-minded and think ‘I’m an entrepreneur - I should be able to do it myself’.”
Being open about the issues your business may be facing and learning to accept ‘non-sugarcoated’ feedback will help make the most of mentoring for both your business and personal development.
Fireside chat attendees
Panellists sharing their insights on mentorship
While mentors are there to help their mentees, startups need to make sure that they’re not using them as a guidebook for what to do next.
"Mentors have lots of experience to share, but their input is never prescriptive as their advice may not work for your specific situation."
As their business evolves, a time may come when startups may need to seek out a new mentor who can better address their needs.
"You need to be open to change, and seek the right person for the stage of life you're in."
CEO and Founder, Involve Asia
Paired with Kelvin Lee, PwC Assurance Partner
CEO and Co-founder, Dropee
Paired with Yennie Tan, PwC Deals Partner
CEO and Co-founder, Supahands
Paired with Yap Sau Shiung, PwC Tax Partner