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A growing impatience with the MSC promise
Indeed, growing impatience on the MSC promise has seen a number of cyberpreneurs seeking greener pastures elsewhere. Singapore, Hong Kong and the U.S. seem far more appreciative of the fact that speed is critical. Access to funding, and suspect decision-making processes in granting them in Malaysia, has also been a common complaint of investors.
Added to that, Malaysia's high-tech stock exchange, Mesdaq, set up to help companies raise desperately needed capital, has so far secured only a single company that makes wires and cables since the exchange opened for trading in April.
AccTrak21's Loving said he prefers the U.S. Nasdaq to the MDC-promoted Mesdaq. "For a company such as AccTrak21 with a global product, Nasdaq remains the listing of choice for optimizing shareholder value."
Sun's Pillai qualified that Mesdaq has yet to kick in because the boom is in the U.S. and on Nasdaq. "You can be nationalistic and loyal but if you own a company that has a global product where would you go? The market is such, and the recession did set us back."
But he acknowledged the lack of derring-do among conservative, salary-bound Malaysians is a problem. "Malaysia has the talents but the trouble is most of the smart ones are working for multinationals. Local companies can train people, but once they reach a certain level they leave for the larger companies. You can't fight this.
"Now we're telling people to go out and start up their own companies. But how do you survive? Our environment is not friendly to startups. There are a few, but the numbers are not big enough yet," he said.
Pillai said his company had "practically given up on the current working population" and instead re-directed efforts at university-level students. "I see hope in the young. The older folks are already too entrenched in their ways and there's too much of the get-rich-quick phenomenon here. We hope to get students internships in companies we are working with. By the time they come out, the venture capital market will hopefully be more mature here, and more of them may have a chance to go into entrepreneurship."
Pillai, like other investors, does not dispute the bold vision of the MSC. As the engine of new growth to transform a manufacturing-dependent country to one leveraging on knowledge, research and design and content creation, the project has won international praise. "The question is when it gets down to implementation level, that's when it gets very fuzzy," he said. Transparency and the willingness to listen to opposing views are what irks investors.
As another investor aptly put it: "Malaysia needs to take the good with the bad. It will not get it right every time. A sign of the growing maturity of the MSC and the Malaysian high-tech industry will be when we are able to accept criticism in our stride. In the end, it is not right or wrong that matters but whether the MSC Balance Sheet comes out in our favor."
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