Malaysia's government stokes entrepreneurial fires

Malaysia's government stokes entrepreneurial fires
Participants in MaGIC's boot camp learn the ropes of coding.

KUALA LUMPUR - Two days after giving up a well-paid job and five-year career as a management consultant, Daniel Lim is getting to grips with a Web app framework at a developer boot camp. This, he hopes, will be the first step toward success in the rapidly evolving world of digital startups.

"I wanted to get out of my comfort zone," the Malaysian finance graduate said during a short break from his first stab at the development tool known as Ruby on Rails. "I will be turning 27 at the end of the year, so if I want to take a risk, [now] is the best time. I want to see if I can create something on my own."

Josh Teng, the course leader who owns a startup offering customer support services, said the application process is very "selective." "We don't disqualify students based on academic achievements," he said, "but we only admit people who are truly passionate, motivated and committed to learning a new skill."

The course is organised by the government-backed Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre. Usually referred to as MaGIC, the agency was launched in April 2014 and is located in Cyberjaya, a city created out of a palm oil plantation in 1996 about 30km south of Kuala Lumpur. The place was envisioned as Malaysia's Silicon Valley. It provides training, mentoring and other assistance, such as space to work and connections to investors.

Nearly two decades ago, then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad set up a special economic zone called the Multimedia Super Corridor -- which includes Cyberjaya -- and convinced CEOs of some of the world's leading technology companies to become advisers. The government has since created a plethora of largely state-backed funds to support early stage startups.

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