Cyberjaya’s failure diagnosed

KUALA LUMPUR: Cyberjaya’s failure to live up to its billing as the next Silicon Valley has been attributed to poor town planning and the mistaken belief that companies located there can be successful if they emulate the work culture in the American technology zone.

Andy Lau, CEO of Sarawak firm Luco.

A tech entrepreneur who asked to be identified as Arjun told FMT Cyberjaya’s main problem was its isolation and lack of transport connectivity.

As a consequence, he said, companies located there were overshadowed by rivals in more accessible locations.

Andy Lau, CEO and founder of Sarawak-based startup Luco, told FMT he believed the work culture practised in Silicon Valley wasn’t appropriate for Cyberjaya, especially since it was a government initiative, unlike its American counterpart.

Lau and Arjun were commenting on a think tank’s recent report about Cyberjaya’s failure to achieve its goal of becoming a world leader as an IT entrepreneurial hub.

Although Malaysia had enjoyed a steady and impressive rise in ICT exports, said the report by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, “most of this rise may not be attributed to Cyberjaya”.

Lau urged Malaysians to use China instead of Silicon Valley as a benchmark, noting that China was advancing at a much faster pace than the US.

Already the world’s second largest investor in artificial intelligence, China aspires to outstrip the US and become the global leader in the industry by 2030.

In the US, the country’s biggest tech companies are concentrated in Silicon Valley. But China has encouraged as many as 17 tech hubs across the country.

Lau said he believed it would be easier for Malaysians to copy the Chinese work culture. He said the Chinese “can do” attitude enabled the companies there to nurture and retain talent as well as create a sense of belonging.

Arjun agreed with Lau that Cyberjaya shouldn’t have been a government project, saying frequent changes in officials in charge had affected its development.

“You must remember that people were drawn to work in Silicon Valley because it had an established entrepreneur ecosystem that evolved over 40 years,” he said.

He also said Silicon Valley had powerful companies helping smaller ones, noting that firms like AngelPad, YCombinator and Alchemist provided office spaces, mentorship and management training services.

This was more appealing than the five-year tax exemption offered to companies opening up in Cyberjaya, he added.