Aims for the ‘old normal’
The plan was to work like usual in the office, building on last year’s progress by continuing to bring in more small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), Crowdplus.asia’s CEO, Max explained. A Johor Bahru office was slated to open later this year as a new addition to the current Penang and KL offices. However, as was the case for most 2020 plans, COVID-19 got in the way.
Adapting to the ‘new normal’
The movement control order (MCO) was implemented starting March 18, 2020, causing significant disruption to business operations. In Max’s words, he felt the pandemic brought on some key paradigm shifts to Crowdplus.asia.
The first change: working from home. Initially, the team’s shared worry ranged from concern about how long the lockdown might last to more long-term issues like job security. He said there was an evident drop in morale, and a change in mindset was the necessary next course of action.
“I told them nobody is going to lose their jobs; we aren’t doing any pay cuts, so don’t let that distract you. Let’s be warriors. We’re in a war. The war is with COVID.” He also made it a point to check in weekly on their mental health. Collectively, this seemed to do the trick, as it got the team motivated. “People started coming up with ideas, and that’s when we started pivoting.”
Then entered the next challenge. “When it came to doing business, we were lost initially.” That was until they realised how far-reaching the effects of Covid-19 were on people’s everyday lifestyles. “The world had shifted. Nobody had anywhere to go. Where did they go instead? Online.” Marketing online then became the optimal place to grab attention, and it was also in the virtual space where investors and SMEs saw each other.
“I dare say if I look at all my competitors on a published basis online, in the last four months we have scored well above everyone else in securing new businesses and getting deals. That’s because we pivoted our minds and proactively tackled the market instead of sitting there and waiting to die.”
Encouraging investment as pursestrings tighten
Max had previously described equity crowdfunding (ECF) as a ‘high-risk, high-reward game.’ At a time when financial security has been put at risk, this description may appear highly unappealing. Max agreed, noting that during the first month, Crowdplus.asia was impacted significantly. However, he attributes this to the general uncertainty that people had when the lockdown first began. After the second month, the interest came back slightly, and by May, he said there was a better improvement.
Many are keen to invest but remain hesitant during this period of uncertainty. To them, Max says there is no need to be afraid. While the pandemic is still present, it has been well controlled in Malaysia. His first tip for anyone interested to invest in ECF companies would be to pick the right platform as they can strikingly defer.
“Once you’ve chosen the right platform to work with, look at companies that suit your appetite. It’s like a supermarket.” The key is to pick companies that suit the nature of your business as far as the risk appetite that you can take. Some may prefer a higher risk and higher returns, and others may prefer the opposite.
“Pick your platform carefully. Pick your investment carefully. But do invest.”
Looking ahead amidst uncertainty
Max remains optimistic as they also plan to expand the team further after observing the effectiveness of doing business virtually. “We will continue to do better, and we hope to achieve better results by the end of the year.”
As for his ECF peers, “It’s probably fair to say some of us are doing better, and some of us are not doing as well.”
Taking ECF mainstream
Max does not believe that ECF has hit the mainstream. To address this, he said improvements to make the asset class more accessible to the general public would depend on the ability of three crucial actors to work together.
The first being the need for ECF platforms to reach out even more to the market. The government also has a role, and he believes they have been pulling their weight by emphasising ECF and promoting it as much as possible. The third is the media and press who give the other two a platform to raise awareness by reaching the mass market.
“If we all work together then we can make ECF a force to be reckoned with.”
Journalists: Amanda and Areeshya
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