Penang, Malaysia – In the digital economy, the challenge for the next generation of leaders (NextGen) in traditional family businesses is to innovate or risk being upended by new market disruptions. The Asia Innovatif+ Summit & Awards, which will be held October 26 to 27, is aimed at “promoting innovation through global collaboration by bringing together NextGen leaders, startup owners and venture capitalists from across the region under one roof,” says Mei Tan, co-founder of Asia Innovative Agency, the event organizer.
“The movie ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ may be fiction but there is some truth to family offices holding enormous wealth in this region, and many are prepared to embrace innovation or invest in startups,” she says. Tan herself is no stranger to innovation. After an eight-year stint in the U.S.—first as a student and later as a graphic designer—she returned to Penang in 2010 to join the family business, Asia Green Group, an established property developer, plywood manufacturer, and international trading company.
As the company’s COO, Tan began to introduce innovative technology in the workplace. On the side, she launched a co-working space called Scoopoint to foster creativity within a community of like-minded people.
The Asia Innovatif+ Summit & Awards event is her latest initiative, working with Co-founder, Steve Wee, and the Penang state government to promote innovation in the digital economy. “There is a bit of something for everyone attending the summit. Next Gens will get the chance to hear success stories first-hand from those who have successfully transformed their businesses.
They will also get new ideas on how to incorporate innovation into their family businesses and how to leverage on startup ventures. VCs will get the chance to tap into the Next-Gen network and resources, and at the same time discover new startup ideas. Last but not least, startup owners will get exposure and may potentially find the right match for their future growth,” explains Tan.
The summit will feature a star-studded cast of NextGen leaders coming from companies such as BookDoc in Malaysia, MaBelle in Hong Kong and PT Citra Marga in Indonesia, among others. Topics discussed will range from real estate, manufacturing, agriculture and retail to artificial intelligence, FinTech, and B2B innovations.
Startup owners will get the chance to present their business case and vie for the “Startup of the Year Award.” Keynote speakers during the event include Penang’s Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, President of the People’s Justice Party and leader of the Pakatan Harapan coalition. Joining the lineup will be speakers from China, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Germany, and the U.S., besides Malaysia.
One of the event highlights is a panel discussion by NextGen leaders who will share their views on challenges faced by family-owned businesses. Fringe activities during the event include industry visits, sightseeing and networking sessions. Besides NextGen leaders, venture capitalists and startup owners, the event is expected to attract entrepreneurs and C-level executives from 18 countries to the island state of Penang, famous as a tourist destination with Unesco World Heritage status and hailed as the “Silicon Valley of the East” by international media.
“With this event, we hope to create a better ecosystem linking Next Gens with startup entrepreneurs. We also hope that all the participants will better understand innovation and be prepared to create disruptions in their respective industries. Who knows, the next Airbnb or Uber could arise out of this event to revolutionize old business models,” says Tan.