BIG SHOES TO FILL
If one were to do a quick search for the term ‘Cradle’, the results would not only show their website and related news results of the company, but it would also show news on their late founder, Nazrin Hassan.
Such is the synonymous nature of ‘Cradle’ and ‘Nazrin’. The late 45-year-old died in a tragic accident on the eve of Hari Raya, or Eid. His untimely death shocked, not only the start-up community of Malaysia and ASEAN, but also the global investment community as well.
When I heard the news, there was a sudden shock. But my instincts to establish order quickly kicked in. I knew the Cradle family were looking at me for leadership and I had to step up to the plate
But perhaps, the person that was shocked the most, was his closest friend and COO of Cradle – Razif Abdul Aziz.
“I was in Melaka at my wife’s kampung when I first heard the news,” says Razif Abdul Aziz, the now-Acting CEO of Cradle.
“It was the Hari Raya period. Festivities abound, surrounded by friends and family, ready to usher in the big day. Most of us at Cradle were well into our long holiday, following a busy period during the fasting month,” he says. “So when I heard the news, there was a sudden shock. But my instincts to establish order quickly kicked in. I knew the Cradle family were looking at me for leadership and I had to step up to the plate,” he adds.
Razif read Law at Coventry Polytechnic and is a Barrister-at-Law from Lincoln’s Inn in London. He was the Chief Operations Officer of Cradle since 2016. He has been seen as the person to succeed Nazrin for some time now. But little did he expect the manner on how the transition of power were to take place.
“The team at Cradle quietly knew that they had to look at me for leadership. I had to answer that call,” he says.
Market observers have already noted that Razif is the best man for the job. Prior to joining Cradle as their COO, Razif was with the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp). He joined the agency in 2006.
“When I was at BiotechCorp, I was leading the team that oversaw the development of local biotech entrepreneurs,” he recollects.
“For four years, I oversaw the management of the Malaysian Government’s BioNexus Programme that saw over 200 companies receiving the BioNexus Status from the Ministry of Finance. This is the virtual incubator that was created to provide the necessary support for these biotech entrepreneurs via business support, and providing the necessary resources to them,” he adds.
It was during this time that his path with the late Nazrin crossed. Nazrin asked if he would be interested to join Cradle and help with the operations of the company.
“Since 2016, I am in charge of operations, from finance, to HR, to administration, to stakeholders engagement. The only thing I was not directly in charge of was the investments, which was overseen by my colleague Juliana Jan,” he says.
As an early stage startup influencer, we are always the first port-of-call for any entrepreneur who is driven to build a company and push their innovations through
Razif’s involvement in the running of Cradle end-to-end resulted in many observers of Cradle to believe that he is more than ready to take over the MOF Incorporated agency. Succession planning was never an issue at Cradle. It was really a matter of time for Razif to follow in Nazrin’s shoes to lead this esteemed organisation.
“Cradle is passionate about growing entrepreneurship in the country. We want to create leading startups by establishing an ecosystem that fully supports innovative-driven companies that build strong and tech-oriented entrepreneurs,” he says.
“As an early stage startup influencer, we are always the first port-of-call for any entrepreneur who is driven to build a company and push their innovations through,” he adds.
The firm’s now famous ‘Cradle Investment Programme’, or the CIP, has assisted hundreds of tech start-ups in receiving early stage grants and funding to allow these young companies to take off from the ground. Notable successes include the unicorn ride-share Grab (formerly known as MyTeksi) and iMoney, a fintech company.
“In Cradle’s 13 year history, we’ve helped fund over 700 Malaysian tech start-ups and have established various structures to help grow the nation’s industry from near-zero, to a now impressive flourishing eco-system,” Razif notes.
“We created the Cradle Seed Ventures, or CSV in 2015 to expand our role from being just a grant provider to investor following the expansion of the portfolio. This enables Cradle to now becoming both a funding and investment assistance to our startup partners,” he says.
In the startup world, ideas are aplenty. It is the execution that matters the most. That is why, during my three years here, the development of coaching our start-ups are a key part of my work
But the value proposition of Cradle lies not just being a monetary aid organisation. Rather, they pride themselves in also providing commercialisation support, and more importantly coaching capabilities to their investee companies.
“In the startup world, ideas are aplenty. It is the execution that matters the most. That is why, during my three years here, the development of coaching our start-ups are a key part of my work. Young entrepreneurs will need strong business guidance from seasoned ones and Cradle has enabled these two parties to meet in a constructive and measurable environment,” he adds.
Razif’s twenty over years in the enablement of entrepreneurs has makes him a confidante in the start-up community; someone they could rely on. At the same time, he is a familiar face that investors trust.
The sudden change of guard at Cradle would still mean it is business-as-usual and that the firm still has the best man for the job, even if it was assumed at very tragic circumstances.
Rafiz may be new being a CEO, but make no mistake, he is an old-hand in the start-up world and is more than ready for any challenge that comes his way.
Note: The late Nazrin Hassan is an old friend of this writer. His thoughts are penned in an obituary that can be found here.