Juris Technologies Sdn Bhd’s chief executive officer and co-founder See Wai Hun frankly admits that she was a fickle as a young girl when it came to her studies. However, this led her to discover her true passion in the world of technology.
When we asked Juris Technologies Sdn Bhd’s chief executive officer and co-founder See Wai Hun how she became interested in technology, her reply was both unexpected and refreshing.
“The strange thing is that when I was young I was very fickle; I thought that I would be a lawyer when I was a teenager because my father said I liked to argue. But then when I was in Form 6 I decided not to be a lawyer because I realise that it’s not something that I really wanted to do, and then I thought, okay why not I become an accountant instead. When you’re young you’re always thinking of all these professional courses, it’s either law or accounts,” she told KINIBIZ in a recent interview.
After merely one semester into her accounting degree at TAR College however, See grew impatient. “I told my father I could not stand it, I needed some form of science, maths…so my father said ‘since you are so fickle’, he enrolled me in a business computing course at Sedaya College, a twinning program with the University of Winnipeg in Canada,” she recalled.
“When I started doing programming I realised that it was so exciting; I didn’t need to memorise anything, just problem solve. And that was how I got interested in technology,” she added.
She explained that because her degree was a combination of business and computing, she felt that the best job she could do was consulting. “In my heart I said ‘I want to work for Ernst & Young’, so I applied for a job and I didn’t apply for any other job because I’m quite a maniac. If I want to work somewhere, I will make the decision that I’m just gonna work there,” she laughed.
See was called up by Ernst & Young (EY) for an interview, where the interviewer told See she was the best candidate, however the starting pay was lower than what See expected. Having been a gold medalist at university, See expressed her disagreement with the consulting firm’s pay rate. As the interviewer informed her it would be difficult to revise the pay rate, See said that she would wait.
Needless to say, she got the pay she wanted and began her career at EY. “At EY we did manufacturing resource planning, enterprise resource planning, project implementation, but we were actually implementing other people’s software, meaning that it was from overseas,” she said.
Two years later, she joined the Sapura group. “Later when I joined Sapura, I met John, and the reason I joined them is because they said they’re creating their own software, so I was intrigued,” she said, referring to how she met John Lim, who is currently chief technology officer and co-founder of Juris Technologies. The year was 1996.
What made her and Lim decide to start their own technology company? See frankly admitted that it wasn’t her idea at all.
“It was more like John’s idea. John wanted to be an entrepreneur. I’m very happy working for other people. I’m the type where when I’m number two I’m actually quite happy,” she said.
And so the two former co-workers founded Natsoft (M) Sdn Bhd, Juris’ parent company in 1998. When they started the company, it was John who was more of a programmer while See handled business development.
In fact they also had a few of their friends onboard, however after a while, See and Lim realised that they could not start a company with too many people. “All of us were doing different things so it ended up with a few of us leaving,” See said, adding that only she and Lim remain today from the initial group of people who started the company.
According to See, one of the early problems that they had with Natsoft was a lack of focus. “Everybody had different ideas so they were meeting different kind of customers in different industries. I was the only one going around with one of my girls (she’s still with us), going to the banks. After we went to one bank, other banks were interested so I just told them, why don’t we just focus. It is difficult to focus because when you start a company everybody will say that let’s just try this and that,” See explained.
See was determined to focus on banks and they landed their first customer, a foreign bank, in 1998. “When people default at a certain stage you need to engage a lawyer, serve a notice of demand, summon them to court and things like that. So we developed litigation software, but the difference is to facilitate the bank in issuing the instruction to the lawyers,” she said of the software they developed for the foreign bank.
See shares that at the time, they didn’t know they were the only company doing that type of software. “After that what happened was that some of the lawyers actually told the other banks about it, then local banks started approaching us,” she recalled.
According to See, Juris Technologies was founded in 2003 under its parent company Natsoft, borne out of a need to seek MSC-status. They were advised to start a new company for tax purposes and so that’s what they did.
See shared that when they started Juris, they managed to secure an angel investor, who has since exited the company. Although she didn’t disclose the exact amount of investment they secured from the angel investor, See did say that she and John started the company with RM200,000.
“We were still doing legal recovery then, and we were struggling a bit because what happened was there’s no real significant, exponential growth. We were the so-called market leader and we were selling to the lawyers…so our market was more towards the lawyers, it was quite limited,” she explained.
The year 2003 wasn’t a good one for Juris. “We did very badly around 2003. We had competition. When you start going into what you thought was a blue ocean, after that it’s not so blue anymore because competition started coming in. We were thinking what should we do, it was at that time that we couldn’t even pay our own salary. We could pay our staff we just couldn’t pay ourselves,” See shared.
“That’s when I went to church to pray. After that my pastor came up to me, I don’t think she really knew me at that time or that I was in business, she only told me that there will be a breakthrough in your business. I came back and told the rest of them: ‘I think we shouldn’t give up lah, because God says there will be a breakthrough, if God can say that we better continue’.
“That’s what happened and true enough after that the reason why we got a spike in business. We got a large telco client (it was Telekom Malaysia) and they gave us a testimonial letter, it was one of our breakthroughs to subsequently go into banking… that was in 2003 when we got the breakthrough, and around 2005 our revenue started growing,” she explained.
Tomorrow: Creating a software success