In recent months Goh Peng Ooi has been tagged as Malaysia’s first and only tech billionaire, and even Southeast Asia’s first software billionaire. After a nine-year stint with IBM, he founded the Silverlake group in 1989 based on his passion and confidence in the predictability and accurateness of mathematics and science. Goh Peng Ooi’s foresight on the demands of future technology has established the group as a leading provider of state-of- the-art solutions; and today Silverlake is a multi-billion dollar organisation represented in over 20 countries and employs over 5,000 people worldwide.
Goh Peng Ooi is an example of a successful rags-to-riches story. The seventh out of ten children, he grew up in a small village in the Malaysian state of Penang. As a young child, Goh often wondered about the world outside his kampung and very quickly realised that books were an escape from the norm and seemed to have all the answers to his questions. So passionate was he about reading books that he took on a series of odd-jobs to be able to afford the books he wanted from a second-hand bookstore. This paid off. In the mid-1970s, the Japanese government awarded the inquisitive kampung boy with a love for reading the Monbusho scholarship to study Engineering at the University of Tokyo, where he would have eventually graduated from with a Bachelors of Engineering and get snapped up by IBM.
Having spent his university years in Japan where Goh developed a working knowledge in Japanese and their culture, he quickly rose through the ranks in IBM. In the nine years he spent there, he noticed flaws in the way banks were using technology and saw an opportunity to address that. Confident of what he could predict, he left the organisation to set up his own. Goh launched Silverlake in 1989 naming his company after the code name of IBM’s AS/400 project – an indication that Goh had intended from the start to maintain the professional relationship with his ex-employers albeit as partners.
From the beginning there were few who understood his ideas for building a business based on mathematical theories and probably fewer who supported his ways. But Goh had always been adamant on the reliability of mathematics in accurately predicting outcomes and went on to build Silverlake primarily on a unique fusion of Game, Category and Group Theories. And after dedicating a quarter of a decade to what he calls his life’s work, Goh recently decided to name it the Goh-Mathematical Intelligence Theory (Goh-MI Theory).
In 2003, Goh listed Silverlake Axis Limited on the Singapore Exchange. Its core banking solution runs on three of the five largest ASEAN super-regional financial institutions and in over 40% of the largest banks in Southeast Asia. The organisation focuses on Digital Economy Transformations driven by the Silverlake Collaborative Capability and Intelligence Model (SCCIM), where SCCIM was also conceived based on Goh-MI Theory. Through a series of partnerships and acquisitions (for example, in December 2014, Silverlake Axis acquired Finzsoft Solutions Limited, a software development company listed on the New Zealand Exchange), the group has not only expanded outside of Southeast Asia, the business has grown beyond Banking and Finance and now lists Insurance, Retail, Education, Healthcare and Hospitality in its portfolio.
Over the years the group has consistently won various awards under a number of categories and most recently took home the Forbes Asia’s Best Under a Billion – Best of the Best (2013) and The Asian Banker Vendor Satisfaction Survey Gold Award (2014).
Personally, Goh has also been recognised for his professional achievements winning the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award twice – the Technology Entrepreneur Award Malaysia in 2005 and the Master Technology Entrepreneur of the Year Award Malaysia in 2014; and since 2013 Goh has been participating as a member of the ASEAN Business Club.
Despite his obligations to Silverlake, where he plays the roles of Executive Chairman in both the Public and Private arms, he maintains his passion for academics, especially in mathematics and science. In addition to giving seminars at higher schools of learning, he is still an avid reader and continues to enjoy research, particularly in the Science of Intelligence and its application to Human Actions and Economy. Indeed he has often remarked that he would have been just as contented working in a university where he could spend his days teaching, debating and researching mathematics and science.
As a testament to his contributions to and love for mathematics and science, Goh was recently elected as Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, a significant recognition as Fellows are appointed based on achievements that are considered to be of extraordinary value. Goh is also a Fellow of the ASEAN Academy of Engineering and Technology (AAET), a Member of the ASM Science and Technology and Industry Linkage Committee, an adviser of the ACCCIM Science, Technology and Innovations Committee, sits on the Board of Governors for IACT College Malaysia and is an Industry Advisor of the Faculty of Engineering and Science in Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman.
And during his leisure time, he enjoys golfing – a sport he immensely enjoys, and that he considers as good exercise.