S02E06: Cha-Ly Koh, CEO & Founder of Urbanmetry Sdn Bhd, Malaysia

“I am not afraid of ghosts because there’s nothing more scary than payroll,” says Cha-Ly Koh.

chaly koh urbanmetry malaysia urban planning data

In this episode, I spoke to Cha-Ly Koh who is the CEO & founder of Urbanmetry Sdn Bhd in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

Urbanmetry is a data company that cleans and analyses large amounts of city data, through its proprietary algorithms with the purpose of using data to better inform, plan and develop sustainable urban dwellings. 

These insights are then used by governments, city planners, developers and financial institutions to create a more efficient and transparent property market, improving city planning and shaping a sustainable urban environment. Urbanmetry’s client roster includes World Bank, Sime Darby, Think City, SunSuria and Hap Seng Land.

With the use of big data, property developers are able to gauge market movements from the early stages of land acquisition up until product launches, which is useful as absorption rates in each market differ.

Cha-Ly is trained in city planning with a Masters degree in City Planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA and a Bachelor of Arts (Physics) with Honours from Middlebury College, Vermont, USA. She also sits on the board of directors of Time Dotcom Berhad as an independent director since February 2020. 

Besides being a CEO, she is also the mother to two girls and in this interview, the ship analogy crops up often and she likens herself to a captain that’s trying to steer her ship and shipmates to a destination she believes in.

Cha-Ly cites Joe Hisashi as her favourite composer and she is most inspired by old, working Japanese women! She also admits she has a tendency to over-order food when she is dining with her team. Cha-Ly also remarked she loves buying plants though she doesn’t have any green fingers.

“[Entrepreneurship is] Challenging but not impossible.
If you want it bad enough, you will strip yourself of your ego.”

Cha-Ly Koh

With offices in Kuala Lumpur and Hanoi, Urbanmetry collaborated with ThinkCity to publish a book in 2016 titled The Secret Atlas of Greater Kuala Lumpur which offers insights to various industries through the lens of big data. 

For a woman in a largely male-dominated industry, Cha-Ly takes it in her stride, citing, “It’s not a bed of roses and not impossible either.” 

What matters is, are you doing what you love?
What you are sacrificing – is it worth it to you or your team? 

Cha-Ly Koh

In this episode, you will hear some fascinating yet honest truths from Cha-Ly such as:

  • What happened when she started with her “naive” idea and that didn’t stick even after she threw so much money at it! 
  • How she decided to transform her business from a B2C to a B2B business (and how the realization came to her and surprisingly, it didn’t involve asking for feedback)
  • What she considers a gift to her business 
  • How she stopped “marketing” and where all if not most of her clients come from now 
  • How her business started to grow after she did one thing that she should’ve done from the beginning
  • What her true marketing strategy is right now
  • Why she dismisses the ego in the face of entrepreneurship
  • The real truth about listening to the market 
  • Her toughest challenges as a woman CEO who is also the single founder of her company 

Cha-Ly goes on to say that entrepreneurship is made up of a lot of chaos and it’s about finding a place for yourself in the storm and at the same time, enjoying the experience. 

Connect with her:

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  1. In this session,

    Things that made me laugh:
    ask the plant if you like to come back with me and die? 🙂

    Memorable quote:
    “it is harder to failed than give up”

    1. Yes, she is funny! That’s the part that makes her who she is. And I am glad you picked up on that and enjoyed the episode.

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