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First-of-its-kind programme launched to groom future entrepreneurs

An innovative programme to foster cross-cultural learning and experiential learning was launched by the SMU Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) on 2 March 2015.

Called the Asian Youth Entrepreneurship Programme (AYEP), more than 40 students from five universities – China’s Zhejiang University, Taiwan’s National Chengchi University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, South Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, as well as SMU – participated in the five-day programme which was held at SMU.

To maximize interaction and mutual learning, the students were grouped into different teams so that, where possible, no team comprised two students from the same university.

Professor Arcot Desai Narasimhalu, Director of IIE, said “This is the first time that such a collaborative programme has been launched in this region, we hope it would foster long term cross-border entrepreneurial partnerships.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are critical to the economic growth and sustainability of a country. Through this programme, we hope that more youths from Singapore and this region would gain early exposure to such concepts and best practices, which would hopefully encourage more of them to embark on their entrepreneurship journey.”

The five-day programme contained several highlights, one of which was to initiate the students into the world of entrepreneurship through a series of talks by IIE Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and industry practitioners. Topics presented included identifying business opportunities, building a company, writing a business plan, financial planning and fund-raising, getting early customers and internationalization.

Two successful start-ups which were incubated at IIE – Red Dot Payment and Pytheas Infosys – were on hand to share their entrepreneurship experience.

Another highlight was site visits. At FusionWorld, the students experienced the fusion of science and engineering disciplines and the latest innovations and state-of-the-art technologies in an advanced technology wonderland. A visit to Joyful Frog Digital Incubator, which houses a strong innovation and entrepreneurship community comprising start-ups, venture capital firms and tech incubators, gave students the opportunity to experience the vibrant start-up community in Singapore. They also visited Keppel FELS, which have successfully delivered almost half of the world’s newbuild jackup rigs and semisubmersibles in the past decade, to learn about how innovation is applied to its business operations.

The programme culminated in a competition where the teams worked on business ideas that could be launched in different markets. They presented their ideas on the final day in front of a panel of judges comprising Dr Virginia Cha and Dr Miles Gilman who are both Entrepreneur-in-Residence at IIE, and Mr Uday Deshpande, Co-founder of Tenshi Peak.

Team WEducation emerged winners with their idea of providing affordable and quality private tutoring as a way of reducing educational inequality. Team iQS was the first runner-up with their creation of an intelligent hardware with Bluetooth technology to help smokers quit the habit. Team Food Fair claimed the second runner-up position with their mobile application which connects supermarkets with consumers, selling soon-to-be-expired food at a cheaper price, thereby helping to reduce food wastage.

Taiwan’s National Chengchi University will host AYEP in 2016.

Here’s what some of the participants had to say about AYEP:

Vicky Cheung Wai Kar, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology:

“AYEP has been an extremely insightful and memorable experience. I am grateful to have the opportunity to listen to speakers with real knowledge of entrepreneurship, as well as work with students from other countries. It was really fun working with my team mates – I have never laughed so hard for an entire week! Working with such a diversified team enabled me to learn a lot. It also provided me the opportunity to put into practice some of the ideas that I have always been thinking about.”

Anna Chiang Hua-Yu, National Chengchi University:

“I do appreciate the opportunity to participate in AYEP. Over the last few days, I have learned lots of things from this program, such as how to express my opinions more accurately in English, how a team works, and how to communicate with others who hold different opinions. I’m so lucky to have met such wonderful teammates from other parts of the world. They taught me a lot and were always ready to help me whenever I face difficulties.”

Alan Gu Peizhen, Zhejiang University:

“I really enjoyed my AYEP journey in Singapore, not only for the competition which gave me a chance to work with peers from other countries, but also for the exposure to totally different cultures. The site visits, interaction with speakers and entrepreneurs, and discussions with students of other countries, gave me a clear idea of what China is strong in, and what it lacks in the area of nurturing entrepreneurs.”

Joe Byoung Hern Kim, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology:

“I have participated in many competitions for student start-ups in South Korea, but I think AYEP is definitely the best. Over the last few days, I have learned about starting a business and the related challenges, and also interacted with many peers from the other four universities.”

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