How Entrepreneurship is just like Shopping - Spree Republic
by Ngeow Shang Lin
You know the feeling you get when you walk past a store and you spot something you like , only to realize that when you walk into the shop , it is not only completely out of your price range, but they also tell you it's the last piece. The singular piece of coveted item is forever out of your reach.
Entrepreneurship, is largely similar. We've all been in awe of the hot-start ups today's vibrant business world and we find ourselves wondering if we ever have the opportunity to own a business or if it's just a dream that is out of your reach.
However, T&E class have taught me a great deal and now after having started and operated a business of my own, the dream is not as obscure as it use to be and i possess the necessary skills to turn it into a reality.
In shopping, you cannot simply rest on your laurels. The latest fashions and best deals out there waiting to be found - @ spreerepublic.com of course - and if you don't go out and hunt for them, they will always elude you. Ideas for your businesses cannot simply be developed from sitting at home. You have to be active in your research. Go out and take a look, read , scan and interact and you'll soon find what are some the business opportunities waiting for you.
We've had numerous passionate debates on how to proceed, on how to streamline our business processes and better ideas for communicating our business to our audience, there were definitely times where we were tired but we've soldiered on our "hardworking-ness" has paid off. Businesses shouldn't shy away from these arguments as it is only way to push not just yourself but everyone else in your group to greater heights.
I've learnt more than just entrepreneurship skills, but life skills. One of which is knowing how to get people excited about what you have say. Convincing people is a key skill in the process of starting a business. From sharing your enthusiasm to get people on board to work with you, selling your unique selling point to the VCs and lastly , inviting your customers to patronize you, it's all about human interaction and it's something i'll take with me after the entire course.
All in all, it's been a great experience and i wouldn't trade it for the world. Now that i've learnt how to fulfill my dreams of being an entrepreneur, i need to know how to go about shopping more efficiently .
When people think of Super Heroes, we imagine individuals with super natural powers; able to fly, equipped with super human strength, having the ability to communicate telepathically with others... Their sole purpose is to provide security and protection to the community, to serve justice and restore peace. Yet, everyday in our very ordinary and normal lives, there are amazing things happening everywhere. People with very modest abilities are changing the world as we see it. We neglect to appreciate these other Super Heroes in our midst.
These heroes nourish us with life experiences and educate us on our surroundings. They teach us the skills for survival and they arm us with weapons to attack and defend ourselves. These are the Super Heroes that provide us with the necessary support that we need. They draw on what they have learnt and encountered throughout their lives to pass on their knowledge in the hope that we will one day be the Super Heroes in our stories. These heroes live with us, amongst us and around us. They never fail to provide the assistances that we require. They remain strong when we are weak. And these Super Heroes live up to the true essences of a Hero.
In the past 14 weeks of my last semester in school, I was blessed to have been in the company of many heroes.
Professor Pamela Lim, a tough nut and serious educator, never bows down to failure and constantly pushes us to pursue the very essence of being human and entrepreneur. She teaches not only the technical skills of setting up a business but also life lessons. Through the many bouts of 'creative' discussions, my team had to deal with the shortcomings of our initial proposal of setting up an online bank. Stacked against the big players in the field, we sought to modify the idea into something a little more altruistic. We decided to move ahead with plans to establish an online donation portal to address the financial situation of families and individuals who are not as fortunate and are in need.
The proposal was hefty and there were many ideas flowing around. Professor Pamela was very focused and firm. She advised that we seek help from the government to work in collaboration with the community-related departments of the public sector. Through her extensive network, we managed to meet like-minded friends who were supportive of the plan and provided criticisms and compliments that helped to bolster our proposal.
We ran into a few hiccups along the way, but the experience though costly was important. It taught us to be cautious and careful of sharks lurking around the corners, leaning in close and ready to dine in. (Super Heroes are very prone to dangers, they attract a fair bit of trouble most of the time; especially when they are green and new to the scene.)
Ideas are aplenty but without the meticulous planning and effort in place to create a system that ensures that the idea works, a concept is simply a dream. Upon creating a draft of the system we had in mind, we sent a soft copy of our proposal to prospective investors and board members naively. Not knowing their intentions and clearly understanding their personality, we had stepped into a deep trap. (This is a classical case of trying to impress but not thinking about the repercussions. Reminds us of the many times when a greenhorn attempts to prove himself to the old bird.)
Just as how Batman saves Robin in times of trouble, we were fortunate to have the backing of our mentor and professor, step in to lend support. She anchored on her stand and promptly suggested that we stamp out the pests. She sent out emails to protect our interests and instructed us on the methods to avoid these similar hidden snares. I thought it was going to be difficult to get out of this messy entanglement, but as in every Super Hero flick, one always manages to solve the issue and move ahead a little tired and injured, yet ready to take on the world with a little more experience.
Never Giving Up.
This has taught me much more about myself and one of the many chaotic challenges that can spring up on you when you least expect it. Being hopeful and having the determination and passion to continue on the journey is definitely essential, because along the way we lose faith of our mission, vision and goals, but we cannot give up easily on ourselves. Pushing the boundaries and seeking to strive on in tough times is what makes us stronger and tougher.
"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."- Christopher Reeve
As an entrepreneur, teamwork is equally important. Understanding that people that you work with ultimately do not have to see eye to eye with your beliefs and goals, but there needs to be in place a system and structure that allows this difference in opinion to be discussed. When a decision is reach, we all respect that decision and move on with the agreed outcome. At the end of the day, we work together and are on the same boat. I believe we each have our personal perceptions that we must respect. As long as we are working towards a common objective to drive the business, we work hand in hand to achieve results and prosper. Similarly, when anyone in the team makes a mistake, we work to overcome that error by ironing out the issues and capture that experience. Together we grow and enjoy the fruits of our labour.
"Success and failure. We think of them as opposites, but they're really not. They're companions - the hero and the sidekick." - Laurence Shames
My final thought on Super Heroes.
They live in a world unashamed of their choices and live free to make those choices. Likewise, as entrepreneurs we should be free and take on calculated risks. Be comfortable with taking on the world and never be afraid to fail and thrive in our mistakes, only to come back and build success. If we fear the darkness of disappointment, we will never be able to live up to what we are truly meant for. Being a hero, as is being an entrepreneur, is about independence and freedom to live free without burdens.
With these tools in hand I want to stretch out and be my own hero. To build my own and keep it. This is a genuinely humbling and exhilarating experience that I will not forget and will hunger more of.
"Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story." - John Barth
If you think that my title is kidding then you are wrong! Everyone in class has really done it. My journey started when I decided to take a module called “technology and entrepreneurship”. Not only did prof Pamela Lim make entrepreneurship sound so interesting there were other factors that affected me that made me think that entrepreneurship was the way to go.
I have friends who are entrepreneurs and I think that hanging around them does influence me to become one as well. Also it was the perfect “job” for anyone who wants to have flexibility and at the same time makes money. Having a family who owns a family business, money wasn’t an issue and life was really smooth sailing until the company was losing lots of money and eventually closed down.
Only till then that I realized the importance of having money. This also made me determined to study hard and find a good job so that my parents would not need to work so hard and enjoy life. At that point of time, I did not think of becoming an entrepreneur but just wanted to make lots of money through working.
By chance I took TWC under prof, who made class really interesting and hearing her share her experience as an entrepreneur really inspired me to start my own business.
The time when I started taking the module was the time when my entrepreneurship journey started. Our group initially came up with the idea of having a ‘sportsbank’ where people could come to our website to loan sports equipment and find them partners to play sport. It was the combination of sports as well as micro-lending. It was a really interesting idea for me till we started to work on it! I would say that it was really tough. There were many limitations for us that made want to change our idea. However, after discussing with prof and her invaluable input it just brought us to where we are today. We then later incorporated prof’s suggestion and came up with the sports profiling idea. From then our group worked on that idea and progressed to what we are today. When nearing the end of the module, our group still had many issues that we have to overcome in order to get our program running. Our major issue was when we have to deal with parents and we did not have the credibility that parent are looking for. Furthermore, it came to us that we are setting up a business for people to make money other than ourselves. Hence, after discussion our group has decided to change directions. Hence our group is now working on it.
Some thoughts about the module…
I really learnt many things from the class as well as professor during the past 13 weeks. It was really the best module in my SMU life. It is also the most hands-on class. If you are a SMU student and aspiring to become an entrepreneur this is the module that is custom made for you. Unlike in other classes where you just talk to your own group of friends this is the class where everyone would talk to one another to share their experiences. From all these sharing we do learn from each others’ mistake.
Also the class was very supportive and encouraging by giving us very useful comments and suggestions of possible areas where our group could look into.
This module has also allowed me to be exposed to what it takes to set up a business.
Other lessons learnt are that you must take action if not everything you are planning will never get realized. This is really a major lesson learnt from this module because if we did not take action we would not have achieved what we have today. In addition, nothing is impossible it just mean I’m possible. The only thing that is impossible would be something that you do not believe in. The reason being that if you have 100% faith in whatever you are doing you will definitely get it down. There is no room for even 1% of disbelieve because when one meets an obstacle that 1% of disbelief would be magnified and become the 99% to change your mind. Last but not least, never give up because whenever you overcome an obstacle you are nearer to your dream. You would never know how far or near you are to your destination.
"A business idea never hits the spot the first time around." That was my biggest take away from this short and concise experience. 13 weeks was all it took for me and my group of friends to start from the generation of the idea and putting the business into the industry and out again. Short, but it was fruitfully lined with experience.
Talentsport came to life with 4 budding and hopeful undergraduates in anticipation to carve a business out of their passion. However soon after the inception of the idea, one founder had to leave the partnership for other more pressing commitments. Even before we had a chance of working on the idea, we now stare at our first setback right in the face: Manpower. Now with only 3, the going is only going to get tougher. In addition, starting a business from no experience and no links within the Industry was laughing matter. That would mean a lot more ground work for all of us, so it was back to the drawing board.
Armed with nothing but our passion and guts, we ventured out beyond the textbooks and into the real world; a real world where theories are nothing but waste paper and that no perception is more right than the market itself. Just as any passionate uninitiated entrepreneur would definitely believe that their initial plan was workable and the best, we were a little more conservative and we were looking at a moderate penetration of 30%. However, little did we expect our meeting with the cold hard truth of reality so fast. Rejection.
Rejection was the immediate. We visited schools hoping to use them as a form of distribution channel but were hastily chased away like we were some form contagious disease. Notwithstanding the conservative estimates, we were totally beaten by the market. And it was back to the drawing board again!
Further along the way of our little 13 week experience, we encountered further setbacks and we kept returning to the drawing board but staying true to the core business concept. Having a smaller team to work on this business was really both a boon and a bane. I realised that we were able to jump from idea to idea and modify the business swiftly and capitalise on the lessons we learnt from the setbacks. At the very end, I realised that although we tried to stick to the core concept, we ended up taking a whole different approach to achieve it.
At the end, it's never about pride of the initial idea, but its all about using any feasible method to get the business off the ground. And you might notice how differently the business is taking off from what you initially expect.
Entrepreneurship is a challenge. 13 weeks ago, reading the course outline for Prof. Pamela Lim’s course I would not have imagined that in this short period, I too could be a business owner (and earn revenue no less). More unfathomable was the idea that five random strangers could come together to form a business. Our fateful like-mindedness definitely aided the process.
There was a wide variety of technical expertise ranging from logistics to finance and marketing to communications, and everyone had at least one common goal-to enjoy the last term doing something fulfilling, but not extravagant.
Our initial plan of remaining a small scale business helped us have a successful run because the team put their best feet forward. For me the challenge was coping with all the technology. Between website creation, order forms, and Facebook promotions, the challenges were diverse. Even with the incredible Web 2.0 tools that have redefined communication, and by extension all business models, the most important thing is to have that incredible idea.
Ours was simple-to organize a massive shopping spree. As a group mate astutely put it in the business plan, “Spree Republic aims to be the premier online shopping space for savvy shoppers through the exploitation of economies of scale and from this collusion of purchases from several networked parties, Spree Republic can leverage on the cheaper shipping rates from the online stores around the world.”
Though we only got to hold one spree, we learnt many valuable lessons, which will help streamline the business further should one consider continuing it. The most important of the lessons was far softer-that entrepreneurship is about the spirit. The willingness, the passion (the synonyms are varied) is what will get you through.
First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Alan Phua and I'm 25 this year. I've had some small experiences in starting a business (Consulting) which by now have been closed because I didn't have enough interest in it to follow through. I am still an aspiring Entrepreneur (trying to form another start up), learning the ropes to financial freedom and achieving my dreams. In this article, I shall talk about my learning curves so far.
- One of my current obstacles towards launching a business is getting funding. Previously I did not have to worry about this as my required initial capital was very low. This time round, I need more cash for research. In my meetings with key personnel in the funding circle as well as competitions, my team and I got shot down on numerous occasions till the point some of us got so demoralized that the next few days became unproductive.
- I came from a home whereby my family members were corporate high flyers. Dad is a senior director in a listed company in Singapore and Sister is a government scholar excelling in MAS currently. They all went through the conventional route of School -> Work -> $. I think they are one of the smartest people around to accomplish what they have done but somehow this trend did not run in my blood. I want to start and have something of my own and I have to admit that my dad didn't understand why I would want to do it. He has tried to talk me out of it at times or tried to convince me to start later in life as I may make better decisions when I'm more mature.
But my thinking is, the later I start, the later I mature. Just because I start later, doesn't mean I make better decisions. Getting support from my family can be a challenge at times and I found that the lack of this will result in a lack of inner peace and it will be harder for one to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams.
- Having been put down on numerous occasions, I turned to watching videos and reading about my role models like Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, more locally..Adam Khoo and of course my mentor Prof Pamela Lim. I learnt that, many great entrepreneurs got looked down upon at the start. No one who has succeeded in anything did not have any skepticism thrown at them. Being persistence in my dreams also meant being thick skin.
- As suggested in my introduction, I now really realize that having passion for what you do is arguably the most important foundation you can have as an entrepreneur. Starting a business means dodging and handling all the rocks being thrown at you. If you don't like what you're doing, life and work will really be a chore.
- Sometimes, a person's stated job can be to help you can started in your entrepreneurial path. But that image can quickly disappear when you start seeing the things they do and finding reasons why they're behaving that way. Under guidance, I begin to see things from everyone's perspectives and started to see the conflict of interest leading to the irony of things.
The irony of "sometimes, the person who is supposed to help you, is your greatest enemy". The term "its nothing personal, its just business" is utterly rubbish. Business is everything personal. You always do business or buy from the person you like (assuming offerings are similar). Even products these days are about personalization.
- The title this paragraph is arguably one of the truest phrase of wisdom. Many a times, the CEO or founder of a particular business is not the best technical person in the business. (If he is any technical at all). Nonetheless, the founder finds their way through to building the product that they so desire because of the people they know. In business, we always need help and no one can succeed alone. Knowing people is speeds things up and really make things happen. Rule I learnt from many entrepreneurs: "Always network! Be Humble."
- Einstein once said that "Imagination is more important than knowledge". I truly agree with this statement. An entrepreneur's job is to create value for people in this world that no one has already created. That suggest that imagination is needed on a great scale. Knowing things does not result in the next revolutionary product. Imagination does. Great entrepreneurs like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (Although they?re business enemies) , are great fundamentally because of their aptitude to dream and imagine. How different our lives would be now if not for them. But a word of cautious is that, imagination is not everything. Too many visionaries in a team can hamper the growth as well as slow down the process (too many people thinking. Too little doing). My take is that..Imagination + Networking = Potential for success.
- A person's mentor will no doubt shape the way he/she thinks when it comes to business. Choosing a wrong mentor is equivalent to installing a virus into your system and damaging the potential that was born into this body. The number of people whom you choose to allow influence on you also matters a great deal. I know of a few friends who set up their business and have won funding and looked set on progressing in their business. But instead of spurring ahead, they were being held back several times and the team were at times lost simply because they had too many mentors and everyone had a different thing to say, confusing them and slowing their growth. My take on that is to really reduce the number of mentors. Choose the right mentor (someone who's been there done that. Someone who really wants to see you succeed), and follow his/her lead all the way. Afterall, entrepreneurship is a journey and not a destination.
From here on, I will iron these beliefs into my system and really stick to it and drive forward ferociously. I hope the journey will not be too rough and may all my brothers and sisters out there who seek to succeed..accomplish your goals. Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.
I will leave with this video that has inspired me to forget about the sack backs I?ve had and ?connect the dots?.
The instructor, Pamela Lim, had required students to establish their own businesses. Since this was not stated in the course outline, I became quite pessimistic about taking this course. I was strongly persuaded by my peers to switch to Entrepreneurship and business creation course. However, I still decided to adhere to this course as I had the inner feeling that I will certainly acquire some important benefits. This certainly turned out to be true and I consider myself to be very fortunate to having accepted this module.
Initially, I had always been quite a risk adverse person. Therefore, although admiring successful Indian business tycoons such as Dhirubhai Ambani, Laxmi Mittal, setting up my very own business was not my passion. The prime reason was my reluctance to embrace the risks and huge responsibilities associated with establishing the business.
This view indeed changed in the past 12 weeks. In fact, at present, I feel that being an entrepreneur is extremely exciting and challenging (much better than doing paper work for our employers). This is because, entrepreneurs are able to relax on their liberty constraints and be flexible in making decisions.
Despite the risks involved, a sheer combination of diligence and perseverance can lead us to the attainment of substantial revenue and profits. Indeed, it is sometimes enjoyable to embrace certain challenges or be a risk seeker as it gives us the opportunity to gauge our performance.
Moreover, I have also learnt the importance of successful team management. As entrepreneurs, it is crucial to realize the presence of competitors and recruit only the best people to sustain in this race. This was attained through working with my group (LoboLobo.com). I learnt a lot while drafting real business plans, sharing and modifying one another's ideas.
Next, learning the actual procedures attaining funds for the seed round from bootstrapping, personal sources, venture capital or angel investors have the legal requirements such as the NDA( to maintain the confidentiality of ideas) have indeed helped me a lot. The financial fund schemes in Singapore for young start up entrepreneurs (students) such as YES Startup (organized by Spring) also seem to be very useful.
Frankly speaking, I had always thought of relying on bank loans to fund business. But now, since I am interested in setting up an online textiles business, I want to work first to raise enough cash to fund instead of borrowing loans at hefty interests.
Therefore, in conclusion, I feel that this course has benefited me tremendously as it gave me the opportunity to experience being a real entrepreneur. The valuable tips provided by Pamela Lim will be unforgettable. I also learnt the best way of becoming a successful entrepreneur lies in having a passion for it. This will motivate us to work hardly and smartly. Entrepreneurship allows us to be more prudent and also broaden social network.
In conclusion, I will certainly recommend this course to my friends who are extremely eager to become start up entrepreneurs.
Lessons learnt from Technological Entrepreneurship module
by Sam Yong Zhi
Probably one of the most important lessons that I have learnt from this class is that, I should consciously make an effort to do less planning and more execution. I tend to procrastinate and spend too much time planning for the “perfect” plan. Yet the reality is that plans do change along the way.
The catch is really to get a decent plan up and go ahead to get something done, to get some progress. Along the way there will be useful and probably not so useful feedbacks and the plan will change for the better.
Another take away is that great ideas don’t make great businesses, great people do. While having a great idea or having the money would probably be critical to success of a business idea, what investors look for the most is the management. Eventually they know that if they were to invest, they are “betting” on the people who are going to make it happen then relying on the business idea.
Taking this entrepreneurship class itself was one of the best decisions I have made. I am glad I have taken this class. I have always wanted to start my own business even before I came to SMU. Unfortunately, there was a period of time I was actually influenced by the culture/pressure from the peers and became one of the many students eyeing for a career in finance. Taking this Technological Entrepreneurship module, I was exposed to the world of entrepreneurship again, and with the inspiration from Pamela Lim, I am now determined to strike it out on my own.
Together with the many lessons that I have learnt in class, I am very grateful for the entrepreneurial environment that this course has created. I have always believed that structure drives behaviour and by immersing myself in friends who want to be entrepreneurs, courses that encourages entrepreneurship, Professor who is also a successful entrepreneur, I can now say that I am determined to continue on my journey of entrepreneurship, to do things that I really like and be in control of my own life.
That's exactly what many of us students are going through these days. Am I worried you may ask?
Truth is I have not applied for a job and I do not intend to. No, its not because I want to party for a year before finding a job - it is because I intend to start my own business.
Sure the risks are high, but considering the job market is so bad right now, the opportunity cost of starting a business is pretty low.
Even before I entered SMU I always had a dichotomy of a dream - caught between the path of entrepreneurship and finance.
Somehow as I progressed through school I started to veer toward finance and midway through I was convinced I would be working in corporate finance or in private banking in the future. Then came my final semester when I took MGMT 324 under Prof Pamela Lim.
There are some that claim entrepreneurship is something that cannot be taught. My personal experience after 13 weeks is that there is so much knowledge that can be imparted through an entrepreneurship course. One of the first things that we did in the class was to generate a business idea in the first hour, and to subsequently present on it. I personally felt it was incredible that a business idea could be created so quickly. Sure it was not perfect at the start but as the weeks went by, we managed to refine our idea in our business plan along the way. As each group presented, the rest of the class then participated by giving extra suggestions. In a class of about 30 students, the amount of positive ideas brought out can really make an impact!
As the course progressed we were constantly required to tweak and refine our business plan. We practically had to learn the whole nine yards. Starting with writing a proper business plan down to the income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement and even valuation, we also had to implement and launch our business. This is one aspect that I believe sets the MGMT 324 apart from the rest. By having us establish the business, there were so many issues that we had to consider, and furthermore we experienced so many problems along the way that cannot be thought off if running the business hypothetically.
Another aspect I learnt was that working with business partners made me understand a lot about how effective communication was important. When working under stressful conditions it was easy for misunderstandings to take place.
Truth is, Pamela gave us invaluable insight into setting up a business and making it grow successfully. From the inspiring entrepreneurs that came to class to speak, to all the tips and tricks to nail a presentation, to learning how to protect our intellectual property rights, a lot of such information is hard to obtain and some experiences we learnt cannot be found in books or online.
What I can say is that going through this course has reinvigorated me into venture onto the path of entrepreneurship again. Through the excitement (and also pain) of setting up our business - 'SpreeRepublic.com'. I've learnt how rewarding it can be to operate a business, to be in control of things. The icing on top of the cake was that we managed to make a small profit even on the first run!
So overall what I can say is that through her class, Pamela has sparked the entrepreneurial spirit in me. Now who says entrepreneurship cannot be taught!
When I enrolled for Technological Entrepreneurship course, all I had in my mind was to learn how to identify the next Google or Microsoft so that I could invest and be living a comfortable life when I hit 35. However, my perception changed right from the first lesson. Perhaps it was because my group came out with an idea which was so simple and yet it was an idea which I strongly believe will emerged as one of the easily profitable business in our class.
The journey of entrepreneurship is long and arduous. Our group had modified our ideas several times. Our original idea of catering food to the SMU population during breaks has evolved to serving gourmet hawker food to offices. Throughout the course, Pamela has been drilling into our head that business ideas changed and evolved through time.
Our group has experienced this first hand. We have also witness first hand how our fellow classmates/future entrepreneurs changed their business plans and ideas as the weeks passed by.
One thing that I have learned in this course is that, in the realm of entrepreneurship, change is the only constant. We have to learn to adapt to changes for our business ideas/concepts to be successful.
One more thing which I have learned is that no matter how simple as a business operation may sound it does not seem as simple/easy as it looks. Our business hit a couple of operational issues during our trial session with our classmates. This made us realized that running a business is never easy. The phrase, “Whatever that can go wrong will go wrong”, is very applicable to all business operations. We should always plan for the worse case scenario whenever we plan anything.
In our group’s case, what happened if the duck rice stall which we are supposed to order from does not open on that day for various reasons? How will we account to our customers? These have to be thought through long and hard before our business officially opens for business.
This course has truly been a wonderful experience for me and for my team. It opened up a new avenue for me to consider my career path. Truth is that, I have never thought of setting up my own business until I went through the course and it showed me how easy it is to do so. Whoever heard of setting up a business and get it running in thirteen weeks? Though it is still a long way to success, but at least, I have taken those baby steps.
Ask me whether I would be a entrepreneur 2 years ago and I bet you would get a stern "No!" from me. It would never have crossed my mind to be an entrepreneur. Here's why: I grew up in a family where my dad and mum have been stuck with the same job they have worked with from day one and truth be told, their jobs enabled my family to enjoy a more than average lifestyle. My brother and I had the privilege of taking music lessons both on the piano and the violin from young. My family travels together almost annually for a family holiday and throughout my growing years, my parents have never had issues with money or the lack of it.
Growing up this way convinced me that all I had to do was to study something I enjoyed, get a great employer and work your heart out to maintain lifestyle that I wanted.
Soon, during my term break, I started a small online business selling handmade jewelry and quickly found success. Though I was not earning big money at that time, I found a way to make money through doing something that I enjoyed and that gave me great satisfaction. My interest in entrepreneurship grew and I was informed by Prof Pamela Lim that she would be teaching another class focusing on Entrepreneurship. I quickly jumped at the idea as I wanted to learn the ropes of being an entrepreneur.
Throughout the course, I learnt 2 important things:
Firstly, as Steve Jobs mentioned in his speech (in the video attached above); STAY HUNGRY, STAY FOOLISH! Throughout the class, we had the the opportunity to be truly be foolish. We had the chance to think of ideas in groups, get shot down by your group members and then present the group idea to the class and get shot down by the class again. In fact I learnt that foolishness was the element that led many great entrepreneurs to their current success. Prof Pamela Lim truly facilitated our 'foolishness' as she never once said to any group: "Your idea is not workable" in fact, she would constantly improve on the group's idea and give them the feedback necessary to enhance the initial idea. And it turned out that many of the groups in my class today who initially had "foolish" ideas ended up with businesses that have unlimited opportunities.
Secondly, listen to criticism. I learnt this from the group that founded FUND-A-FRIEND who ended up starting a non-profit organization. Initially when the group started out with FUND-A-FRIEND, they had alot of negative feedback from the class. In fact, most of us were skeptical about their business. The group managed to take in all the negative feedback and made constructive changes to their business and ended up with an applaudable business idea. In this current climate, I thought that they came up with a very timely business. And through this, I learnt that we must all learn how to take criticism. Instead of going in the direction of giving up or going in the other direction of insistently sticking to your path, evaluate the comments that are given to you and find a resolution between those comments and your current business.
The opportunities for an entrepreneur are limitless. And as I graduate this year, I am looking forward to a wonderful year ahead of opportunities, foolishness and lots of careful listening. I hope that I would be able to channel whatever I have learnt into my current business and create something meaningful.
It started off with an idea about bikes, then it was an idea about laptops. Then it was something else I can't even remember. One moment we wanted to be evil capitalistic money lenders, now we are are a charity out for social good.
The thing about entrepreneurship is that you never know what you're getting yourself into. This is especially true for this my group and I. Every meeting is a turn in the road. Many times we went 180 degrees on what we had. If the business plan is a living document, ours is has mutated more times than the flu virus. Our plan keeps changing even after we have set our minds on the macro objectives. However it is something that I think is very necessary, and at the moment, its an advantage.
Obstacles there were many, of course. There is the paper work. Of course. Lucky for us, our CEO deals with most of the government, the little that I had to go through as part of the group its not easy. Filling up the same forms again and again.
Well with that behind us would be putting the plan to work. There is another big unknown. A sea of possibilities await us. There one island of success out there, lets hope we can find it.
The past twelve weeks have really gone by in the blink of an eye. Now, as I think about the course and what my team has done and learnt, I really agree with Prof – we certainly have come a long way. When classes first started, I must admit that I really did not know what to expect. This was a new elective to the school and as such, there was no way to find out more about the course, other than what was stated in the outline.
I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that Prof had decided to adopt a hands-on approach as trying out entrepreneurship was something I had not tried before; it was also something I was interested in trying out.
I have definitely learnt a lot from the instructor and my classmates through valuable inputs, feedback and recommendations. I was in charge of the technical aspects of the business - hence I learnt many new things like web design and implementation.
In conclusion, if you want to learn more what it is like to be an entrepreneur and experience the rigours of starting a business, I highly recommend pursuing this module in your next semester.
by Soh Han Chong Andy
(Singapore Management University)
My name is Andy Soh a third year student from Singapore Management University (SMU). My first inspiration of being an entrepreneur came during my second year of study at SMU. I was attending a course named "Technology and World Change" by Prof Pamela Lim. This course taught me on how innovation came about in today's world and convinced me to take on the entrepreneur route.
When I was in my polytechnic days, I do not have a goal in life. I enrolled in the course named Diploma in Multimedia and Info Communication because of 2 reasons. The first reason was that my teachers in secondary school advised me to do something related to technology. The second reason was that the sales guy has given me a good pitch during the polytechnic open house and I am convinced by him that the course is the right track for me. This has taught me a painful lesson as I ended up regretting what I have studied.
Because of this course, I aspired to be a programmer which specialized in Multimedia solutions. However, deep down inside my empty heart, I know that this is not what I wanted to achieve.
After I graduated from Polytechnic, I went on to serve National Service. I was given an opportunity to pursue a career in the air force as a commission officer. My parents and friends supported it and I have to make the biggest decision of my life at that point of time. In the end, I chose not to pursue the career and go for further education instead which explains why I ended up here in SMU. I've never looked back since.
I have to be really thankful to SMU. My three years here have given me great friends, networks and professors who are really supportive and helpful. The real opportunity came when I attended another course conducted by Prof Pamela Lim. The course name, “Technological Entrepreneurship and Opportunity Identification” speaks for itself. This course provides the basic knowledge and foundation which all entrepreneurs need to be equipped with before embarking on their start ups. Besides that, this course provides the opportunity for all teams and students an opportunity to start a business of their own.
My team and I are in the process of setting up a Non Profit Organization in Singapore. Leading a team of 8 people in total, we embarked on our journey. We started by going around looking for support and did our own research to understand the market. However, life as an entrepreneur is never easy. The learning curve is steep with little time to execute especially when we found out that there are possible competitors onboard. Being a young start up, there is little credibility for us as well. To set up a nonprofit organization, what it needed most would be credibility.
As a result, we find it extremely hard to talk to people and even potential partners. People have difficult trusting us as a young start up especially when they know that we are a team of students.
Apart from that, being young and inexperienced, we make multiple mistakes along the way. For example, we gave a softcopy of our business plan to a potential partner and in the end, the business plan was circulated around and the secret of our business model is being exposed. Through this process, we learnt an important lesson. We have to be more careful in our distribution of important documents. Apart from that, we suffered multiple criticisms and destructive feedback from various people in different industries. We have to take in all comments with an open mind and move on.
In life, there are always such “negative” people around who can potentially bring you down. The most important part of it is to bring back the pointers and learn from it.
There are multiple skill sets which an entrepreneur needs to have. First of all, it is networking. Entrepreneurs have limited resources and as a result we need the help of others. We would never know these people who we network with are able to assist or help us in our business in future. Therefore, having a good network of friends is extremely important. Secondly, entrepreneurs must have an open mind. Entrepreneurs face rejections as well as criticisms all the time. The important part here is to take back the comment and seek to improve
I believe that to start entrepreneurship at the age of 24 is the perfect time for me. People of my age have nothing to lose especially when I am still a student. The only thing that I can possibly lose would be my time. I am really fortunate to be able to start young and be given with multiple opportunities to start a business.
Technological Entrepreneurship: Opportunity Identification is unlike any other class that I have attended in the course of my four-year study in SMU. Initially I was shocked that we were expected to set up a business within the short time span of 15 weeks. However I have since learnt that sometimes the best way to make things work is to simply start doing without thinking so much! As Nike’s advertising slogan goes, “Just do it!”
In the process of my team and I making mistakes, learning from them, and improving on the business, the business eventually worked itself out. Taking a plunge into the deep end to start up a business has been a memorable experience. Experience and failure are both great teachers.
In the same vein, I realized that there is no better substitute to learn about business than managing one myself. All the theories and textbook knowledge that I have learnt in other courses, while useful to a certain extent, does not teach me to manage a business successfully because there is no hard and fast way of running a business.
And although I have learnt how to write impressive and snazzy business plans in other courses, I learnt that in the real corporate world, no one would bother to read through an entire business plan. And often, all the theoretical material that I usually include in my business plans is not desirable in the real corporate world. This leads me to think that SMU should provide a module that teaches students to write relevant business plans that are actually being used in the real world.
Also from this course I learnt that flexibility is an important characteristic of an entrepreneur. Specifically, I learnt how to take in constructive criticism and modify my business plan. That being said, it is also important to filter the advice received and be decisive in determining which advice is constructive and which is not.
Initially, my group was receiving so much feedback and suggestions that we lost direction because we were trying to incorporate all the information received. However, we’ve managed to whittle down the advice and use the relevant ones to improve upon our business plan and chuck away the less appropriate advice.
One particular memorable lesson that I have learnt from a guest speaker was the low opportunity cost of being an entrepreneur presently. In the past, I was told that I should only be an entrepreneur after I have gained the relevant working experience as an employee. However, the guest speaker provided an alternative perspective of being an entrepreneur as a student or fresh graduate because we have nothing to lose. This has definitely gotten me seriously thinking of being an entrepreneur.
To conclude, what I find most beneficial of this course besides the hands-on experience of setting up and running a business is the practical advice that Professor Pamela Lim gave stemming from her own entrepreneurial experience. Such as what to look out for in contracts signed with venture capitalists and confidentiality disclosure agreements. Such advice is not given or learnt in other courses that I’ve taken before and I think it’s great that Professor Lim is willing to share all these “secrets of the trade” with her class.
My entrepreneurial journey began when I was only 19. At that time, I met a group of friends who shared a similar goal of starting a café. Together, we set out to establish such a business.
All of us had neither prior experience in any form of business nor any formal education in starting one. Our saving grace was that we had the contacts for suppliers and equipment, a relatively good location, and lots of passion.
Our start-up process was relatively easy. Together, we formed a Private Limited, had a form of shareholders agreement to divide our roles within ourselves, while stating our respective share ownership and injection into the business.
As I was under-aged at that time, I got a family member to become my proxy in the business. Within the team, I was the youngest and least experienced member, so I basically followed the direction of my other partners. We basically rushed into the business without a compelling vision or long term plan. Our only goal was to build a system that we might franchise in the future. Other than that, it was pure passion what was driving the team.
The café lasted almost two years. During the first year, our biggest mistake was to fully staff the café with managers and staff. We had started with spare cash but that was quickly depleted. It was only at this point that we realized that we needed better financial projections. We also realized that we needed to review our cost structure as we had overestimated our initial sales by a big margin.
Change was needed and I mainly contributed by physically running the café after we had to fire our existing managers to cut cost and hire only a few staff to lower cost. Shortly, we broke even. But we still needed to cover the bad debt that we had accumulated. It was a really challenge maintaining different suppliers and debtors. The lesson ‘cashflow is king’ was learnt firsthand when we had to clear our debt while staying afloat.
Towards the end of our second year, we were able to clear our debts, but the team was already disheartened and burnt out. We had lost our focus as we lacked a clear leader from the start. Shortly, we liquated the company and each went our separate paths on amiable terms. The experience of being in a start-up was nevertheless rewarding and inspiring.
Upon entering SMU, I have joined various ideas pitching sessions and went for a few rounds of iJAM funding in 2007. I got to experience various forms of seeking funding and learnt the importance of a business plan and idea pitching (selling yourself). Due to my stubborn and positive nature, I always bounce back up after every discouragement or negative feedback from others. However, I felt that a formal course to learn about entrepreneurship was nevertheless needed.
When one of our school lecturers, Professor Pamela Lim, decided to offer this class, Technological Entrepreneurship, I signed up for the class as this would offer me to learn formally on the knots of starting a business. Her background includes being a Venture Capitalist, successful entrepreneur (bringing a start-up from Idea to IPO stage) and clinching various entrepreneurial awards. Her guidance and wisdom greatly aided my personal growth.
As part of the class, we were also required to pursue a business that was technologically inclined. Learning from my previous experience, my group pursued a very big vision, to be the ‘Amazon of e-books’. Our business idea then went through various transformation of business model and target segment. We really focused on our feasibility study as we wanted to create a legend.
Although the course has ended, we have evolved our business model radically from how we have started. Now, we are more confident of our value proposition and are currently approaching various sources of funding.
This course has taught us the skills and knowledge that we need as aspiring entrepreneurs. Among the most important lessons that we have learnt, they are firsthand tips and lessons on approaching VCs, sharing our business ideas, importance of a team, idea pitching (importance of a teaser), various ways to protect your start-up and even corporate governance mechanisms.
This course is strongly recommended to any aspiring entrepreneur within SMU. This is because the ropes would be taught, the mentor would be available, the class would be fun but would you take up the challenge? And join us on this journey of entrepreneurship. This is the path least travelled, but the most rewarding as well.
Technology and Entrepreneurship: Thoughts on Prof Pamela's Class
by Dawn Liu
When I signed up for this course, I don't think I really knew just what I was getting into. I had not taken a course under Prof Pamela before. My primary motivations for bidding for it were that it fulfilled my course requirements, was at a suitable time, and the course outline looked interesting and potentially useful.
I'm not disappointed with the outcome here. Although I soon found that this course was most unconventional, I felt as though I learned more out of it than my average textbook-based, content-heavy courses. This course was all about learning from experiences and we were certainly given many chances to 'experience'. Even the course structure and requirements, which initially annoyed me no end because I wasn't quite clear what I had to do, was a taste of venturing out into the real world, where things aren't clear and change on a regular basis.
It is interesting to see how my thoughts on business starting have changed over the course of the term. At the beginning, when we were told that we had to actually set up a new business within 10 weeks, it was a very mind-boggling though. Then as my group progressed, I began to think, 'Hey, this is possible and not as tough as I thought,' and finally, when things started speeding up, 'Okay, it is difficult ... but obviously it's not impossible.'
I think most of my learning experiences came from the mistakes I realised I'd made on hindsight. Probably the largest mistake was to get myself stuck going in a direction which I wasn't that passionate about. My group actually took a long time to finalise our idea, and after a couple weeks, I believed that we could go either way. I felt that I had a good team I could work and get along with, however, and I thought that was the important part.
Unfortunately the idea took a turn whereby the rewards of the start-up changed dramatically. FundaFriend initially started out as an online social banking idea; it evolved since to become an online charity portal that required increased workload and resulted in decreased payoff. This wouldn't be so bad if I were more passionate about the subject matter of our business. There were of course many aspects I liked about it - such as the idea of empowering donors - but the overall idea just doesn't wow me enough to dedicate all my efforts into it for only the future prospects of becoming a salaried worker.
Therefore I think what I would advise other aspiring entrepreneurs is to really understand yourself first. You need to know what is most important to you and how far you are willing to go for it. Ultimately this will impact how much commitment you can give.
However, wherever I go with the team from here, I will have learned first-hand that a business started does not necessarily follow the same model as the initial idea. I have taken away valuable insights on what matters to me, how much risk I am willing to take, and where that puts me on the scale suitability for entrepreneurship.
Hopefully knowing all this will help me to meet the career challenges and make decisions on them in the future.
The lessons I have taken away from my Technological Entrepreneurship module covers both technical / academic knowledge, as well as Business skills / experiences only attained through practical application.
Technical / Academic knowledge
Materials covered have revealed to us details that are intimate to an entrepreneur’s heart. The rough contents are as follows:
Understanding the incentives for and against an entrepreneur / investor;
Understanding the intricacies of contracts / deals between one’s partners, employees, investors, etc;
Deeper appreciation of how to run a business and subsequently grow it;
How to protect one’s company;
Exit strategies for an entrepreneur;
Setting up of our company’s website
The above highlights the rough technical / academic knowledge I have grasped from this module. These have allowed me to understand more about entrepreneurship and provided me with a firm foundation to further build my experiences and knowledge upon within and / or beyond the context of this module.
Business Skills / Experiences
Sharing sessions with entrepreneurs
Interaction with entrepreneurs has brought some realism to both this module, as well as the entrepreneurship. Previously, ‘entrepreneurship’ was a foreign term, and carried the connotations of something being “BIGGER THAN LIFE” and “UNATTAINABLE” / “IMPOSSIBLE”. I believe that this stereotype has vanished now.
Entrepreneurs are just like you and I. They are people that have gone off the beaten track, following their hearts, and chasing that dream that they have conceived. Some will succeed and be richly rewarded, some will earn enough for sustenance, and most would have “failed”.
One might ask, “Why then even bother?”
Passion for one’s dream. This was something that was clearly radiating from entrepreneurs that spoke in class. They had an inner calling to further their dreams, to materialize them for all to see/use/benefit from. To be able to endure those painstaking years as an entrepreneur, one must possess a strong conviction (passion). This is what I understood from those conversations in class.
Self learning / Experimentation
Since the course requires students to develop ideas with external parties, we had the opportunity to discover more knowledge from the School of Life-through our interaction with venture capitalists, private equity fund managers, and micro financiers.
Having attended a breakfast meeting with venture capitalists and private equity fund managers, allowed us further insights into the realm of VCs. The experience allowed us to network with individuals from the various sectors in this industry. We came out with a better understanding of the flaws of our business plans. These were invaluable industry knowledge that was hard to come by.
In sum, TE has managed to fuse academia with that of the real world. Knowledge must be supplemented with practice for learning to be valuable and relevant. That was what TE module has provided and achieved.
The Best Way to Learn is to Jump into the Deep End
by Alan NG
Deep end is where the treasure is...
The course outline for investors stated in my Technological Entrepreneuship (TE) course was this:
"Students are given $100,000 'play money' to invest in financial instruments. They can choose to invest in any hi-tech company listed in any stock market. Students will be graded by how much they have earned or lost with this money."
Well, it didn't seem very daunting; after all, it's just about paper trading with "fake" money. How tough could it be wading in shallow waters? Our instructor thought we needed something more challenging (since we already had some experience in paper trading) and threw us into the deep end. Yes, I used to word "threw". We were supposed to try to start a Venture Capital (VC) Fund.
2 guys, 1 idea, 0 experience. The water level was threatening to devour us as we struggled to stay afloat; the depths were unknown.
In came pieces of wooden logs, styrofoam boxes, and other assortment of objects which we clung on for dear life. No life jackets; no body floats, just objects that were able to keep the water level below our chins. The instructor had given us these 'tools' to help us tide through our ordeal.
Starting and sustaining a VC fund requires a delicate cocktail of experience, knowledge, ability and skill - something which we clearly lack. However, whatever we couldn't make up in experience, we tried; whatever we couldn't make up in knowledge, we read; whatever we couldn't make up in ability, we asked; and whatever we couldn't make up in skill; we learnt.
Throughout the last 13 weeks, after meeting numerous setbacks, umpteen blank stares and plentiful "you won't succeed?" I've learnt how to ignore the howling winds that often threaten to throw one off course, lose focus and make one give up. However, the constructive advice, help and support provided by instructors and friends enabled us to change, adjust and evolve; to swim and float more efficiently.
From trying to start a VC fund, we evolved into one which had more purpose and meaning that wasn't only about making money. We decided to delve into micro-financing; something which is possibly revenue generating, satisfying and sustainable.
Many financial institutions are reluctant to fund such projects as the only collateral is the promise on the word. However, carried out properly, the rewards can be many, monetary and otherwise.
Looking back at the last 13 weeks, it's difficult, if not impossible for me to clearly articulate what I've gained in this course. The lessons learnt were invaluable; knowledge acquired was intangible and the journey taken was indescribable.
What I can say is: I came out of the pool a stronger, more efficient and better swimmer. But most importantly, I came out
Alan Lee Kong Chian School of Business Singapore Management University
But that's the dream and the potential of every entrepreneur. Without a cap to their income, it is possible for any entrepreneur with the right attitude to make that kind of money.
My story with Professor Pamela is probably more of a head/heart journey than anything else. The great thing about learning under an entrepreneur is that: you learn about what you can do, instead of the usual criticism from academics about why it cannot work.
From TE, I learnt that the most important is to try. And to ask. As I watched the way Prof Pamela interacted with business people outside of classroom, I realize that the secret to finding good business is simply: to ask.
"If I buy 20 packets of pasta from you at $1 discount, would you deliver it to any location for me?"
"Can we bypass this and start the business anyway?"
The most important thing here is to be .. what steve jobs would say, be hungry and be foolish. You don't need 1000 reasons why you cannot, you just need one reason why you can.
Many times for me, I'm just too afraid to ask. Too afraid to try to bend the rules or whatsoever. But as I've learnt one thing from her, which is to challenge the status quo and just keep hitting against the wall. One day the wall will crumble.
So, above all the projects I've done and am doing, I still thank Prof Pamela for her deep insights; sometimes we hear so much of it from books, from other professors, but it's so different when we actually see someone living it out instead of just preaching it all the time.
From laptop seller to the laying the foundations of an online community
I think I share similar thoughts as alot of other people when I realized that this course expected us to setup our own business. I applied for this course thinking that it will give me some lessons to help me with building up my own business in future and boy did it far far exceed my expectations.
Since young, I have always thought that it will be "cool" to be my own "boss" some day, but I always wondered where to start, and how to start? Eventually, this idea got lost out there, somewhere in the deeper recesses of my mind as I trudged through 3 years of course work, a year's internship, contract jobs etc. I sort of gotten "side tracked" into building up my resume like everyone else and aimming to get that nice comfy job (not in the finance sector though).
When I saw this course on BOSS (our SMU course bidding system), I just thought that "oh... another one of those entrepreneurship courses..." But this time, it seemed to fit my requirements very well. I decided to just apply for it. Anyway, its my last semester in SMU and I wanted to try something more interesting...
This was the start of getting my questions I raised earlier answered, the how to start, what to do, where to go, who to see, questions.
At first, I did share with some of my group members some of my business ideas which I had thought are quite unique and interesting. However, they seemed too complicated and nearly impossible to pull off within the short time frame which was given to us by professor Pamela.
Eventually, we approached her for some advice and she told us why not go sell some laptops, earn a small profit, get some experience of doing a business and keep the money as pocket money. My team and myself thought why not. Seems easy enough and probably we will be able to earn a few hundred from it.
This marks the start of a long journey which I am far from completing. We started thinking harder about our idea and it seems that the more we discussed, the more question marks seem to appear and what's worse, these question marks seem to be growing bigger and bigger. We realized that a simple problem like selling laptops wasn't going to be as easy as we thought it would. Questions such as what modes of transaction will we accept, how will we gain credibility, how do we get our supplies, which models will be in demand cropped up and we realized that we did not have good answers for it. However, what we did was to start tackling these questions one at a time and to slowly but eventually work through all of it and come up with a more refined business idea. But right when we thought this new refined idea was so much better, Prof told us something that will end up throwing everything in the air again.
From selling laptops, this time we were to consider our business vehicle. We were originally planning to sell the laptops as a private limited but then Prof suggested that we look at this business vehicle known as a cooperative. So we went to look up the Singapore National Cooperative Federation and asked told them about our business plan and asked them for their feedback. To cut a long story short, we decided that a cooperative would suit the needs of our business better.
Once we decided on this we needed to relook at how we were to planning to do our business. Many more ideas were introduced and we sifted through it all to finally come up with our business plan to submit for approval by the ministry of community youth and sports. This is the first baby steps and there will be many more to come of setting up this cooperative.
For the final business idea, we have incorporated what we thought was the best as well as think about what is feasible and what will not be and to put all those feasible good ideas down on paper and put it as our startegy and direction. We decided that we will be building an online community for SMU. We will be developing a website similar to facebook for our community and this web portal will aim to plug gaps which are currently present in our school. Well I cannot put too much details up on the site as this is public but people who actually decided to look through this long long story and read more about my journey and are interested to hear what my team and I are planning to do, please email me. I will be glad to answer any questions you might have there.
To end off, the business has not yet taken off. In fact, the "aircraft" is just starting to be constructed and prototype been developed. I intend to see this idea to the end, to develop the system, build the community and see how far I can push this. I will definitely not be able to do this alone and I will need to gather allies to help bring the idea to completion. Well, when this business finally takes off and I get a short section in the Straits Times, I will come back here and write more about the many more things I have learnt.
For now, I'm signing out... Good night everyone....
To be honest, I never, never saw myself as an entrepreneur. In a sense I never saw what was coming for me in this class. So it is quite amazing to see that at the end of thirteen weeks, how I have come out of this semester with an entrepreneurial journey to share, some lessons to talk about, all coupled with a little story of my own to tell.
It all started when it was time to brainstorm and come up with a business idea; in the following weeks ahead, my group mates and I proceeded with the course requirements. And then came Prof’s suggestion that we set up a cooperative in SMU, just as the one existing in NUS today.
We had a meeting with the SNCF shortly after that and had a lot of good inputs from them with regards to enhancing our value proposition to the school and to the government registry.
Up until our decision to go with the idea of setting up a cooperative, it was difficult for the entire team to come to a consensus about the business model we wanted and the order to delivery process. And this was our main problem because until we could finalize this, there was no way we could get started as a business. The business model especially was a big rock we needed to fit into the jar before getting the smaller stuff in.
A good amount of time was spent bouncing different ideas off each other: whether or not we wanted to be an online shopping portal, somewhat like ETSY.COM; should we or should we not sell second hand stuff; and later when we spoke with NUS Co-op- whether or not we ought to model ourselves after them.
With each new idea, we needed to return to our IT friends to seek their advice on the feasibility and cost of our ideas. In the midst of it all, we were calling on banks and checking out their e-commerce solutions and considering alternatives such as wireless terminals for payments in the future, etc.
You need to be able to manage your time and commitments well if you are serious about entrepreneurship, else your entrepreneurship will never take off. It takes time to meet with people, to speak with people, and this is not inclusive of waiting time.
For me as the marketing and sales person without any marketing and sales training- time had to be spent reading up on stuff- simple things like the 4 Ps (price, product, placement and promotion) were foreign to me. I must say that it is in times such as these where you learn to be much appreciative of the Internet!
Lesson number 2: do not be afraid to ask. I think I have mastered the “thickening of face” in the course of entrepreneurship. For most, if not all, of the IT related issues, I have learnt to ask for help from IT friends, all of who are friends from school and church- and in the process of doing so, I have found human goodness. People have been willing to help and I have learnt to be gracious and thankful. In a way I have a resolution to take steps out of my way, within my means, if I can help a friend in need.
This flows nicely into lesson number 3: Help someone where you can. A short clarification on lesson number 3- it is not about being opportunistic, but the idea behind this is that we do unto others what we would have others do unto us.
At the end of the day, being an entrepreneur can bring about a good deal of sweet satisfaction, joy and consequently disappointment and despair as the attachment to the business builds up. This I have found to be true even when you don't see yourself as a business person.
I must say that I have been taken for an unexpected ride to new places. But the learning curve through it all is steep. Where there are new places, new experiences and lessons are derived and I do think one emerges fuller as a person from the whole course of learning how to set up a business. I did for sure, and I hope that if you are intent on pursuing your own start up, that this encourages you too, wherever stage you may be!
Learning lessons and the first step towards entrepreneurship
by Preston Phua Aik Khoon
I have learnt invaluable lessons from the 13 weeks spent in MGMT324 class. Most importantly, I have taken the first step towards entrepreneurship. Prior to this course, I had little knowledge on the steps and procedures required to embark on a business idea. In this aspect, I have learnt a great deal from this course; I have been given a firsthand experience on how is it like to embark on a start-up business.
The planning and execution of my group’s business idea is probably my biggest takeaway from this course.
The planning phase gave me a firsthand experience on how is it like to realize an intangible idea, into something which is of substantial potential. The source of ideas from start-ups can come from any source; from brainstorming sessions to impromptu thoughts. As long as the business idea is one which matches your interests, passions, and is economically viable, the idea is a feasible one to carry out.
However, an aspiring entrepreneur should also consider personal costs in undertaking the decision to embark on this path; such as the willingness to commit a huge amount of time and effort into the business. Most start-up businesses will need an inflow of funds to initiate business, whether it is a small or substantially large amount of funds. This source of funds can come from various sources: the founders themselves, family and friends, or venture capitalists. More often than not, start-ups will seek venture capitalists for funding. This requires the drafting of a credible business plan to showcase the start-up.
Through this course, I have also learnt on how to draft a concise, yet credible, business proposal. This is invariably one of the most important skills that I have gained.
After completing all the preparatory work, the execution of the start-up was next. I have also learnt a lot during this phase. I experienced the difficulty on how difficult it could possibly be for a well-planned business to be executed, and that it made me comprehend that a well- planned strategy must be coupled with efficient execution.
In conclusion, this course has given me great insight and experience on the path of entrepreneurship. Though this path is a arduous one to undertake, it is one that can enable an individual to achieve one’s dreams and gain personal satisfaction. In the past, I have never considered the possibility of entrepreneurship. However, this viewpoint of mine has greatly differed now.
I think I have had a very different journey compared to my classmates in the Technological Entrepreneurship class at SMU. One of the popular reasons or motives for applying for exchange studies anywhere in Asia is to get to know the business culture and how thing work here. I had the opportunity to not only get an insight into Singaporean business thinking and culture, I got too see it from its first seed in an entrepreneurial environment.
Entrepreneurship has always interested and inspired me. In Sweden I have been in different competitions and classes on this topic, although many of them was exercised in a more virtual way.
By comparing how the entrepreneurial profession is perceived in the different parts of the world, I have found that there is some variation but prominently a lot of similarities. These similarities could have to do with globalization and such but I have always had a different idea. I can see a strong similarity in the people I have met that come from an entrepreneurial background. They posses certain characteristics that make them stand out from the crowd; a hunger for something else than a regular 9-5 job. They are courageous, driven and vivid.
So, in my participation in this class I might have seen a bit reserved, which is pretty unusual for me on other occasions. I have been focusing on observing my classmates to be able to bring home valuable lessons on how things are handled with here, in what line of thoughts things are discussed and so on. Of course I have learnt a great bunch as well. When I entered this class I was not prepared to actually start a business, but I realized that there is no better way to learn the profession of an entrepreneur. Similar to leadership, theoretical studies is not what actually improves your skills in start-ups or management - practice is, regardless if this experience is obtained by failure or fortune.
I have had a wonderful time in this class and learn a lot of things about start-ups, about my classmate, professor and non the least - about myself.
These days, everyone is going to business school. “Management”, “Communications”, “Advertising”, and even “Human resource” have all become breezy catchphrases that roll off the tongues of diploma and degree holders alike. What you don’t hear so often, however, is “I started a business while in school.”
As I neared the final chapter of my undergraduate life, Technological Entrepreneurship presented just such an opportunity to me. I had not expected to start a business in the class; indeed, the thought that I would start one, ever, had not even crossed my mind as more than a fleeting, faraway, possible life path. The course was new, and I’d bid for the module (with all the school dollars I had left, no less) with only the knowledge of who the instructor was and a hazy expectation of textbook theories. “Identifying opportunities” seemed like a good way to theoretically prepare for the working world.
Class began. And, from the get-go, we were plunged into the deep end.
“Think of YOUR own business idea…” “Be ready to put it into operation in a few weeks!” “What’s your business plan? Your marketing plan?” “Your website is a little confusing…”
We charged into the fray of the technological entrepreneurship world armed with nothing but Powerpoint slides, generic templates of business models, and a bubbling pot of half-baked ideas (that would soon prove their nascence in shape-shifting like undecided chameleons). We debated the viability of various business concepts, and undertook roles nobody would ever have pegged us for. Me, a finance officer? Sure, I’d overseen the running of the class treasury back in secondary school, but my forte and interests had always been the humanities. Coming up with a valuation model? Mice had never scampered away from trap-cheese so quickly.
But it’d caught my interest after all. Even if it was something completely alien, even if it promised a different brand of homework in this last semester that could completely flip my grade…I wanted to try it. To see what it was like, being in-charge, building the fort, and holding it down. If I’d joined a corporation after graduation, as I’d vaguely envisioned, I would never have this experience anyway.
The mentorship of Professor Pamela Lim proved to be a guiding life-buoy, making the classroom more of a middle-ground between the academic and working world. We would not have been exposed to the this-and-that of the industry otherwise. Practical advice and ongoing critique to streamline our business was extremely helpful, and so were the deadlines set.
For first-time entrepreneurs, there might have been a very real chance of procrastination or hurdles in the form of not knowing where to retrieve information, but we were steered—with a decisive and positive will—towards learning and trying, and then learning more and trying again. No relevant knowledge? Waste no time in finding out. Didn’t agree with a team-mate? Work it through, and keep it together. Smaller impact from marketing than we’d hoped for? Personally tag friends, relatives, or random friends of friends to spread the word.
I daresay that from this class, “Starting a business” no longer seems to be a distant and scary monster. And it’s definitely shaken me out of the glassy-eyed corporate drone mentality. If there’s one thing I’ll take away with me, it’s that if one really wants to, one will definitely be able to succeed. To all the people who have come through this unique course with me, and as a reminder to myself: Have a strong will, think as you run, and never be afraid of failure or setbacks! We’ll get to where we want to be for sure.
A memorable journey that changed the way I view my life
by Kim Zhang
( Singapore Management University)
When I was younger, I’ve always harbored the dream of setting up my own business, maybe a bakery, café or a restaurant, and being my own boss while having fun doing the things that I am passionate about. I had never believed in working or earning money just for the sake of it; I was a person who had always advocated passion as the main determinant towards purpose in life. I thought risks and uncertainties are fun, exciting ingredients towards fulfilling endeavors in life.
However, as I grew older as a student in Singapore, I realized that such a drive in me was replaced with pursue of a stable life and a stable career, where risks and uncertainties are best avoided since they may lead to up to no good. As an economics student, we learnt that uncertainties can be detrimental to the world’s markets and economies, as exemplified by the current financial crisis the world is facing.
The Singapore education system has trained us to always strive for the best; be the best. Along the way, however, it has also trained us to become one who is risk averse because uncertainty and the unknown may inevitably lead us to failures.
So that was why over the years, I abandoned my childhood ambitions of setting up a bakery or a café, and instead, took up a whole new set of career objectives where I shall be the “employed” rather than the “the one who employs” because it’s just the “safer” option, or so my parents tell me.
However, this course (Technological Entrepreneurship) has injected a re-newed sense of drive into my life. Where-else almost all my life, I have been taught to avoid risks, the course’s instructor, Pamela Lim, actually inspires me to take up risks (go out and be your own boss!) and follow my passion.
Being a successful entrepreneur and mother of five, she has proved that the world of business and entrepreneurship isn’t just restricted to men alone - women can also be as successful. Through her own personal experiences, as well as the real-life experiences of several other entrepreneurs that she introduced to the class, she has brought about a great sense of inspiration towards stepping out of the norm, and creating something on our own.
The valuable lessons and take-aways that I have from the course are simply too much for me to express in this journal alone, but here are four of the important take-aways that has inspired me:
1) Failing isn’t the end of the world. It is only the beginning of the route to success. 2) Risks, unknowns and uncertainties can be the door to excitement and success. 3) When you have passion, obstacles are never too big to conquer 4) That being said, passion and ideas are nothing if there aren’t actions to put them to life; don’t just think or say it, DO IT.
Last note: what is most incredible about this course is that although it is a course about entrepreneurship, the lessons learnt from it goes way beyond just entrepreneurship; in fact, I find that it is relevant to everything else in life, and are inspirations towards the way I want to lead my life – with passion.
My entrepreneurship journey started once I entered university in earnest. After dabbling into distribution of toys, setting up a tuition agency and also selling T shirts online, I decided to get serious and I really wanted to run a business even after graduation. That really got me thinking.... what business should I start?
I believed in 1 very important thing when choosing what business to start: WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT? If there is no fire in your belly, there is no point starting that business, that was my starting point. Personally, I always loved retail and shopping...so I begin thinking, could I use the web to simplify shopping here in Singapore? Why not - Zuunbo.com was born!
Zuunbo.com was a simple concept : 1 product sold on a website a day at a great discount. That's it. Our aim was to simplify shopping. We did not want boring websites that did not update their product catalogs or did not give people a reason to shop online.
We applied for funding via SMU BIG and they loved our concept! Together with 2 other partners, we managed to get the funding and started the business. Response from customers and publications a like was very positive! Everyone loved the idea and we believe we really freshened up the online retail scene.
However, due to our inexperience, we did not watch our CASH FLOW. This is something that all start ups have to watch very very carefully. This is the bloodline of any start up. We also realised that focusing on the Singapore market was not something that was sufficient especially as a web start up. In our defence, I felt that it is very difficult for bigger companies and Singapore to want to work with a small local start up especially in an online channel. This posed a problem for us as many companies we approached were still stuck with a traditional mind set. This was another invaluable lesson.
Despite all the hype and good response, Zuunbo.com closed down after a year. It was a painful lesson but one I believe will put me in good stead in my future undertakings!
Looking back on the past 13 weeks of this course (MGMT 324: Technical Entrepreneurship), I cannot think of any other course in SMU that I have taken which requires me to make so many mistakes on a frequent basis to do well. So if ever you think that your one who's prone to making mistakes, but want to learn about entrepreneurship, look for Prof Pamela Lim. She'd even throw in an extra package where you learn about life, and about yourself as well. Because that was what I got; and now I am an expert, who according to Niels Bohr, is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.
Although I took the course to learn how to invest, I am thankful that I eventually took the 'entrepreneur' path, and have since learnt 3 very important lessons:
1) Trust and be trusted 2) Do it yourself 3) Be hated
Trust and be trusted: Throughout the entire 13weeks, there were many occasions where we had to split the work up and do our individual parts so that we could finish the big tasks in time. Those occasions can be very trying at times because we only had 3 people, as compared to others which had 5-6 people, and it was at such occasions that you have to trust your team to pull through on the things they promised. It was also very important for myself to be trusted and to deliver the things I myself promised. That meant that I had to pull all-nighters sometimes, or set aside my other priorities to finish the things required for my team.
Our team also learnt the importance of credibility. Our business hinged on the fact that we could deliver credibility and good results to our clients, but it was very difficult to do so unless your clients trusted you. This seemed to be the case for alot of other teams as well. It taught me to be humble and sincere, and really to win over each person one at a time. You should not see them as clients/ money-making cashcows to milk, but more like a friend with a need whom you can help with your expertise. Your 'clients' need to know YOU as a person before they can trust you as a company; in a sense you as a person are a brand as well, and everything you do, how you dress and speak, would reflect you and the bigger brand you represent (be it your company/ your school/ your family etc).
Do it yourself: There were so many times when our business was stuck because we did not have the expertise to carry it out. One of the most important things I learnt was to have the skills to do it yourself so that things could move forward. What that also implied was the need to always pick up new skills when there was a deficiency so that you could do it yourself. But looking back, it was a good problem to have as I have definitely gained more experiences and skills through a hands-on approach and this exposure which I have gained will never be taken away from me.
Be hated: I first heard this from the keynote speaker at a NTU's graduation address, but I only fully understood it when I ran my own business. Essentially, you had to be hated by everyone because you are doing something so different that people are not used to.
This was especially the case when I tried to share my idea with some of my older friends and family. They were especially critical of the business, and I faced rejection on a very frequent basis. However, those rejections only made me a stronger person. Firstly, I have learnt how to detach myself emotionally when they are giving comments and this has helped me be more objective in my discussions in other projects. I have also learnt how to accept their criticism and comments to improve my project (in fact, the fact that they even bother to criticise means that they still care for you enough to bother use cogntive resources on your project). Most importantly, I have learnt how to have ownership over my own ideas, and I found myself thinking about my business quite a far bit. This has translated to me being more focused and driven in my other pursuits in life.
However, through the course of learning, I also felt that there were two things which could have been improved. Firstly, I do not think that the textbook was very relevant (in fact, Prof Pamela's sharing was a lot better all the time) because the textbook only focused on getting a company IPO-ed. I did not think that was essentially the only way for a company to be successful, and have seen many SMEs thrive without having to go IPO.
The textbook, along with the other academic demands of the course, distracted us sometimes from the main focus of our business - but that is a warning of what's ahead in a business, where other committments and distractions will always try to pry you away from the business and it takes discipline and tenacity to stick to your vision.
Next, I thought that due to the short timing of the course, normal procedures in a business which would usually take months to years to gestate and develop was actually accelerated so that we could see the symptoms faster. For eg, a thorough analysis of your target market, marketing strategies and even product development should be developed slowly but surely over 2-3mths, but due to the time constraints of this course, it was done in 2weeks instead. What potential students need to do instead, is to be prepared for the long haul (often even AFTER the course has ended) so that they reap the full benefit of the course, since the foundations will be set very strongly for you to make mistakes and learn.
Lastly, this entire course has been an emotional one for me as well. While we have definitely learnt lessons on how to start a business, and the skills required, it did not touch on why we should start a business and its effects on others if it should fail. People always only focus on the successes, but they do not pay attention to the many which have failed. My family have endured the effects of such a failed business, when my father quit his well-paying job and started a business (no doubt with the hope of more money and a better life for us). However what resulted was a childhood where my father was always busy trying to get his business to survive, and where we had to make sacrifices and scrimped so that we wont be an extra financial burden. More importantly, my father became emotionally tied to the company, and his perception of himself being a success/failure was dependent on the success/failure of his business, and it led to a long struggle for himself as well.
It has since left me with a phobia of starting my own business if I should have a family, and I think this course could also deal with the ethical and social effects on what entrepreneurship can do, and to really identify the personal costs incurred. While this is a painful sharing for me, I am still a champion of the benefits of this course, not only for what I learnt, but also for me to understand what my father went through; his difficulties, joys when the business did well, and sadness when he faced countless rejections.
This course is at the crux about the human; not about business plans, or models, or even the product. It is about a human need, a human passion, and a human touch. Ending off with a quote:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises left to keep. And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep. - Robert Frost.
Only actions can get our business plan going. Never leave out the financials or think that it is unimportant. Ensure that the key roles of marketing, technical and management are filled first.
Setting a task or goal weekly is a good way to move forward. Teamwork is essential even though individual members have opposing views. Investors look for a sustainable unfair advantage to determine whether to invest. Commitment is long term. Keep on networking ? it opens doors.
Angel investors, family and friends should be looked to first for seed funding. Taking risks is part and parcel of entrepreneurship.
Always think about potential takeovers dangers beforehand and introduce pre-bid takeover measures.
Think carefully about the implications of the type of incorporatation you choose. Ideas might change (completely even) for the better over time. Make employees, partners and investors sign your Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA). Exit strategy
In the course of these 13 weeks, FoOD's business plan has evolved tremendously. From buying food from Koufu and re-distributing it to SMU students, our business now involves buying famous food from all over Singapore and bringing them to SMU students. This can be expanded to nearby areas such as to workers in Raffles Place and the CBD area.
My entrepreneurial journey has been quite a fun-filled one and it is something that I can look back on and reminisce about in the years to come. In the first couple of weeks, we were still quite clueless about how to run our business and we were focused on trying to get the website up and running as we found that to be the major hurdle in starting our operations. Ambrose did a great job in setting up the website, but in the end, we relied on a very simple method of simply asking our classmates to just e-mail in their orders to FoOD's gmail account.
What initially started off as what I felt was a relatively simple business idea, seemed to only get simpler as the weeks went by. It involves so much more consolidation work to take orders from various stalls in Koufu as opposed to setting a fixed menu from a famous stall and getting customers to place their orders. This simplified our business by a significant amount. Also, this increased our comparative advantage as we all appreciate good food. These famous hawker foods will attract customers to our business and be more open to our business concept.
Our first shot at business was that of bringing Duck Rice from Longhouse food centre to our classmates. It was a rather successful attempt and we received 18 orders. We earned $10 in total, it was a good start and I was encouraged! Despite some operational difficulties faced, there were no major hiccups and we all enjoyed the duck rice in class. I would say it was by far the best meal I had in SMU!
It made me realize how students, and workers in the CBD area, would greatly appreciate if good food were made accessible to them in their schooling/ working areas.
Our business is indeed very viable and could be expanded to a much greater scale. Despite this being the last week of lessons, for many, it would not be the end of our entrepreneurial journey, but just the beginning of a very exciting one.
I took professor pamela's technopreneurship class, and our group started an online charity which is starting to operate. In the process of starting this and looking at other class teams' start-ups, I learnt some stuff from my classmates and prof.
I think the most important is a committed team who really wants to make the project idea materialise and carry it through, instead of just having a try-out attitude. I also realised the extent of importance technology is to businesses. It gives the start-ups from our class access to the online market at an affordable cost, so it really helps to be technologically savvy.
To start a start-up and get it going successfully needs a lot of full-time effort. Our pace of growth is really quite slow, as all of us are doing our parts but not doing anything to help our charity with the propulsions it needs.
Among my classmates' ideas, I liked the microfinacing venture the most, as I felt it really met a need and is meaningful as well as financially viable at the same time, and their idea was inspired by their experiences with the people around them.
I also learnt how important it is to a company to have a good competitive advantage that can rake in earnings, as some of my classmates' ventures are very good ideas, but have to change their concept due to the lack of ability to rake earnings from their ventures.
Very importantly, I also learnt that team cohesiveness and effectiveness of each team member is very impt, as each of our project tasks are contingent on one another's efforts.
Entrepreneurship definately needs a lot of effort and poses many challenges, but it teaches you a lot too that is very useful and fulfilling to you.