The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation globally and shaped our lifestyles around it.
While this disruption has adversely impacted traditional businesses like restaurants, retail stores and hotels, it has also created many new growth opportunities on similar fronts, with new innovations in food delivery, e-commerce, and even rethinking the way we deliver education to our next generations.
Against this background of ever-evolving needs and trends, there is no better time than now to harness the opportunities that have emerged.
This is what the Enhanced Startup SG Founder programme seeks to encourage: more of this entrepreneurial spirit; to be nimble, adaptable and unafraid to fail; a disposition that will help us to seize all growth opportunities available to chart a new path forward in a post-COVID-19 world.
Through the new Venture Building programmes, we hope to enable more aspiring entrepreneurs with the right tools, mentorship, and resources to help build their entrepreneurship journey and accelerate our collective transformation to an innovation-driven economy.
NTUitive recently concluded the first two cohorts of its Venture Building programme, ideasinc.veni, under the Enhanced Startup SG Founder scheme. The programme equips participants with practical life skills and soft skills that are valued by employers of the 21st century.
Being part of the programme provides them the opportunity to interact with our extensive network of investors, entrepreneurs, and corporations, helping them build their professional network and connect to people for business and job opportunities. ideasinc.veni also prepares participants for the Startup SG Founder grant, ensuring the business idea is differentiated, that there is a sizeable target market and potential, a sound business model, and a strong management team.
To the mid-career professionals: it’s never too late to be an entrepreneur
The demographics of the first cohort of NTUitive’s venture building programme – ideasinc.veni – comprised a good mix of participants from various backgrounds and qualifications. More than half are individuals aged 30 and above, exploring a mid-career switch to entrepreneurship.
Chan Huiying, former investment analyst at Goldman Sachs, and a participant of NTUitive’s first Venture Building cohort, has been active in the startup scene where her idea won third place in the StartUp Weekend.
She shared that her corporate background in strategy and as an investment analyst enabled her to build strong fundamentals in structuring, presenting, and communicating her business ideas with multiple stakeholders, which are transferrable skills that give her an edge in succeeding as an entrepreneur.
Chan has since built on her experience to sell her vision to potential customers, co-founders, and angel investors, which helps to turn her business idea into reality.
Chan shared, “Being an entrepreneur is like getting a chance to work on a project that you are passionate about. You can have the freedom to choose what you want to work on, with whom you want to work, who you want to consult for advice, and how you want to realise a vision.
It is very exciting, and you will never stop learning and thinking about how to grow the business. You get to meet a lot of people in the process and learn facts about the world you never knew about.”
Dr Lua Eng Keong, another participant of NTUitive’s first cohort, received his Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge (UK) and was in the field of AI/ML Data Science & Analytics and Cybersecurity for Telecommunications-Media-Technology industry prior to participating in the ideasinc.veni programme.
Dr Lua shared that working with a team of mid-career professionals of similar age, with significant experience and with deep expertise in their strides provides them with an edge in entrepreneurship, as the wealth of domain knowledge, industry insights and business development expertise they possess are built over the years from corporate experience, which their younger counterparts do not have.
“The real capacity and capability to understand deep technology application and market needs come with years of experience, especially international work experience across various regions and markets. This is something that mid-career professionals possess,” Dr Lua said.
According to Harvard Business Review, for the top 0.1 per cent of startups based on growth in their first five years, the founders of these startups had started their companies, on average, when they were 45 years old.
Mid-career professionals have the resilience and experience to weather the stress and variables arising from being an entrepreneur. Even if they do fail and wish to return to employment, the skillsets and networks built during the entrepreneurship journey will make them highly employable.
The experience of starting and running a startup will provide people with an understanding of management and the ability to have an overview of larger, wider business perspectives. Most importantly, it provides the ability to understand customers’ problems.
Experience is the best teacher
NDR Medical Technology, co-founded in 2014 by NTU alumnus Alan Goh, specialises in the development of surgical robotics driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and image processing capabilities.
Goh envisioned that robotic systems would significantly impact surgical procedures by making them less reliant on individual experience and skill, reducing mistakes from human fatigue or judgment.
Before the conception of NDR, Goh graduated with a specialisation in mechatronics and started his career developing automation systems in A*STAR, where he met his co-founder, Dr Jason Ng. The duo almost had the opportunity to spin off a company under the research institution, but the business model was not sound.
The duo caught the entrepreneurship bug and tried venturing into various industries before embarking on the development of medical robots, which best utilises their capabilities and experience.
Being mid-career entrepreneurs allows the company to build on a solid foundation while maintaining prudence in development costs. “Entrepreneurship is not a chanced opportunity, but a conscious choice of perseverance,” said Goh.
Aspiring founders join us
With the conclusion of NTUitive’s first Venture Building cohort, as well as that of the other Venture Builders and Accredited Mentor Partners, top talent of promising startup teams formed through these Venture Building programmes will be pitching live at Founder Ignite, organised by Enterprise Singapore, which marks the finale of each cohort from the Enhanced Startup SG Founder’s Venture Building programme, and to promote local entrepreneurship.
Pre-selected top startup teams from each Venture Builder and Accredited Mentor Partner will be pitching their innovative business ideas to a panel of esteemed judges, who will assess the startups based on the uniqueness of business concept, feasibility of business model, strength of management team, and potential market value.
To find out more about the Startup SG Founder Venture Building programme and how you can fulfil your dreams as an aspiring entrepreneur, sign up to watch Founder Ignite.
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