Did you know that innovation is a strong feature of our community and a core value of our school? The following is a guest post by Christian Halberg, an NUS MBA student who perfectly embodies the school’s entrepreneurial spirit. His team got global recognition recently for an innovative product. Read more from him:
My work & my passion: Ezmon Technologies
In the age of digital information, people want to know more about their own personal health through quantified statistics. Ezmon – short for “easy monitoring” – is a 100% NUS team with an ambition to develop a wristband device for personal health monitoring.
Ezmon META will be able to measure your heart rate, body temperature, and activity rates (e.g. calorie burn) like many other products currently do. What we are seeking to do differently is to develop a killer app: a new technology which enables the user to measure their blood glucose using infrared light rather than having to prick themselves multiple times a day.
Ezmon was actually born out of personal tragedy. A family friend of one of our founders had passed away from acute renal failure, a failure of the kidney. Through research we learned that a key risk factor of this condition is a poorly managed diabetic condition (as it was in this case). So the idea of designing a diabetes monitoring device was born.
One of the big perks of being in NUS Business School is the thriving community of smart, intellectual peers who sometimes share the same passion. I found these peers – our team, comprising of me (from NUS Business School), and three fellow engineers (from NUS Faculty of Engineering), got together at Lean LaunchPad (LLP), a new initiative by NUS Entrepreneurship Centre. LLP is actually the brainchild of Steve Blank at Stanford (more on him later) and Jerry Engel at UC Berkeley, two veritable gurus of entrepreneurship, and the programme has been running in America for a number of years. National University of Singapore is the first university in Asia to have adopted this experiential ‘flipped-classroom’ teaching methodology, as a way to match-make teams of engineers and business people.
Starting in June, LLP is a 10 week boot-camp which requires the participating teams to “get out of the building” and speak to people. Lots of people. Over the 10 weeks, you are supposed to speak to at least 100 would-be customers, suppliers, and competitors, to gain deep market knowledge at a rapid pace. The central idea is that if your business idea is going to fail, it is best to find this out quickly and at minimal cost – the “lean” way.
Throughout the 10 weeks of LLP, you get together once a week for dinner and weekly briefings, where you share your week’s discoveries with the teaching faculty and the other teams. Nerve-wracking at first, it soon becomes entirely comforting and insightful. Meanwhile, throughout the process, you are assigned an NUS mentor to guide you whenever you need some serious advice or just have a friendly chat.
On the final day, you get an opportunity to present to Steve and Jerry in person about your 10 week journey of discovery, and get some great feedback and advice.
LLP will be running again this year. If you are interested in taking part, contact Shenwei at email@example.com.
Start-up Competitions & Going Global!
LLP no doubt helped to battle-harden us for competitions. Throughout LLP, we had created and destroyed our business model several times as we progressively learned more. The mind-set here was less of trying to devise the perfect business model from Day 1 to what questions do I need to ask to test my assumptions and to validate my business model. Pivoting your business model many times is no bad thing; you are far more likely to reach the ‘perfect’ business model (if there is such a thing) through multiple iterations of business model creation.
It was while we were still taking part in LLP that we were nominated by NUS Enterprise to apply for a couple of start-up competitions: GlobalTiC and the Intel Global Challenge.
GlobalTiC is an annual competition for aspiring start-ups, hosted by Taipei Tech University in August. We won first prize in the Biotechnology Category at the 2013 GlobalTiC Talentpreneur Award & Forum, Taipei, Taiwan (19‐23 Aug). We also won “Best Exhibition” title.
The Intel Global Challenge is hosted by UC Berkeley in October, and is a more global competition than GlobalTiC. This year 18,000 teams applied to participate, and only 30 made the cut. We also won in this competition, the title, “Best Team of Young Entrepreneurs” and a cash award of US$5,000.
These seemingly disparate competitions had much in common.
If you’re a budding entrepreneur, I definitely recommend attending these competitions as they offer a chance to meet new friends, visit new places and most importantly, build the right network. By the time we arrived in San Francisco for the Intel Global Challenge, for instance, we had already scheduled a number of appointments with investors, university professors, and industry players. The entrepreneurial spirit is truly global, so the exposure that such competitions provide is tremendously valuable. All in all, these opportunities can help shape and validate ideas around what you are ultimately trying to achieve – creating a new idea or concept, and building a feasible business model able to support it.
Tips & Resources for budding entrepreneurs:
If you’re interested in taking part in these or other international competitions, a great place to start would be to sign up to the Start-up@Singapore competition (open for registration until 31st January 2014). The competition bills itself as Singapore’s Premier Start-up Challenge, and is run entirely by NUS although it is open to all.
Also, check out this NUS MBA blog post that compiles some good resources for NUS students interested in entrepreneurship.
Some good books to get you in the mood when boarding the flight to that next start-up competition:
- The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank
- Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton Christensen
- The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki
The Bottom Line Comes First
To end this post, I share this advice with a caveat, offered to us by Steve Blank himself. Don’t fall into the trap of hubris. While taking part and doing well in competitions may be great fun and a useful experience, remember that your one and only focus should always be on building a successful business. Be tactical with your time and efforts, and keep your eyes firmly on the prize!
Christian Halberg is a second year MBA student from NUS Business School. He has worked in finance with leading organisations like RBS Group and Clydesdale Bank. When he’s not busy changing the world through his passion for entrepreneurship, he enjoys mountain biking, photography and football. Connect with him here or meet our other stellar NUS MBA candidates here.