Starting up ideas

20 September 2017 | Entrepreneurship
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Teams working on their business ideas at The Hangar by NUS Enterprise

Participants of the inaugural Innovation Challenge 2017 had just 24 hours to come up with solutions to some of the most pressing problems faced by players in today’s start-up scene. Held from 15 to 16 September at The Hangar by NUS Enterprise, the event provided a platform for entrepreneurial-minded NUS undergraduates to get a taste of the start-up environment, while unleashing their creativity and honing their skills in pitching new ideas. Innovation Challenge 2017 was organised by ENterprise House (N-House), an entrepreneurial-themed residence at NUS for students and returnees of the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme.

The 15 participating teams could choose to tackle real problems in one of five categories: Logistics and Data; Trendy Retail; Services and Technology; E-Commerce and Gaming; and Business-to-Business Marketing.

They were guided throughout the challenge by NOC alumni and young entrepreneurs who readily offered advice and related their start-up experiences. The teams also shared concepts and designs between them to encourage the cross-fertilisation of ideas and even took to the streets on the second day to gather feedback from the public. At the end of the challenge, the students were given one minute to pitch their final business plan, product or service to a panel of judges who evaluated their solutions based on factors such as effectiveness, feasibility, competitive advantage and proof-of-concept.

[Innovation Challenge 2017] provided me with good exposure to the problems faced by start-ups and gave me a totally new perspective on entrepreneurship.

Winners Team Blue Tech — comprising Year 2 Mechanical Engineering students Manfred Ho and Randall Wong, and Year 2 Chemical Engineering student Mark Ang — walked away with a $500 cash prize sponsored by NOC alumnus start-up AfterYou for their idea of a text message notification using AfterYou’s SMSbot system that would inform individuals of the best currency exchange rate in a given location, saving them the hassle of having to physically compare rates between money changers. The trio also won the prize for the best pitch and presentation.

Other team proposals included a chatbot that would reduce manpower needs by allowing shoppers to filter their interests on an in-store iPad and be automatically guided towards their desired products, as well as an SMSbot that would allow private hire drivers to add last-minute ad-hoc jobs to their existing routes in an optimal manner using specific algorithms.

Year 1 Business Administration student Carrisa Low enjoyed the concept of the challenge. “It provided me with good exposure to the problems faced by start-ups and gave me a totally new perspective on entrepreneurship.”