Paving the road for other fresh graduates through social entrepreneurship

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Commencement 2020/2021 has seen some NUS graduates not only living out their dream careers but empowering others to do the same through social entrepreneurship.

Recent graduates Yeo Rae-Nyse and Victor Zhu have developed solutions to help other fresh graduates find employment. Such services are vital in the current job market -- the pandemic having driven the local economy to almost a standstill.

Finding the best fit

Rae-Nyse, from the Class of 2020, hails from the NUS Business School and the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. She has a double degree in Business Administration and Economics.

She is the founder and CEO of MatcHub, a platform that matches talents with companies using an intelligent job-matching algorithm that profiles candidates based not just on their CV, academic qualifications and hard skills but also on their career aspirations, personality, working style and soft skills.

It provides companies with a more holistic approach to source and screen for talents who could fit into their teams and culture. It also helps students and recent graduates discover and pursue career paths best aligned to their aspirations, personality and interests.

Rae-Nyse’s experience during her undergraduate years at NUS has provided inspiration for MatcHub’s grounding philosophy -- that personality and culture fit are important determinants of career satisfaction and excellence.

Unsure about her career path, Rae-Nyse went through various recruitment processes, trying internships that ranged from marketing, human resources to account management. Eventually she realised that as a goal-oriented, extroverted and rewards-driven individual, being in the front line of business is where she would thrive and excel.

“MatcHub was conceptualised as I wanted to help students, especially those who may not love what they are studying, to discover their interest earlier and work towards a best-fitted role and industry,” she explained.

“Based on my personal experiences, I felt that personality is one of the key factors in determining a candidate’s suitability for the job.”

The entrepreneurial journey

Rae-Nyse’s entrepreneurial spirit was first ignited when she attended the Entrepreneurship Summer Camp at Imperial College in London. The experience gave her the confidence to pursue entrepreneurship as a career choice and intensified her desire to become a business owner.

“My team had meetings all day long to brainstorm, discuss and formulate a daily problem we faced into a business plan,” she recalled, adding that they went around the school, speaking to people of various backgrounds to conduct their market validation.

Their hard work paid off. They clinched the Best Idea award -- their passion and drive were affirmed by the judges. Upon returning to NUS, Rae-Nyse applied for NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) Shanghai, spurred by her interest in the Chinese economy. There, she spent a year living and breathing start-ups and meeting like-minded people, including one of her current co-founders.

Constantly brainstorming new entrepreneurship projects, evaluating businesses with her batchmates as well as attending pitch events and hackathons day and night to gain exposure to various technologies, she became intrigued with the possibilities that deep tech like AI and Machine Learning afforded.

Rae-Nyse’s entrepreneurial journey was also shaped by her six-month stint with NUS Enterprise. As their N-House Resident Assistant (RA), she organised weekly innovation and technology events to allow residents to share and apply entrepreneurial skills, bouncing ideas with inspiring speakers and entrepreneurs.

“It was the time when I was just starting MatcHub and the support I received from the community really meant a lot. This support has lasted till now, and many of my fellow N-house residents are MatcHub’s loyal fans and supporters, attending every single event of ours,” she recalled.

She had to work around the disruptions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to adopt new ideas to keep everyone engaged. But her RA experience put her in good stead, training her to be adaptable, flexible and agile in reacting to unforeseen circumstances -- a key trait for every entrepreneur.

Rae-Nyse credits NUS education for shaping her as an entrepreneur. Her degree in Business Administration has provided her with a strong foundation in marketing, finance and business law. It has also helped to hone her business acumen, leadership as well as networking skills.

Her Economics degree has built her mathematical and numerical reasoning competencies, helping her to understand Machine Learning concepts and her Python programming courses.

“Above all, my studies in NUS taught me how to learn new things quickly, the most valuable skill in today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world,” she said.

Making digital education accessible to all

Another entrepreneur who is making a social impact is Victor Zhu from the graduating Class of 2020, NUS Faculty of Science. He is the co-founder and CEO of Hatch, an impact-driven social enterprise he founded and incubated with two like-minded friends during his undergraduate years at NUS Ridge View Residential College (RVRC).

Hatch was conceptualised as an academy for individuals from all walks of life to discover their strengths, enter meaningful careers and become valued and contributing employees. It taps on the resources and expertise of like-minded partners to co-create and deliver programmes that cater to the needs of specific impact groups, providing comprehensive end-to-end training and facilitating job and internship placements to help jobseekers enter emerging digital sectors.

Customised programmes are organised for dropouts and at-risk youths as well as for graduating students from low-income backgrounds in an institute of higher learning. There are also tracks in User Interface and User Experience Design as well as Digital Marketing which hone Hatch graduates’ digital competencies.

“The job market has an immediate and increasing demand for digitally skilled talent, one that is rapidly accelerated by the effects of COVID-19,” Victor explained.

 “Most newly created positions are in fact digital by nature, and even the more traditional positions now require the knowledge of digital tools,” he added.

Overcoming start-up blues

Victor first conceptualised Hatch in his second year at NUS. His RVRC lecturers encouraged him to get started despite not having all the answers. The journey was not all smooth sailing. Wracked with self-doubt and juggling responsibilities of being both an undergraduate and a start-up founder, Victor found support and encouragement in the RVRC community.

One of his lecturers, Ms Sadaf, connected him with an expert in social innovation who provided valuable insights that helped Hatch’s growth in the early stages. He also recalled other experiences in RVRC that have shaped his personal philosophy as an entrepreneur, remembering a conversation he had with Prof Adekunle, a college master who stressed on the importance of living with boldness.

 “In my work now, I’m frequently confronted with the decision of whether to be bold or play it safe. The conversation had really helped me to appreciate how boldness is a rare but necessary commodity in bringing about the change that I want to see,” he said.

“Looking back, I think that’s the power of a supportive community that I will always remember and appreciate.”

Victor also appreciated what he had learnt from Quantitative Finance at NUS, an approach that is highly versatile and applicable in navigating complex situations. It has, helped him to understand the mathematics underpinning business and financial markets.

As for the entrepreneurial spirit that Hatch embodies, Victor attributed it to the NOC programme. In fact, one of his co-founders, Yeoh Wan Qing, now Hatch’s Chief Product Officer, is an NOC alumna who spent a year in Stockholm where she managed projects for a scale-up and corporate innovation lab. The experience of witnessing the prodigious impact of innovation fired her entrepreneurial spirit, inspiring her to translate that experience into tangible social impact in Singapore.

He and Wan Qing had participated in entrepreneurial competitions such as the Enactus National Competition 2018 (First Runner Up), National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre Groundup Sandbox 2018, and the Singapore International Foundation Young Social Entrepreneurs Pitching for Change 2019 (Prize Recipient), forging relationships with and learning from other entrepreneurs.

 Asked what words of advice he has for aspiring young entrepreneurs, he said, “I think it’s important to always circle back to the value that you are trying to create and to be really honest about it. What is valuable takes time to build, capture and monetise – and that process can often fail too. But I believe that this journey is meaningful in itself and is what makes entrepreneurship worth venturing into.”