• Jodi Tan

NES Startup Bootcamp: Illuminare 2021

Updated: Feb 20

Last weekend, NUS Entrepreneurship Society (NES) conducted our bootcamp, Illuminare, to welcome our new members, and it was a success!

The bootcamp is an all-in-one induction camp to start off the year in the entrepreneurial spirit. It provides a chance to bond with like minded NES members across the various divisions, a chance to understand NES culture and a chance to learn start-up fundamentals through Amazing Race, masterclasses and a startathon.

Over the 4th and 5th of September, 150 members of NES were sorted into thirteen orientation groups, with each group bearing the name of an NUS startup. This naturally led to all members learning more about their specific startup, and provided an opportunity to gain knowledge about the current startup companies in the entrepreneurship scene.

On the first day, members were able to gather physically with adequate social distancing measures, and had a fun session of icebreakers before hearing from Auston (co-founder of Waffle), Felix (Founder & CEO of Skilio), and Daryl (co-founder of Augmentus), who formed the student entrepreneur panel. All three shared their stories and gave insight into their own journey in creating a startup, and the pros and cons that come with managing responsibilities as both a student and a founder.

One of the greatest takeaways for me as a current aspiring student entrepreneur is the way in which the term ‘student entrepreneur’ can be a benefit, particularly in terms of getting advice from prominent entrepreneurs or business leaders who would normally be too busy. Another point of interest was the balance between university work and business-related commitments - all three shared about how, at some point, one has to decide whether the business is a side-hobby or a passion that will be pursued for the next ten years, and shifting priorities based on that decision.

The rest of the day was spent playing games such as the Angel Investing game and the Amazing Race, coming up with creative TikToks and bonding within each orientation group.

Of course, the events were also a learning moment for all members - each activity incorporated some aspect of entrepreneurship. For example, during the Amazing Race, one station involved a Mala pitch, where every group did a 60-second elevator pitch and were judged based on engagement and creativity. The TikToks were also a fun way for members to learn about the role of marketing, and the importance of a creative and effective marketing strategy in order to increase likes and views.

At the end of the day, the top two teams with the most points were announced, and the prizes were given to Viddsee and Padlet!

The second day was held over Zoom, and began with a sharing panel. Members got to hear from respected individuals like Wilson Wang and Alex. Wilson Wang was a former Temasek investment officer and Fosun Managing Director, and a founder of an Edtech startup, who presently teaches new venture finance. Alex is currently the People Experience and Government Relations Lead at ShopBack, and overlooks different segments of the employee life cycle.

Both shared about their experience in their own industry, and spoke about important lessons like the difficulties of a work-life balance, and the importance of experimenting with ideas.

One of the main takeaways was the importance of simply just trying out the field. As they mentioned, finding the right means to reach consumers or aiming for some form of success is often uncertain, and they constantly had to improvise and experiment with their current ideas in order to see what can be improved. For example, when movie purchasing domains weren’t widely favored by users, they had to remove it along with their website. It is alright to try an idea that doesn’t work out, the important thing is to learn from it and keep trying.

Finally, our aspiring entrepreneurs managed to put their ideas to the test in a Startathon! A startathon is an event where individuals attempt to solve an existing problem by coming up with innovative solutions, similar to the process of finding ideas for a startup. However, a startathon has a time limit, essentially making it a race against the clock.

All groups had to discuss possible solutions to a prompt, come up with an idea, and run that idea through a mentor before submitting an abstract and pitch deck.

We onboarded an esteemed group of mentors that helped to advise the teams working on their ideas for the final pitching competition where the top winner would be walking away with $200 cash prize!

The top five teams pitched in front of a panel of three established judges - Ling Ling, Nigel, and Joey. The three judges then ranked all five groups, with the final top three being Dexacure 2 (third), Prospace (second), and Seedly (first)!

Dexacure 2 dealt with the problem of an increasing demand for medical professionals despite the lack of supply of manpower and resources, and proposed a technological solution that decreases waiting time in polyclinics and hospitals in Singapore by prioritizing highly ill individuals first, thus allowing the efficiency to increase. But overall the public health sector is a difficult industry to break into, especially for a startup.

Prospace dealt with the problem of a lack of international travel during the pandemic, leading to a rise in stress and burnout. They proposed a VR experience in pop-up stores, with different pop-up stores featuring specific destinations, and feature options like multiplayer mode where families can experience ‘travelling’ together. But the cost of such technology would likely be expensive, and finding investors for a startup is potentially difficult.

Seedly dealt with the problem of e-commerce consumers spending above their budget or becoming addicted, and proposes a mobile application that offers users the cheapest deals to limit the total amount spent. Overall an innovative idea, and although the financial plan could be refined, it was ultimately feasible for a startup.

Overall, it was a productive and insightful weekend for all NES members. We would also like to extend our gratitude towards all panelists, mentors, sponsors and judges for contributing to the camp’s success! Do continue to keep an eye out for more events coming up, and we hope to see you there!

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