by Cai Xihao (Singapore)
4th Year, Last term, unrelated module to my course of study. Sounds like a great recipe for slacking and be a disaster to the rest of my group mates, no?
Coming into the module, I started with minimal expectations, except to relax through it, do as little work as possible, pick up some lessons on how not to get my money cheated if I ever wanted to invest in a business… and hopefully come off with a decent grade. As a political scientist, entrepreneurship was hardly my thing, much less a TECHNOLOGICAL one.
Eventually you do realise that slacking off in a group is never truly possible in SMU, much less in a group of friends. The big advantage,however, of working with a group of good friends is that there is no need to get over any initial awkwardness and there are few, if any communication barriers at all. The other advantage was that the group comprised of fellow athletes who loved to cycle and we hoped to be able to have some form of involvement of our passion into the business.
The first idea was to start up a business along all the MRT stations where cyclists would be able to park their bikes safely and shower before taking the train to work. Then we realised that maybe the plan was a wee bit too ambitious and eventually scrapped it. Using our discussions of Singapore’s sometimes questionable public transport policies as a launchpad, further discussions brought up the idea of a setting up a carpool system which allowed real-time updates and serve as a more efficient alternative.
To cut a long story short, we pushed through with the idea and while I can’t consider it to be a full success yet, I think I can claim a few small victories and learning lessons along the way.
1. The fact that I now know the existence of business mentors and incubators, the difference between a balance sheet and income statement, etc. I probably sound completely ignorant, but I think there’s no shame in that fact, and the good news is that I’m probably a little less ignorant now! =)
2. Our business idea seems to truly have potential, and I’m quite happy that our hard work might really see the light of some profits at the end of the day. But as Prof mentioned, starting the business is the easy part, the next step is sustaining, and growing it. Sounds a bit like love doesn’t it?
3. You NEED a good team. This may not be possible in situations out of school, but it is probably important to retain a certain familiarity and backbone to a working crew. I’ve worked with the rest of my team under different situation previously and we are very comfortable with each others’ working styles. Importantly, there was trust already built up, and this aided greatly in the dynamics and there was very little time wasted.
I initially found the class to be fiercely intimidating, with all the entrepreneurs and other business students sprouting terms which might as well have been Arabic to me. I guess that’s the one great strength of SMU as well, to put students in truly uncomfortable positions so that there is learning value-add in preparation for the real world. Over time though, the class turned out to be a gold mine of information, with people more than willing to share their experiences and leveling out the learning curve for the rest of us.
This course has offered a truly different perspective on issues and opened up new options for me. I will not claim that I have become inspired to head out and choose entrepreneurship as my life’s work; but as we have been taught often in class, it is all about doing the hard work, being realistic and taking the opportunity when it comes. If anything, apart from learning how to start up a business from the class, the greatest takeaway is the fact that we always have options- we just have to be aware of the options and if necessary, be ready to pounce on them.