by Alan NG (SMU Singapore)
The course outline for investors stated in my Technological Entrepreneuship (TE) course was this:
“Students are given $100,000 ‘play money’ to invest in financial instruments. They can choose to invest in any hi-tech company listed in any stock market. Students will be graded by how much they have earned or lost with this money.”
Well, it didn’t seem very daunting; after all, it’s just about paper trading with “fake” money. How tough could it be wading in shallow waters? Our instructor thought we needed something more challenging (since we already had some experience in paper trading) and threw us into the deep end. Yes, I used to word “threw”. We were supposed to try to start a Venture Capital (VC) Fund.
2 guys, 1 idea, 0 experience. The water level was threatening to devour us as we struggled to stay afloat; the depths were unknown.
In came pieces of wooden logs, styrofoam boxes, and other assortment of objects which we clung on for dear life. No life jackets; no body floats, just objects that were able to keep the water level below our chins. The instructor had given us these ‘tools’ to help us tide through our ordeal.
Starting and sustaining a VC fund requires a delicate cocktail of experience, knowledge, ability and skill – something which we clearly lack. However, whatever we couldn’t make up in experience, we tried; whatever we couldn’t make up in knowledge, we read; whatever we couldn’t make up in ability, we asked; and whatever we couldn’t make up in skill; we learnt.
Throughout the last 13 weeks, after meeting numerous setbacks, umpteen blank stares and plentiful “you won’t succeed?” I’ve learnt how to ignore the howling winds that often threaten to throw one off course, lose focus and make one give up. However, the constructive advice, help and support provided by instructors and friends enabled us to change, adjust and evolve; to swim and float more efficiently.
From trying to start a VC fund, we evolved into one which had more purpose and meaning that wasn’t only about making money. We decided to delve into micro-financing; something which is possibly revenue generating, satisfying and sustainable.
Many financial institutions are reluctant to fund such projects as the only collateral is the promise on the word. However, carried out properly, the rewards can be many, monetary and otherwise.
Looking back at the last 13 weeks, it’s difficult, if not impossible for me to clearly articulate what I’ve gained in this course. The lessons learnt were invaluable; knowledge acquired was intangible and the journey taken was indescribable.
What I can say is: I came out of the pool a stronger, more efficient and better swimmer. But most importantly, I came out
Lee Kong Chian School of Business
Singapore Management University