An Accelerating Adventure — NOC Silicon Valley to Korea

Alvin Ryanputra, a final year student from the July 2020 NOC Silicon Valley programme, participated in the K-Startup Grand Challenge (KSGC), a Korea-based accelerator programme, on behalf of Movel AI — the start-up he was working for. This happened in the middle of the pandemic, and he shares more about his unique experience on this journey.

In September 2020, I had the opportunity to travel to Korea alone to participate in an accelerator programme on behalf of Movel AI. In this article I hope to share a little more about my NOC experience thus far.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first half of my NOC internship was converted into a local one. I have a strong interest in robotics, and managed to secure an internship at a robotics software startup, Movel AI. Two months in as a robotics software engineer, and being fairly new in the company, I was presented with the incredible opportunity to attend an accelerator programme on the company’s behalf as my CEO was tied down with projects in Singapore. With blessings from NOC, I spent a hectic week to settle the visa paperwork, made complicated by COVID-19, and flew out within two weeks.

The K-Startup Grand Challenge (KSGC) is an accelerator programme organised by the Ministry of SMEs and Startups of the Republic of Korea, to attract promising foreign startups to incorporate in Korea. This round attracted over 2600 startups from 118 different countries to apply. After a round of review and an online interview, Movel AI was selected as one of the top 60 teams to participate in a 3-month accelerator programme in Korea, from September to November.

For the programme I was attached to a Korean seed accelerator firm, Big Bang Angels (BBA). They helped us by connecting us to potential mentors, collaborators and clients, while providing us with mentorship and support. It was definitely an eye-opening experience working with an accelerator first-hand, and I became familiar with the networking, emailing and ‘hustling’ that a company founder has to go through. Admittedly, it felt daunting as an inexperienced intern, but the coaching by my CEO and product manager greatly prepared me in understanding the vision and path that the company was taking. It was important that I knew the company well in the following aspects:

Interacting with mentors

Networking was a must, and even as an extrovert, I had to consciously push myself to step out of my comfort zone to approach and talk to complete strangers during networking events. Practice does help, and I found that at the end of the programme I became more confident and calm when interacting with people in new environments.

Making full use of networking opportunities

Aside from meetings, I also attended the RoboWorld 2020 Expo, which featured many local robotics companies. There were many companies that showed interest in our technology, and we connected with 18 different robotics hardware manufacturers that could potentially become our clients or partners in the future. The exhibition also exposed me to the flourishing robotics industry in Korea, with some booths showcasing highly sophisticated technologies.

Some of the exhibits at RoboWorld 2020 Expo

The best part about the programme for me was the opportunity to interact with other participants, many of whom were co-founders. The thing that struck me was how human they were — with families, hobbies, interests just like everybody else, in spite of how accomplished they were. A common characteristic I saw in them was exceptional passion and drive in whatever they did, and an abundance of energy to pursue the things that they cared about. Their stories left me awe-struck and inspired; and even though their journeys were probably extremely arduous, I became more sure than ever that entrepreneurship, startups and tech are the things I want to pursue.

The accelerator programme culminated in a demo day, where each participant had 5 minutes to pitch and 5 minutes of questions and answers with a panel of judges. The event was broadcasted live online, and had an elaborate setup with more cameras than I could count — they even had live translators on set! That was probably the peak of my trip in Korea, and it was a tremendously exhilarating experience delivering the pitch on stage. Watching the other participants during the demo day was also a meaningful experience, as each participant had their own unique style of delivering the pitch.

Left: My online pitching during Demo Day; Right: Lunch with other accelerator participants

Work aside, I got the opportunity to do some hiking in my spare time. The view was amazing, especially because of the autumn colours. I was also introduced to a local Ultimate Frisbee pickup community and spent a Saturday enjoying the sport.

Hiking during my spare time
Frisbee at Jamsil Park

All in all, it has been an quite an experience being able to represent Movel AI for the K-Startup Grand Challenge in Korea. I think the Korean startup scene is really taking off, with the government actively pouring in investment and efforts into nurturing the ecosystem (accelerator programmes, building startup campuses, funding and grants for startups, etc). One can definitely look to Korea as a good location to build a company due to its high technology uptake, innovation and support from various institutions. The netflix series, Start-Up (while a little dramatised) does actually reflect Korea’s growth and potential as a startup hub!

KSGC aside, NOC also provided me the opportunity to join the Plug and Play university programme, where students from universities around the world review and discuss real startup pitches during biweekly calls with a Plug and Play investor. That gave me great insights into the venture capital side of things, which also sprouted my interest to pursue a venture capital internship in the coming semester. My second half of my NOC programme will be a remote internship with the San Francisco based office of the venture capital group, WI Harper. I think that NOC definitely offers a huge number of opportunities to aspiring entrepreneurs like myself, and if you’re a student passionate about startups, you should definitely give NOC a shot.

I love talking to like-minded people about entrepreneurship and tech related topics, and I hope to hear your thoughts and stories too! Feel free to contact me at alvin.ryanputra@gmail.com or connect with me on linkedin here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alvinryanputra/. I’ll be joining NOC’s ENterprise House (N-House) in the coming semester at Kent Ridge Hall, so I’m hoping to get to know more NOC students and alumni over the next few months.

Thanks for reading, and here’s wishing you all the best!

NUS Enterprise nurtures entrepreneurial talents with global mindsets, while advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at Asia’s leading university.

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