Voices of Venture Building

This story was first published in Issue 029 of Enterprise SPARKS, our quarterly newsletter, here (pages 4–5).

Aiden (left) with his MediVR co-founders Anthea Foong (centre) and Jeremy Ong (right)

We concluded the first run of the Startup SG Founder -
Venture Building Programme in NUS
last December, and spoke to three participants from the cohort who shared their experience with us.

Aiden Koh, MediVR

Tell us about your project:

MediVR provides a virtual reality (VR) medical training simulation platform that improves the standardisation and rigour of clinical training. We focus on providing medical students the means to hone their clinical skills anytime, anywhere, and in a multi-user environment. Our process aims to provide up to seven times more clinical scenarios than what is available at schools now, empowering our medical students and better preparing them for real-world patient scenarios.

What were you doing before the NUS Venture Building (VB) programme?

I am a year 4 undergraduate, majoring in Mechanical Engineering and the Innovation & Design Programme (IDP). I’ve always had a keen interest in entrepreneurship and technologies that have the potential to change the world, and I had the wonderful opportunity to pursue my interests with fellow classmates in IDP, who are now my co-founders. I’ve also had the opportunity to hustle in a VR hardware start-up, which was recently acquired by Facebook Reality Labs. All these experiences culminated in the development of my start-up, MediVR.

Why were you interested in joining VB?

I was interested in joining VB as it allowed NUS Enterprise to serve as our Accredited Mentor Partner (AMP) while providing us the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge needed to build a start-up, from the concept of Lean methodology, to investments and fundraising techniques.

Favorite aspect of VB:

The amazing networking opportunities provided. We had the pleasure of working with esteemed mentors Kate Lazarenko and Himawan Gunadhi, which gave us much needed insights and guidance in the industry we are tackling.

Most important lesson you took away from the programme:

Learning how to deliver a professional pitch. VB has provided a great platform for first-time entrepreneurs such as myself to step out of our comfort zones, and to pitch effectively.

Future plans:

My team and I will hustle onwards with MediVR. We plan to join the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP) later this year and launch our alpha programme with selected medical students by the end of this year.

Advice for future participants:

Be fearless and be focused. VB will put you through your paces and prepare you to answer the difficult questions that will come your way. Ultimately, the experience that you will gain from this programme will improve the odds of your start-up succeeding.

Rosie Koh from Youth.ai

Rosie Koh, Youth.ai

Tell us about your project:

Youth.ai uses artificial intelligence to screen for early changes to youth mental health.

What were you doing before the NUS Venture Building (VB) programme?

I was working as a paediatric occupational therapist and completing an MBA in Australia.

Why were you interested in joining VB?

I was at a place in my career where I wanted to try something new. The VB programme offered an opportunity to learn how to run my own business, connect with industry leading mentors and plug into the extensive NUS network.

Favorite aspect of VB:

I have two takeaways. One was meeting like-minded entrepreneurs who are driven by innovation and tenacity. Secondly, I was very thankful to have Chris Hardesty, Director of KPMG’s Global Healthcare and Life Sciences Practice, as my mentor. His guidance and support was key in my development as an entrepreneur and in Youth.ai.

Most important lesson you took away from the programme:

Professor Virginia Cha taught me about the importance of obtaining an unbiased understanding of customer pain points, so that the designed solution will have maximum impact.

Future plans:

We have had a lot of interest in our software and are partnering with local institutions to roll out our pilot. This will allow us to build and scale our software locally and internationally over the short term.

Advice for future participants:

Give it your best shot. It may or may not be what you want to pursue in the long term, but I believe the skills you learn will benefit your future career.

Nirmala Bali from MiceLah

Nirmala Bali, MiceLah

Tell us about your project:

The meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry is fragmented; there is no one-stop shop for event planners and end users [corporates] to plan their activities and get an immediate quotation. Our solution is to make the process transparent, seamless and swift by empowering users with planning, scheduling and estimation tools.

MiceLah will bring all vendors/ suppliers of MICE activities under one roof through an app/ website. Corporates and event planners from all over the world can use our platform to plan and create their MICE events without having to wait around for quotations or going back and forth with multiple vendors.

What were you doing before the NUS Venture Building (VB) programme?

I worked in the MICE industry for about eight years and was retrenched due to COVID. I organised conferences, incentive trips, product launches, team building activities and meetings for corporate clients.

Why were you interested in joining VB?

Even before I was retrenched, I had this business idea lingering in my head. As soon as I was retrenched, I used the opportunity to start working on my business plan. But I felt I needed some guidance and hence, in my pursuit for start-up knowledge, I came across the NUS VB programme online. The programme also offered to match founders with co-founders. I was also looking for a tech co-founder. I submitted the application and was accepted.

Favorite aspect of VB:

To me, it was a paradise of like-minded folks in a room together. I love the fact that everyone in the programme was working towards the goal of being an entrepreneur. The energy was high and everyone’s enthusiasm had a positive effect on me.

Most important lesson you took away from the programme:

My professor Himawan Gunadhi cultivated the idea that it’s ok to pivot and move away from an idea which is not accepted or validated by the customers/ end users. This was an eye opener as it taught me to think out of the box and not hold on to my beliefs if they are failing. During the three months, I learnt to let go of my one-sided views about my business and pivoted according to my customers’ needs.

Future plans:

I have just received the support from NUS to be my Accredited Mentor Partner (AMP). I have onboarded a CTO and am waiting for the Enterprise Singapore (ESG) grant to start work on my minimum viable project (MVP).

Advice for future participants:

The best decision I have made for myself was to join the NUS VB programme because it is so versatile and allows each individual to grow. If you have an idea, or even if you don’t but have a strong urge to be an entrepreneur and wish to achieve your fullest potential, I would strongly advise you to join this programme. This programme opens up many doors to potential investors through NUS’s extensive network. Every team in the programme is provided with a personal mentor who has relevant experience and knowledge in the field of business chosen. My mentor is from the MICE industry so it was a perfect match.

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

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