Raffles Business Symposium: Ideas to change the world

By Ling Young Loon (18S07A)
Photographs by Li Wanjie (18A01B) and Afiq Zuhairi (18S06Q).

“Entrepreneurship is a very strange reason to stay back on a Friday night”, Shen Hongyi, chairperson of Raffles Entrepreneurs’ Network (REN), declared. “90% of startups fail… so it’s probably a really bad idea.”

Yet, at least 100 students were gathered at the PAC, listening to her speak. Of these, four teams would make their business pitch later that evening. Shyanne Tan, a Year 3 student from Temasek Polytechnic, sat in the competitor’s aisle. She flipped through her slides and shifted around in her seat. The competition would begin in an hour.

Sitting behind them were twelve students from Saint Joseph’s Institution (SJI). Two SJI teams had landed a spot in the finals that day; they were determined to bring the crown home. But RI’s Team Atmusphere wasn’t going to offer an easy fight. They were after all, on home ground.

The rest of the crowd consisted a patchwork of schools, all with a common passion for entrepreneurship. Organised by the REN, the annual Raffles Business Symposium (RBS) was about to begin.

“The aim of RBS was to bring like-minded students together,” Hongyi commented. “We found that other business competitions were too professional. RBS has a much lower threshold, and we invited even secondary schools to participate”

As Hongyi concluded her address, she invited Mr Edward Chia up on stage. The humble co-founder of Timbre group started his entrepreneurship journey at age 21. Now, he shared his experiences with eager entrepreneurs like himself. His uncanny enthusiasm never seemed to falter.

“Your business is your life,” he declared. “There is no work-life balance.”

Ms Kelly Ho, another judge for the competition, spoke of her law firm with youthful vigour.

“No one taught me how to set up a law firm. I found it myself – through books, the internet, and people. If you want to succeed in entrepreneurship, you must have the curiosity to find things for yourself.”

Mr Chandran, a self-made publisher who was also to judge the competition, emphasised the value of innovation:

“You must think out of the box, stay out of the box, and — at the end of the day – break the box.”

The founder of E-Quill Media had leapt from journalist to editor to publisher. He believes his work is anything but typical.

“Be original. We have a very good reputation for copying. But be original.”

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From left to right: Shen Hongyi (18S06K), Mr Edward Chia, Ms Kelly Ho, Mr Kannan Chandran.

All 3 entrepreneurs took their seats. Hongyi checked the time. The finalists were on their heels; the competition would soon begin.

First, team VSBCRV of SJI took the stage. They stood poised and prepared, ready to rumble. Quickly, VSBCRV introduced GoldLee: the consummate wheelchair for the elderly. GoldLee would fuse entertainment, transport, communication, and healthcare services into one contraption. The chair would speak, would listen, and would track vitals: an impeccable conception indeed.

After a quick grilling from the judges, the team descended from the podium.

Shyanne smiled, looked at the audience, then looked at her teammates again. Team Auxilium had been called. It was their turn to steal the show. Shyanne presented her working prototype: a semi-autonomous wheelchair that follows someone the way kids follow a soccer ball.

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Shyanne Tan (right) and Team Auxilium from Temasek Polytechnic.

“We’ve always been interested in getting our own products out, and creating as innovative ones as possible. It’s quite hard in today’s day and age, where almost everything has been created, Shyanne said, laughing, after the presentation.

“Auxilium Innovations is a registered company, and we do intend to bring this idea further,” Shyanne paused, “but with studies and all that, we might not be able to”.

SJI’s team Samaritan Syndicate presented next, followed by RI’s Team Atmusphere. The Samaritans pitched a new classroom technology: a Google-glass sort of learning aid. RI presented a way to cure phobias – using virtual reality. The software will expose users to increasingly sensitive material. Augmented reality? Electroencephalogram? Photoelectric sensors? Technology was the talk of the town indeed. Team Atmusphere’s presentation was met with resonant applause.

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RI’s Team Atmusphere (left to right): Shen Hongyi (18S06K), Zhong Tianyu (18S06P), Maxine Lim (18S06Q), and Huang Huanyan (18A03A).

Very soon, the judges made their calls and flips. The teams were evaluated on a set criteria: presentation coherency, business sustainability, competitive positioning and the viability of the idea itself.

After a rigorous discussion, the judges returned, results in hand. Mr Chia made his brief conclusion, and began announcing the winners. Shyanne led her team up stage, radiant as ever. The trophy was theirs.

RESULTS
3rd runners up: Team Atmusphere – RI
2nd runners up: Samaritan Syndicate – SJI
1st runners up:   VSBCRV – SJI
Champion: Team Auxilium – TP

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