Fulbright University Vietnam’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) hosted 64 local high school and university students for its first-ever entrepreneurship bootcamp, EntreCamp, during the weekend of 8-10 November 2019.
Fulbright University Vietnam’s CEI and Reactor School organized its first EntreCamp on Fulbright campus. The program was developed through a partnership between CEI, Reactor School, and Lawrence S. Ting High School (LSTS).
EntreCamp seeks to provide students with the hands-on opportunity to build their own startup, starting from problem identification all the way to prototyping and pitching. For this bootcamp, students were asked to focus their efforts on developing a solution that tackles at least one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and ended the weekend by pitching to a panel of judges from the industry. The bootcamp was led by the CEO of Reactor School, Mr. Rusydi Khairul, and facilitated by experts from Fulbright and LSTS.
“We were looking for an education entrepreneurship organization to partner with to get started, and I had a chance to engage with Reactor School in Singapore. I was impressed, both by their track record — they’ve worked in almost all the countries in Southeast Asia, as well as by their experiential educational philosophy,” shared the Director of CEI, Mr. Kentaro Watari.
The initiative attracted 64 students, coming from a range of disciplines across Fulbright, LSTS, and other high schools and universities. “I want to study more about how to build a start-up and how to be successful in business jobs. At first, when I was in grade 8, I had a business project where I sold masks, face masks, and it did not really work. So I’m finding the way, such as what’s the problem with my old business. And when I come to the camp, I just want to discover more about the business world,” shared Dang Lam Phuong Mai, an 11th grader from LSTS.
For Truong Tan Loc, a student from FPT University in Can Tho City, he came to the camp because of its exciting activities: “Actually, I saw this program on Facebook, and when I read the description, I was immensely impressed by the content and the activities that I’m going to go through in 2.5 days. I was especially drawn to the knowledge of the start-up, which I think will really benefit me in the future.”
Throughout the 2.5-day camp, students were exposed to various core concepts in entrepreneurship, including customer discovery, prototype testing, market sizing, and developing a business model. In addition to classroom learning, students ventured out to the local community to test their business ideas with end-users.
The camp’s final event was a Demo Day, where student teams pitched their business ideas to a panel of expert judges, including Ms. Tuyet Vu, Principal at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and Mr. Cong Vu, Director of Product Development at M_Service (Momo Ewallet). Demo Day allowed students to test their ideas, receive authentic feedback on their pitch, and practice their presentation skills.
Mr. Watari said the camp’s goals were not only to help young people develop an interest in entrepreneurship, but also to help them gain life skills and to invest in their communities.
“CEI’s vision is to cultivate and empower future entrepreneurs and innovators to go after Vietnam’s and the region’s toughest problems. To do that, we want to help activate them to become entrepreneurs, to help orient them to learn and think deeply about the most difficult challenges, and to help them go after them,” Mr. Watari added.
Mr. Khairul, CEO of Reactor School, said that gaining exposure at an early age to business and entrepreneurship is a good way to build enthusiasm for a potential career.
“Not every student at EntreCamp is going to decide to be a co-founder or founder, but we want them to all be entrepreneurial. We want them to discover what they are not just interested in, but also what they are excited about and to give them a sense of purpose in whatever it is that they want to do. So, we hope that these skills are transferable, and they’ll be able to do well in whichever role, or whichever field they choose to be in in the future,” explained Mr. Khairul.
The winners for the EntreCamp were: Plasticism, who took home the “Greatest Social Impact” superlative prize for the idea of a production and collection service for eating utensils. EmoCado’s pitch was for a mobile app that addresses mental health problems and promotes mental wellbeing; the group received the “Best Pitch & Presentation”. The last prize, “Most Advanced Prototype”, belonged to Kahoo!, whose idea was a professional platform for high school students to identify and explore the right careers.
“I think today’s event is very impressive, given the very short amount of time that each of the team has. The winning ideas were unique in the sense that they articulated their problems and very quickly came up with a quick solution and tested it out with the market,” Ms. Tuyet Vu, one of the two judges, commented.
When asked what advice he might offer to participants, the final judge, Mr. Cong Vu, shared: “I think the next step is to keep building on the current starting block that they have started. Entrepreneurship to me is a marathon; it’s not a sprint. Even the losing teams today, if they keep continuing working on their ideas to refine and validate them, they can be successful as well.”
While only three groups received superlative prizes, participants learned a lot: “Not only did I learn about different concepts, but also all of the steps that I’m going to take if I want to operate my own business. Also, I met a friend that is not at my university, and I felt I could cultivate more friendships and expand my network for my future career,” explained Lam Thanh Hao, a participant and student at Fulbright University.
LSTS Learning Support Leader and camp facilitator, Mr. Thiago Nunes, said he believes EntreCamp was an engaging experience for LSTS high school students.
“Right now, Vietnam is facing great challenges, both environmental and social. We need to ignite the spirit of innovation in young people, to address these issues meaningfully. Without much prompting, our LSTS students immediately directed their energies into startups that tackle social and environmental issues. To me, the initiatives like the ones being developed at Fulbright and elsewhere across the city, indicate that the people of Ho Chi Minh are ready and eager to tackle these issues,” shared Mr. Nunes.
For CEI, EntreCamp is only the first step. The center hopes to continue hosting many more programs not only for high school and university students, but also the broader Vietnamese community.
“There’s a limit to how much entrepreneurship can be taught in the classroom. we plan for our center to send students out into the community to work at and learn from high potential start-ups. Starting from this summer, we’re seeking to offer a start-up internship program for our students in HCMC. In the coming years, we aim to place students at start-ups globally,” Mr. Watari added.