By Shafiq Mazlan, CMO
“Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition” – A competition bearing the name of Singapore’s founding father; sounds like a pretty big deal huh? That was the exact first thought I had upon finding out about this competition, and soon enough I found out how big of a deal it really was. With over 1 million dollars’ worth of cash and investment prizes to be won, big name investment firms as major sponsors, and all foreign finalists flown here on an all-expenses paid trip; this competition was nothing short of big. Of course we applied for it immediately.
A few weeks went by, and we were thrilled to have been notified as a shortlisted finalist among the top 36 teams from over 550 applicants worldwide. Wow. Being selected as a finalist in this competition and acceleration programme itself was a great honour for us. Upon the news, over the next few weeks we started working on creating and perfecting a 10-minute pitch for this competition, with little knowledge of what to expect. The day finally came, and what went on for the whole week from 11th to 15th September was a truly humbling and insightful experience for us.
The first few days of the acceleration programme prior to the day of the pitch was a fresh breath of enlightenment. We attended talks from various visionary and experienced individuals, ranging from the founders of highly successful companies to industry leaders who gave us masterclasses on vital entrepreneurial skills. Besides the highly enriching talks, each team was paired with an industry-related mentor, and we were lucky to be paired with Sandip Gupta, vice president of cloud business in SingTel. With his incredible experience and knowledge, Sandip was a brilliant mentor, giving us invaluable advice not just for the pitch competition but also for our startup journey as well. He was truly a knowledgeable yet humble man, giving us critical input and motivation to do well, guiding us wholeheartedly as if he has been our long-time mentor since our inception. He paved the way for substantial improvements in our pitch, and even helped us make a critical decision of cutting down to 2 presenters for our pitch, as opposed to our original plan of 3.
On the day of the pitch itself, everyone in the team was highly nervous, hoping that the late nights we’ve put in prior to this day would pay off in the form of the cash prizes that were up for grabs. It was funny how even though I wasn’t presenting, I was still nervous and kept pacing back and forth outside the room full of judges and investors. After a nerve-wrecking wait, it was finally our turn. All the days of preparation and practice boiled down to that very brief 10 minutes. Looking at my fellow teammates pitch to the audience made me feel so proud of everything we’ve done that has led up to this. As usual, questions and answers followed, and we gave the judges our best replies. All in all, we left the room feeling really proud of ourselves knowing we did well.
Alas, the very next day was the day of results and everyone was eager to hear the good news. Unfortunately, our team was not mentioned and we did not win. Despite the slight disappointment, we were not thwarted. At that point in time, we knew we had already done our best, and while we may not have won the cash prizes that we set out to win, we have gained so much more. It was the invaluable advices, lessons, and motivation we’ve gained that have made this a holistic yet humbling experience for us as a finalist in this prestigious competition. We definitely did not leave this event empty handed. We’ve earned some truly incredible takeaways, and were lucky to have forged friendships with some really brilliant minds from all over the world. The Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition is surely something that we are all grateful for being a part of, and we would love to take part again next year should we be given the chance.
"Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.” ~ Bill Bradley
This quote sums it up. Looking forward to our next journey!