Entrepreneurship course offers real-world tests

Participants of the new course, accredited by SUSS and run in partnership with Alibaba Cloud, include (from left) undergraduate Rayner Loi, 23, and Keshav Sivakumar, 18, the founders of start-up Good for Food; and Mr Clinton Li and Mr Mohamad Raihan
Participants of the new course, accredited by SUSS and run in partnership with Alibaba Cloud, include (from left) undergraduate Rayner Loi, 23, and Keshav Sivakumar, 18, the founders of start-up Good for Food; and Mr Clinton Li and Mr Mohamad Raihan Abd. Karim, both 21, from the start-up Orama.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Mentoring given to participants, who have to secure own funding

There is no exam at the end, but participants of a new entrepreneurship course face a tougher test - securing funding for their businesses. And they have to do so within a certain time period to get a certificate or credits for the course.

But these aspiring business owners will have a chance to be mentored by people like World Toilet Organisation founder Jack Sim or executives from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

Participants pay an application fee of about $60. The programme, accredited by the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) and run in partnership with Alibaba's cloud computing arm, Alibaba Cloud, was announced last week.

The partnership will run for three years, with a possibility of being extended further. Its first intake was in July. A total of 28 teams made up of 60 people applied, and 16 teams - comprising 31 participants - were later selected. There are two intakes every year.

Besides SUSS students, the programme is open to tertiary students aged 18 and above, and anyone who fulfils academic criteria, such as having two GCE A-level passes.

It will last for up to 21/2 years, and those who complete the programme will obtain a certificate. SUSS students will be awarded a minor in entrepreneurship.

One person who has signed up for the course is SUSS undergraduate Rayner Loi, 23, who has been working since November with his business partner, 18-year-old Keshav Sivakumar, on a start-up that aims to help large commercial kitchens reduce their food waste. They hope to launch their business product next year, but need technical and business advice as their start-up, Good for Food, is the first business venture for both of them.

"I am glad that work on my start-up can also be considered for academic credit," said Mr Loi.

Over the next few months, Mr Loi and his peers will have to attend a two-day Alibaba Cloud certification course, pitch their ideas to investors at sessions held by SUSS and Alibaba Cloud, and tap funding sources.

They will get free access to Alibaba Cloud services, including data analytics and Web-hosting services, and can choose from more than 500 SUSS modules, such as social media marketing.

Both Alibaba and SUSS will not take equity in the start-ups.

Mr Joey Tan, Alibaba Cloud's head of global strategic initiatives, said they opened the programme to the public to "make sure that every entrepreneur is given equal access to the most advanced technology".

SUSS president Cheong Hee Kiat said that awarding credits to successful participants is the university's "way of recognising that effective learning can take place outside the classroom".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2017, with the headline 'Entrepreneurship course offers real-world tests'. Print Edition | Subscribe