Venturing into Venture Capital

The following is a guest post by first year NUS MBA student Nikhil Kapur, on his reflections about participation in the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) 

It all started when Mondy (aka Subhajit Mandal, financial trader from Singapore and the loudest in our team) and yours truly decided to contact the VCIC authorities individually about our interest in participating in the competition. For the uninitiated, VCIC allows Business School teams to play the role of a Venture Capitalist, analysing real startups, complete with due diligence and partner meetup rounds. The VCIC folks were slightly befuddled by two individual queries from the same school and connected us together. Hence, both of us set out to find the perfect team to enter the competition with. Long story short, we found the team in Ricky Wong (IPO specialist from Hong Kong and a really heavy (pun intended) drinker), Jose Antonio Borrero (Ecuadorian Project Financing specialist and a hardcore party person), and Pornteera Pawijit (Biotech PHD and Thai, enough said).

VCIC team-photo

(L to R): Ricky Wong, Pornteera Pawijit, Nikhil Kapur, Jose Antonio Borrero Cordova and Subhajit Mandal.

Continue reading

Total Grant Sky Competition

The following are reflections by Julian Ragragio, NUS MBA Student, 2014 Intake.

The whole project started out before business school, when I was still employed to work on solar pumps for Sunelec Photovoltaic Solutions. During my final year with that company, two important things happened. First was the release of an innovative new product which could facilitate pay-per-consumption system for solar pumps and therefore open up opportunities for development banks to participate. Second was the 20th anniversary of our main partner, Lorentz GmbH, who decided to give out 20 solar pump systems across the world free-of-charge for communities in need.

I spearheaded both the release of the new product and the 20th anniversary donations by sourcing out and selecting communities which could benefit from both initiatives. It was during this time that I began coordinating with our eventual partner, SIBAT, who had recommended to me several communities under its wing. Unfortunately, I never got any chance to see these efforts bear fruit, as I had to leave for my MBA midway through these initiatives.

At the back of my head, I always wanted to find some way to finish what I started. When I got into the NUS MBA program, I saw potential to resume this project – the cohort was blessed with a lot of latent capital – human and financial. Somehow, I wanted to harness that and turn it into a tangible project that could contribute real value. Initially, I sought to run as president for the energy club with the intention of building a platform to pursue this project. However, I got an offer to work with the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore so I decided to abstain from running as president of the energy club, lest I be burdened with too many commitments.

Our first breakthrough with resuming this project came sometime around the second semester, when I stumbled upon a grant initiative by Total SA while looking for internships. Between that time and my entry at the NUS MBA, the project was mainly on-hold, with many of the companies that I had approached rejecting or ignoring my idea. There was one particular instance when a banking executive outright refused to acknowledge my request. However, the grant initiative by Total presented that silver bullet, a chance at finally making things happen. Once I had absorbed the complexity of the grant details, I got in touch with the Social Impact Club to discuss this project – and I got a solid response. From that point onwards, a team would drive this project.

Between academic requirements, case competitions, and personal commitments, our team managed to submit all of the grant requirements in time and with sufficient quality to build confidence in our success – and no doubt this can be attributed to the team’s coherence and alignment towards its goals. To qualify us for the grant, we had to come up with the following: 1) Primer for the project. 2) Plan and write- up to inspire/source votes. 3) Technical proposal. 4) Operations and maintenance proposal. 5) Project beneficiary. 6) Partners. 7) Complete budget. 8) Proof of feasibility.

We got a call from Team Total SA in early March announcing that we had been short listed to move on in the final selection process. Although we had done our best in preparing for the grant, we were still aware that competition was stiff – there was one particular project outside of ours which was highly innovative and well funded by multinationals like EDF. That project utilized a flexible solar panel inflated on a hydrogen balloon, and was aimed at providing energy for emergency situations such as disaster response. We had to bring our proposal up a notch by focusing on our main advantage – that the solution we were proposing was 100% feasible and utilized proven technology.

During our final defense, we ran into several problems that gave us some doubt as to whether we were going to succeed in securing the grant. First was a matter of proximity. The competing teams were mostly based in France, and therefore had the advantage of being able to present in-person. Second were timing issues. The defense started a full one hour ahead of schedule; luckily we were assembled in advance, or we would have missed our defense. Third were technical issues. During the defense itself, we had to tackle interconnection problems and feedback coming from the simultaneous use of multiple laptops. Last was the issue of innovation. The panel raised a particular concern about whether or not we were utilizing enough innovative capacity to sway the judges towards our side. By the end of our defense, we had mixed feelings. I sent a final email to the judges to provide clarity towards unsettled matters related to our defense. After that, it was simply a waiting game for us.

Around a week after our defense, we received an email from Total SA announcing us as the recipients of the grant. It was a joyous moment for us – though short lived. Now, we are moving towards finalizing the conditions of the grant. From here on, we will be tackling the implementation phase.

As per our most recent meeting, in which we have assigned individual responsibilities for the team, the most immediate challenges would be dealing with the complexities of coordinating our team with SIBAT. Several activities are in order – including: 1) Finalizing the deployment schedules with SIBAT and our team. 2) Developing a budget for marketing and technical requirements. 3) Implementing a system of checks against use of funds. 4) Promoting transparency of procurement activities. 5) Building a website to increase the visibility of the project and its stakeholders via social media. 6) Raising additional funds for a pipeline of projects which we would like to tackle moving forward.

The overriding goal of this project is to promote the use of technology in addressing problems related to energy and water access for developing countries. Energy and water are primary catalysts of human development; it is an enabler of economic growth, healthcare access and higher standards of living. Now, more than ever, productivity in remote areas can be enhanced with autonomous energy through the use of solar. Local growth is a snowball effect of using this technology, and we believe we can contribute towards this goal by pursuing this project with a focused and committed mindset.

Top 5 Reasons you should get an NUS MBA

The following are reflections by Maria Patricia Villar, an expected graduate of NUS MBA.

Finals are over. From here on, I may no longer see the face of graded homework and group projects. There may be less of the formal networking events to prepare small talk topics for. GPA will no longer dictate my “future”, and the sting from the mistakes I made in the Accounting mid-terms will feel less painful.  Hooray for that! …Or maybe not. Because instead of these, what I must now face is the more cruel reality of work and projects on which my family’s living will be based upon, more crucial conversations on which depend millions of dollars in sales or losses, and mistakes that may lead to getting fired. Clearly, MBA is merely a means to an end. Looking back with fresh eyes, let me share some reflections on the benefits I gained from taking my MBA in NUS, and hence the reasons why one should consider taking it as well:

NUS MBA Orientation

Continue reading

Bubble Soccer – When we had a ball of a time!

The following is contributed by Cheong Jia Ling, NUS MBA part-time student for the 2014 Intake.

When we first started our NUS MBA, I was known by name, Jae. Yet somehow after the Outward Bound School camp during the Orientation, I was given the nickname, Bubble by my wonderful MBA friends. When the semester first started, the boys met up for weekly soccer. I wondered what it’d take for the girls to be part of the sports activities. That’s when it struck: Bubble Soccer!

Bubble Soccer NUS MBA

So the boys of sports club and yours truly, the Bubble, got together, to organise the first ever Bubble Soccer.

bUBBLESOCCER NUS MBA

Being a relatively new sport, it wasn’t surprising that no one had ever tried Bubble Soccer before. Even though most of us had spent the previous night stuffing ourselves silly with Korean chicken and booze, everyone still huddled together at U-town at 10am for a game – Bubble Soccer was too good to be missed!

Bubble Soccer NUS MBA1

So what exactly is bubble soccer? Soccer! Except that instead of typical soccer jersey uniforms, you get strapped onto a bubble suit. With in-built straps and handles, it’s surprisingly safe. Within minutes, everyone who managed to land their hands on a bubble suit were tumbling down the slope and bumping each other.

The two-hour session was short but memorable. One reason why I love my NUS MBA is because it’s when the best memories are created. So here’s how I sum up our experience that day: We (literally) had a ball of a time!

Voices: I Value Cultural Diversity – Prasad Bakre’s story

This post is a part of the NUS MBA Blog’s “Voices” series, where MBA candidates at NUS Business School share their personal stories.

Having worked and traveled to the USA, Europe and South East Asia, Prasad Bakre‘s key consideration for an MBA was cultural diversity. Just over a semester later, the NUS MBA Student Ambassador shares his story and some valuable tips for admissions into the NUS MBA.

prasad bakre nus mba

Why did you choose Singapore to pursue your MBA? And why NUS MBA? 

Singapore appealed to me for two main reasons. First, I had a reasonable work experience in Asia, and Singapore is the central hub of Asia – it was a natural choice for me to grow. Second, I was impressed with the the rich diversity in Singapore as well as in the NUS MBA cohort. I had already visited NUS in March and knew that the school was a really good fit for me.

What are some of the tips for admissions that you can share with prospective applicants?

I would suggest a few things: First, just be as genuine as possible. The admissions committee is already dealing with super-talented people, so it can easily make out if you are faking it. Second, sit back and ask yourself why you really want to do an MBA and whether the school you are applying to fits your life-strategy. And finally, DO NOT mix up applications. That is the worst thing a future manager can do!

How did you feel when you received an offer letter? 

I clearly remember that moment. I was preparing for my weekly sales meeting when my cellphone chimed, “Congratulations! You have been selected…” The message made me almost jump in the air! The admission process was very smooth. However, I did have to make few critical decisions about leaving my job, financing the MBA and relocating to Singapore. Right now, I am in a long distance relationship with my wife, since she works in Tokyo and I am in Singapore.

How has the NUS MBA experience been for you so far?

It seems just like yesterday when I sat at my UTown Residence, looking forward to our Orientation. The Outward Bound tour, followed by the Management Communication Camp, helped us know our cohort better. Classes, assignments, parties and studies were quite demanding. The first semester has definitely made me a wiser and a more mature person. I’m looking forward to more!

I believe that the NUS MBA is for those who have a keen interest in Asia and who value rich diversity. It’s amazing to see Indians, Columbians, Chinese and Singaporeans try some Bollywood dance moves on tunes of German songs during Oktoberfest! If all the above things AND some excellent leadership opportunities around the world excite you, NUS is just the place to be!

Could an NUS MBA equip you to be the next trailblazer? Find out more about the curriculumfaculty, and opportunities available on our website, mba.nus.edu.sg.