Entrepreneurship is being taught in universities and colleges, but teenagers in high school can also ride the startup wave, as the TiE Young Entrepreneurs competition shows.
This month, five student teams pitched to an expert jury panel at a grand finale in Bengaluru; YourStory participated in the jury as well, along with Geetha Ramamurthy (CEO, GiGa Innovation Centre), Samir Kumar (General Partner, Inventus Capital) and Priya Chetty-Rajagopal (Director, RGF Executive Search).
The winners are BooksReX, an app-based platform to create communities around book reviewing and lending. The team members are Akash Philip Mani, Arun Ravi, Pradyun S Kaushik, Rishit Roy, and Sharath Shimoga.
The other four teams are CredFit, a solution to make teenagers more physically fit through competitions and gamification (Aman Singla, Aryan, Samarth Grover, Vineet Kulkarni, Vishveshwar); Focus-Locus, an app to increase teenagers’ focus in the areas of studies, music and fitness (Arham Bhandari, Chetna Chaturvedi, Kyna Jain, Neel Mulay, Tejas Koulagi); WhatNext, a career guidance network (Adhuna Mikkilineni, Ananya, Aranya Naganur, Moksha SV. Raghav Jain, Sanjana Bhoopathi); and DODO smart bags (Arush Vatsal Srivatsa, Shubaan, Srivathsan Ramakrishnan, Tanvi, Vibha Balaji).
The competition was the finale of the TiE Young Entrepreneurs (TYE) programme, run by chapters of entrepreneurship network TiE for high school students (grades 9-12). The TiE Young Entrepreneurs programme helps students learn about entrepreneurship through actual research, problem definition, surveys, and prototyping. Since the programme’s inception in 2005 in the Boston chapter of TiE Young Entrepreneurs, more than 25 chapters worldwide are running TiE Young Entrepreneurs.
“We incorporate the same techniques entrepreneurs have used to build scalable businesses all over the world. Every year, we choose the best student-led companies from each TYE city and bring them to a competition for a chance to win big prizes and build networks with top students from around the globe,” explains Shashi Jain, TYE Global Education Director.
Guided by TiE Young Entrepreneurs mentors, the students learned and practised entrepreneurship over weekend classes (half of Saturday) spread across two months. The winning team from each city or region will compete at the TYE Global Finals in Boston in June this year for cash prizes (worth $10,000) and recognition.
Since 2005, over 5,000 students have participated in the TYE program from over 100 local schools globally. The finals are held in a different city each year: Boston (MIT campus: 2010); Research Triangle Park, North Carolina (Cisco campus, 2011); Atlanta, Georgia (2012); Washington DC (George Mason University campus: 2013); Vancouver, Canada (2014); Atlanta, Georgia (2015); Portland, Oregon (2016); Irvine, California (2017); and Arlington, Virginia (2018).
Indian TiE chapters participating in 2018 included Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Hubli, Hyderabad, Kerala, Kolkata, Lucknow, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh (some are regional chapters). TiE chapters that have already launched TYE in their cities in 2019 are Bengaluru, Houston, Nagpur, New Jersey and Udaipur.
The programme is intended to expose high school students to the opportunities and methods of entrepreneurship, business skills, risk-taking, teamwork, leadership, customer focus, competitiveness, communication, and empathy. For the Bengaluru edition, sessions were held at the Microsoft Research campus in Lavelle Road from October 27, 2018 to December 15, 2018.
The weekend classes are conducted by professionals and successful entrepreneurs, followed by students brainstorming a business idea and preparing for a competition. Through workshops and interactions, students learn basic startup math, lean canvas, business planning, prototyping, and pitching.
According to TiE, 100 percent of participating students have reported increased confidence and skills to work effectively as a team, 90 percent report participating in TYE influenced their career path, and 50 percent of the students continue to either work on their venture or volunteer within the programme.
The students in the Bengaluru competition were from a range of schools: National Public School, Delhi Public School, Greenwood High, National Academy for Learning, Clarence High School, Sri Kumaran Children’s Home Educational Council, Venkat International Public School, Jain College, Rishi Valley School, Sri Aurobindo Memorial School, Mallya Aditi International School, Sri Sri Ravishankar Vidya Mandir, Redbridge International Academy, GIIS, Primus PU College, and Sri Kumaran Public School.
Collected parent testimonials also show that students have picked up valuable real-life experiences, practical insights, problem-solving confidence, creativity, financial literacy, and team collaboration skills. Students have described the programme as eye-opening, novel in problem-framing perspectives, and useful even in tackling regular school projects.
The jurors at TYE Bengaluru commended the competing teams on their innovative ideas, quality of their pitch, research into the business problem, iteration of the offering, enthusiastic teamwork, and detailed business plans. In four follow-up articles on entrepreneurship education initiatives, we will share insights and tips from the faculty, mentors, students, parents, and organisers of TYE programmes around the world.
The faculty and mentors included Mekin Maheshwari (Founder, Udhyam), Sanjay Anandaram (Investor), Ravindra Krishnappa (Chief Thinker & Dreamer, ScienceAdda), Madan Padaki (Founder & CEO, 1Bridge), Murlidhar Surya (Founder & CEO, Lodestar Education Services), Anjana Vivek (Founder Director, VentureBean Consulting), Manish Sharma (Co-Founder & Director, Printo), Ravi Gururaj (Founder & CEO, QikPod), Arvind Nadig (Co-Founder, Brahma3), Naganand Doraswamy (Managing Director and Founder, Ideaspring Capital), Geetha Ramamurthy (Co-Founder & CEO, Ignite Career Confidence), Bala Girisaballa (President, Techstars), Srikrishna Ramamoorthy (Partner, Unitus Seed Fund), Sharda Balaji (Founder and Director, NovoJuris Legal), Priyadeep Sinha Founder, CEO and Managing Director, Kidovators), and Abhinav Pathak (Co-Founder and CEO, Perpule).
The summer batch in Bengaluru will start on April 15, with the finals to be held on 25 May. Fees for TiE Members are Rs 14,900 (Rs 17,900 for non-members). The venue partner is Microsoft for Startups, with Printo as Print Partner and YourStory as media partner.
“The idea for TYE was brought to me in 2005 by my son, Shyam, when he was 15 and a high school student. He said to me that he wants to be an entrepreneur and start a company during summer vacation, and needs entrepreneurship education and a mentor to help him,” recalls programme founder Geetha Ramamurthy, who was Executive Director at TiE Boston at the time. She is currently Co-founder and CEO of GiGa Innovation Centre in Bengaluru and the US.
The decision to launch TYE was supported by TiE board members including Gururaj Deshpande and Vinit Nijhawan. “It has been a delight for me to watch TYE grow from the Boston chapter into a global phenomenon,” Geetha signs off.