06 August 2012
Alumnus on road to start-up success
For young entrepreneur and RMIT University alumnus Ian Wu, the roadmap to business success combines heavy doses of both risk-taking and realism.
Having established his own e-learning business at 23 - within weeks of graduating with a Bachelor of Business (Management) delivered through RMIT's partnership with the Singapore Institute of Management - Mr Wu has spent the last 18 months at the grindstone.
"My degree really gave me the confidence to take that risk and start my own business and the entrepreneurship specialisation course in particular equipped me with the knowledge, skills, motivation and perspective I needed," he said.
"The lecturers all came from diverse entrepreneurial backgrounds, with all of them actually owning and running their various enterprises, which gave us real-life and real-time perspectives and experiences.
"But what's great about the course is how they really hammer in some realism into the heads of us youngsters who are dreaming big.
"So you don't go in with the expectation of easy success - you go in realistically knowing your chances and knowing it's going to be a whole lot of hard work, with issues and problems to solve along the way."
Mr Wu is the founder of e-learning website SkeeG, a secure online platform that creates social media learning communities to enable teachers, students and parents to share information easily and efficiently.
He created the business plan for the venture as part of his RMIT studies, winning him both praise from his lecturers and the 2010 RMIT School of Management Award (Entrepreneurship Specialisation).
Before graduating in 2010, he successfully applied for a $50,000 grant from a Singapore Government support scheme for young entrepreneurs, with support from RMIT and SIM, who are celebrating 25 years of transnational education partnership this year.
"My entrepreneurship lecturer Ai Yat Goh volunteered to be my mentor and helped me refine the application, while SIM also assisted by providing some sponsorship," Mr Wu said.
"The support I received was fantastic, and the grant helped kick-start the business."
A business incubator has recently come on board as a shareholder in the venture, providing invaluable resources and support.
While the SkeeG educational tools have a variety of applications - including supporting structured lifelong learning for individuals - Mr Wu is initially targeting the pre-school and primary school sector in Singapore, with a focus on the crucial teacher-parent relationship.
The beta website has about 700 users, mainly teachers who use it to improve communication with parents on the curriculum structure and daily lesson plans.
"Parents in Singapore want to know what their children are studying, what they're doing each day, and how they can support their children's learning," Mr Wu said.
"Especially when the children are younger, parents here are very concerned about their educational progress.
"While the K-12 market is saturated in terms of e-learning products, the focus is usually on the teacher and student - there's a gap when it comes to teachers and parents.
"The feedback we've had from parents is they love the daily updates and really appreciate how easy we've made it for them to stay in touch with their children's teachers and stay on top of their children's education."
Mr Wu said his RMIT degree didn't just arm him with planning and strategy skills he uses day-to-day, but also prepared him mentally for the challenge of being an entrepreneur.
"We were warned in the course about the loneliness of being a business owner and it's true - you soon realise you're the only person there at the top, with all that responsibility on your shoulders," he said.
"The first couple of years of a business are the most difficult and at times, it has been tough.
"But I'm young, I've got no debts, no mouths to feed, I'm at my most energetic and least afraid to fail - if I'm going to do it at all, this is the best time."
RMIT alumnus and founder of e-learning website, SkeeG,
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