20 speakers + 4 judges + 3 mentors = 16 inspired young entrepreneurs

Author: Frederic Riviere

“You cannot teach a man anything.  You can only help him discover it within himself.” - Galileo Galilei


“The best way a mentor can prepare another leader is to expose him or her to other great people.” - John C Maxwell


That’s exactly what we set out to do last week in partnership with the CAPE (Centre for Asia Pacific Excellence) and YES (Young Enterprise Scheme), when 10 lucky and talented 17 year old student entrepreneurs from all across New Zealand and 6 Singaporean students from Raffles Institutions Entrepreneur Network came together to take part in week long study tour and business challenge.

Using the Chamber network (and our networks’ networks) I was tasked with designing a week-long programme for the young entrepreneurs who had been selected from the YES programme to come to Singapore for an immersive crash course into the business and tech scene here in Singapore. My mission was to get them excited about doing business in and with Singapore as a market and gateway to Asia, show them what an interesting and accessible city-state Singapore is, give them a taste for international business and culture, help them to see how New Zealand is perceived by overseas markets, what strengths New Zealanders can leverage when they are away from home, but most of all, inspire them with the stories and insights of Singapore-based Kiwi entrepreneurs who started out just like them and are now succeeding on a global level.

Coming from all across the country - from Auckland to Timaru and everywhere in between - the students took in the sights, sounds, culture and heat of Singapore and they impressed everyone they met with their energy, authenticity and maturity. They entered the week as tourists, quickly became international business students and then within 5 days ‘graduated’ as start up co-founders, pitching their business plans to a Dragon’s Den panel and an audience full of those they had learned from and been inspired by during the week.

It was my absolute pleasure to introduce and induct them into the New Zealand business community and the Chambers wider network here on the little red dot. It was a great opportunity to showcase and celebrate our Chamber members and friends, and to demonstrate to the next generation of business leaders the ways in which Kiwis and kiwi businesses flourish in, and are part of the success of, Singapore. From a global CEO that grew up on Kiwi farms to a Kiwi banker about to go on-set at CNBC at SGX, from Marina Bay Sands built in part by Kiwi engineers and the Art & Science museum with a Kiwi Director, to the sheer number of NZ products loved by Singaporeans - the students were astounded to see the impact Kiwis are having overseas. And on the other side, they started to see that while us Kiwis are pretty great, the other half of the story is the Singaporeans and internationals who, likewise, compliment and play a role in driving the success of Kiwis locally and globally - the business partnerships, the role of investment, the scale of the market, and the need spaces that present very different opportunities to what they have in New Zealand.

This year New Zealand and Singapore celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties, and after learning about our shared military, education and business history, the students began to understand see the future opportunities and potential for them and their ideas to flourish in Singapore as well. They heard about the 50 years worth of Singaporeans studying uni in New Zealand,  the passionate importers that bring NZ produce to Asia and build their businesses in partnerships with New Zealand and New Zealanders, the ways that our two countries strengths compliment each other and open a multitude of opportunity in both countries.

They heard from people at all stages of the start-up journey, experienced life in co-working spaces and learned the importance of building networks, fostering partnerships and integrating ‘with complementary businesses and services. They had workshops on innovation, design-thinking and the art of the Pitch. They heard founders talk openly of their their journeys and how setbacks, struggles and failures of their past taught them to succeed today.


See the photo album of the groups week here.


On behalf of the students and the joint course co-ordinators - CAPE (Cecily Lin, Stephanie Symynuk), YES  (Robyn Frey, Gavin Miller), and NZ Chamber - I would like to say an extremely big thank you once again to the following people and businesses who were so generous in sharing their time, energy and invaluable insights with the students last week:

(in order of appearance) Hayley Horan (NZ Trade Commissioner NZTE), Dr Jonathan Austin (NZ High Commissioner), Sharmin Reehman (Tech BDM, NZTE), Tyler Lim (SingEx and CampusParty), Kerry Anne Shanks (Founder/Director Bowleaf), Grant McGough (COO, YouTap!); Christina Teo (Founder, StartUp Asia Women and LivelyMind); Amer Iqbal, (Regional Head of Digital Strategy & Innovation, Deloitte Digital); Jacqueline Enriquez (Collision8), Katarina Hasbani (Founder, Female Founders and EnRupt), Tim Norton (CEO/Founder, 90 Seconds), Anthony Staltari (Head of Product, Xero), Cameron Priest (CEO/Founder, TradeGecko), Julien Condamines (MD, Co-creation Lab), Sharon Lee (Co-Founder/CTO, HR Easily), Geoff Howie (Market Strategist, SGX), Kelvin Tan (Head of FinTech & Data Tech, SGX), Nick White (GM, Technology, ANZ), and Tom Estad, (Director dual business programme SMU/SUTD).

Special thanks to Cath Jacobs (IoT SG), Joseph Kwok (AAS), Sharmin Reehman (NZTE) and Dr Vivienne Hunt (NZ Chamber President) for opening doors, and MFAT and NZTE staff for opening literal doors and accommodating the group in the NZ INC offices.

A huge round of applause to the incredible mentors who worked with, challenged and inspired the students as they developed their business plans - Sharmin Reehman, Tracey Hamilton and Rebecca Assice - all of whom possess such a wealth of expertise and experience that can’t be abbreviated to a single job title.

And of course at the grand finale at the end of the week: the ‘Dragons’ who judged the presentations and business proposals - Wayne Mulligan (CEO, Fomana capital), Novita Jong (GM Asia, ShuttleRock), Clare Wilson (Regional Director East Asia, NZTE), and Amit Gupta (CEO, Ecosystms).


Nga mihi nui.



"When we give young people the platform to problem solve their confidence blossoms. The students outdid themselves with commercially implementable solutions borne directly from the combination of diverse skills, experiences and views in the room. The program highlighted the nuances of real world cross border product development - a need for empathy, cultural sensitivity and kindness. The (Yes/chamber/CAPE) initiative really demonstrates the power of collaboration, and bringing young people together from rapidly advancing tech nations highlighted a real capacity for creative problem solving."
Tracey Hamilton, Mentor

“It was a great privilege to be chosen as a mentor for the CAPE business challenge and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I was most impressed by the calibre of the students’ pitches – far above their high school level. It was also fantastic to see all of the business ideas had a substantial positive social impact – from solving household food waste to sustainable farming and better dementia patient care. I am sure we will see great things from these young minds in the future.”   
Rebecca Assice, Mentor

“I was thrilled to see such high calibre NZ and Singaporean students at the CAPE pitch night.  We are in a good space if these are our leaders of tomorrow."
Clare Wilson, Judge

“I was impressed with the winning students who connected with targeted users by getting insight from locals here both at the consumer and retailer level." 
Wayne Mulligan, Judge

“I was thrilled to see such high calibre NZ and Singaporean students at the CAPE pitch night.  We are in a good space if these are our leaders of tomorrow.” 
Novita Jong, Judge