Here’s the startup idea that won these Sixth Form students RM50K from 1337 Ventures

[This is a sponsored article with HELP International School.]

Picture this: You’re a secondary school student tasked with a volunteer project. You and your group must work with a reputable NGO or social enterprise as part of your course’s syllabus.

You pick an organisation and message their socials, drop them a professionally written email, and call the phone numbers provided on their site.

But you’re left ghosted. So, you reach out to dozens more, only to receive one reply in the end, just barely in time before the project deadline.

There needs to be an easier way to go about this, and that’s exactly what BRIDGE CONNECT aims to solve.

The platform bridges the gap between the youth and NGOs in finding and securing meaningful volunteer opportunities.

Founded by a group of Sixth Form A-Level students from HELP International School in 2023, the team went on to bag RM50,000 from a venture capital firm and startup accelerator, 1337 Ventures, to pursue their project as an actual business. 

Meet the team: The BRIDGE CONNECT team was founded by eight Year 12 students who were between 16 and 18 years old at the time. They are Lee Ka Dong, Mia Lee Ying Ying, Skye Teh Xin Yee, Samitinjay De, Julianne Yap, Chong Mae Jian, Germaine Soo Jen Ning, and Katrina Ong Kai Qing.

Bridging the gap

Speaking to Vulcan Post, the students shared that the above problem was something they’ve faced themselves, which inspired their conception of BRIDGE CONNECT.

While building their platform, the HELP International School students connected with the Malaysian Foundation for the Blind (MFB) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

The organisations needed help creating Malay-to-English braille dictionaries that could benefit around 70,000 blind and visually impaired people in the nation.


“They granted us a massive opportunity to assist with the data entry stage for the first braille dictionary in Malaysia,” shared Mae Jian. 

Needing more hands on deck for the tedious task, the team utilised their BRIDGE CONNECT platform to gather student volunteers.

Through this experience, the BRIDGE CONNECT team presented their solution at their school’s Project Purpose Demo Day, which invited various partners from industry, including 1337 Ventures, represented by its founder, Bikesh Lakhmichand.

It’s the final test of Project Purpose, a programme developed by HELP International School to educate its young talents to think innovatively and foster an entrepreneurial mindset.

In an interview with BFM, Bikesh stated that he was compelled to fund BRIDGE CONNECT after witnessing the team’s tenacity and business acumen in building their platform.

“They proved to me that it wasn’t just an idea for their school project. They showed me that this was an actual problem, conducted surveys to show that people wanted their solution, and then built a website on their own without spending a single dime,” recalled Bikesh. 

He added that this process was akin to how startups are created in the real world, and believed that the project could make an impact in society should it pan out as intended.

Image Credit: HELP International School

“After receiving the funding, we’re working with Mr Bikesh to register us as an SDN BHD company,” said Germaine Soo. “Now, we are in the process of making the official website for BRIDGE CONNECT.”

The team shared that they’ve since utilised the funds to set up BRIDGE CONNECT as an official business. This includes the backend processes like hiring a company secretary, registering the business, and setting up a business bank account. 

They’ve also utilised the funds for on-ground marketing initiatives to drive awareness about their solution.

Furthermore, BRIDGE CONNECT is connecting student volunteers with other forms of online volunteering such as managing social media channels for NGOs, writing articles, research, and more. “This is to achieve our goal of making volunteering more accessible to students,” Katrina Ong said.

While the eight students behind it will be moving on to universities around the world, they remain committed to building their platform, and can still do so as it’s operated entirely online.

“We also hope to pass this project on to our juniors in HELP International School by hiring them as interns to help manage physical events like workshops and booths,” added Katrina. “By doing so, we can foster this student volunteering community in Malaysia.”

Meanwhile, the braille dictionary is currently in development and has completed its prototype stage as of Q1 2023, according to The Star.

Building social entrepreneurs

The success of the BRIDGE CONNECT team might have been harder to achieve if not for Project Purpose.

Part of the school’s Sixth Form (A-Levels) programme since 2021, it’s a course at HELP International School where students learn through the hands-on experience of starting a social enterprise. It aims to discover students’ untapped potential that goes beyond traditional coursework. 

For context, traditional A-Levels involve students studying up to four subjects. At HELP International School, students get the option to go the traditional route, or pursue three subjects alongside Project Purpose.

Image Credit: HELP International School

At Project Purpose, students are guided through startup fundamentals like ideation, research, budgeting, product development, business planning, marketing, and impact assessment. 

The programme works with experts in the Malaysian startup scene, namely 1337 Ventures’ Bikesh, NEXEA’s Justin Lim and Ben Lim, and ScaleUp’s Aaron Sarma. 

Students also have the opportunity to collaborate with local entrepreneurs, giving them access to first-hand insights and building their network.

Image Credit: HELP International School

The Project Purpose journey concludes with Demo Day, during which students will pitch their solutions and demonstrate how they can transition into real-world ventures.

Continuing the success

Image Credit: HELP International School

BRIDGE CONNECT has impacted more than its beneficiaries, as they’re also challenging societal beliefs that kids who grew up in our digital world are overly pampered.

“Being from the current generation of instant gratification, as these students witness their projects making an impact and as their seniors gain recognition for their work, students become intrinsically motivated to make their projects a success,” shared Manmeet Kaur, Project Purpose Coordinator. 

She elaborated, “Once they’re placed in a safe environment, [and are] explicitly told that it’s okay to fail, all students are willing to try something new and step outside their comfort zone.”

Now in its fourth cohort, HELP International School’s Sixth Form will be accepting enrolments for their August 2024 cohort from now till July. 

Students who have completed their GCSE, SPM, or equivalent are welcome to join the programme and embark on the Project Purpose journey, which you can sign up for here

  • Learn more about BRIDGE CONNECT here, and HELP International School’s Sixth Form here.
  • Read other education-related articles here.

Featured Image Credit: HELP International School

Source link

#Heres #startup #idea #won #Sixth #Form #students #RM50K #Ventures