By Bethy Hagan
After ten days in China, our adventure is coming to a close. In just a few hours we will fly back to the United States, equipped with stories and lessons learned from this incredible experience. The last two days in Beijing, in particular, have been eye opening and very rewarding.
On Friday, we went to Peking University to pitch the business ideas that we have been developing since mid-March. The opportunity to partner with Peking University was an honor in and of itself, as many consider it to be the best university in China. Thirteen teams gathered from around the world for a series of rounds in front of highly qualified judges, who scored each team based on the following criteria:
- Feasibility of the idea in the Chinese market;
- Radical impact on the market;
- Customer demand and discovery process;
- Profit potential;
- Use of cross national resources; and
- Use of lean startup methodology.
Teams were given four minutes to pitch the business idea and describe the process through which they developed it. Following the four minutes, judges were given two minutes to question the teams for further information. Each team presented three times to three different sets of judges, and then five teams were chosen for a final round.
The pitches were truly inspiring. Each of the thirteen teams developed ambitious and disruptive business ideas that could change the landscape of the Chinese market. It was incredible to see the presentations of the five finalists. The teams chosen to compete in the final round were:
- Wireless ISP: a team made up of Smith students and Chinese students who were studying at Peking University, that planned to enter the telecommunications industry to provide more reliable internet to rural Chinese areas.
- Kids Minding: a Chinese team with a prototype for a toy car whose speed is determined by the level of concentration of the driver. The toy would teach children how to increase their concentration abilities.
- Smart Mediband: a team of Smith students and a student from the Technion in Israel, who proposed to provide the Chinese with a product to monitor the health of their aging family members remotely.
- Skills Fair: a team from Peking University, who planned to create a platform to allow for better hiring of skilled workforce for large corporations.
- Say What?!: a team of Smith students who devised a mobile application that large credit card and luxury hotels could purchase in order to provide their clients with language and cultural assistance while traveling abroad.
After much deliberation, the judges revealed the results of the closest and most difficult vote in years. The Smith School took home first place (Wireless ISP), second place (Say What?!), fourth place (Smart Mediband), best presentation (Fresh Express), and best use of cross-national resources (China Buddy). We left Peking University full of pride and excitement. Not only had we succeeded in the competition, but we had also come away with relationships with students from all over the world, and a much better understanding of what it means to launch a new venture in a completely different market.
The following day was our last in China and we planned to make the most of it. Our tour guide, Jessica, took us to the Great Wall to climb and explore and to the Pearl Market to get in any last minute shopping. The area of the Great Wall that we visited is called Mutiyanu and is Jessica’s favorite portion of the entire Wall. After a group picture and about an hour of climbing the many slanted steps, we returned to the base on toboggans on a large slide! It was quite a rush after the long hike up the wall.
On Saturday evening we all felt very sad to be leaving this amazing country. After an authentic Hot Pot dinner and many toasts, we spent the rest of the evening singing karaoke and enjoying each other’s company. There were some talented voices in our group!
Now our adventure is over and it is time to say goodbye to Beijing. This trip has changed our perspective and opened our eyes to the opportunities within the Chinese market. I can confidently say that we will all remember this experience for the rest of our lives.
Bethy Hagan is a first year MBA student and Dingman Venture Fellow from Baltimore, MD. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia. Following her degree, she worked for a sports startup in Santa Monica, CA in a variety of operations and program management roles. Through the Smith School and the Dingman Center she hopes to build her understanding of strategy implementation in order to assist in the growth and development of early stage companies.