P.A.K Challenge 2021 unveils innovation gems

The 6th edition of the P.A.K. Challenge came to a successful conclusion on 9 October with the top three teams walking away with a total of $70,000 in cash prizes. This year’s competition had attracted more than 80 student teams – the largest number to date - from 12 tertiary institutions across Singapore.

Established by Eagles Inc in 2016, P.A.K Challenge is a nationwide student-led competition that aims to help student entrepreneurs turn their visions into reality. Backed by the SMU Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SMU IIE), Eagles Inc was formed to support aspiring student entrepreneurs at SMU with knowledge, network and resources to empower them to achieve their entrepreneurial goals.

“Eagles Inc was born out of Jeff’s and my belief to help student entrepreneurs. We aspire for student founders with Eagles Inc to dream big, go after the big problems, and to be relentless!” said Benjamin Twoon, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Fundnel Limited. Together with fellow SMU alumnus Jeff Tung who is the Executive Director and Chairman of Sheng Ye Capital, they had jointly established the Eagles Inc’s P.A.K. Entrepreneurship Fund in 2015 to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit amongst SMU students and to support the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in SMU.

“Having gone through the journey ourselves, we know how important the network and support from Eagles can be, especially for first-time entrepreneurs. We hope the community of Eagles, both current and alumni, will continue to grow and pay it forward,” Benjamin added.

Eagles Inc’s annual P.A.K Challenge has since grown from a pitching competition into a holistic event anchored by the club’s mission to educate and equip student founders with the know-how of starting a business in an increasingly volatile and disruptive environment.

Before the finals on 9 October, the finalist teams attended a learning module comprising a series of three masterclasses that helped the student founders hone and sharpen their business acumen, receive actionable advice on legal practices and pitching techniques from industry veterans.

“For me, the best part about P.A.K Challenge 2021 is the masterclasses prior to the final pitch,” said Evan Chow, co-founder of Team Quest. “The three masterclasses - Legal for Startups, Product Market Fit, and Pitch Practice, had prepped me to become a better founder and helped me gain more confidence in my pitch.”

Another key highlight of P.A.K Challenge 2021 was the first-ever virtual P.A.K Venture Capital Office Hours. In partnership with Protégé Ventures, Southeast Asia’s first student-run venture fund and VC training programme, P.A.K Office Hours connected over 70 start-up founders with some of Singapore's most prominent venture capitalists. At these exclusive business consultations, student founders sought expert advice on their business ideas and industry insights. Venture capital firms who supported the Office Hours include Qualgro Partners and KK Fund.

“The biggest takeaway for us as first-time entrepreneurs was the advice we received from established industry professionals at P.A.K VC Office Hours, and the opportunity to be connected with the people and resources we are seeking to build our business idea,” commented Raghav Bhardwaj, co-founder of Team Floramis.

On the day of the finals, Ms. Tin Pei Ling, Member of Parliament and CEO of Business China, delivered the opening keynote speech to officially kick off the virtual event. In her address, she encouraged the finalists to "keep up the bold entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and to try new things”. She also emphasised the importance of taking the first-mover advantage as an opportunity and stay agile to adapt to vital shifts in the business landscape.

This was followed by a number of panel discussions on pertinent topics such as venture capital, equality in start-ups and social media.

The ten finalists were required to pitch live to a judging panel of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and industry experts. The panel comprised Benjamin Twoon (Co-Founder and COO, Fundnel Limited), Kelvin Chng (Co-Founder and CTO, Carro), Winnie Khoo (Partner, Antler) and Weihao Cho (Investment Director, Razer Inc.’s zVentures).

The judging criteria were problem description, proposed solution, business model, market opportunity, competition analysis, go-to-market strategy, financial projections, use of funds and presentation skills. In addition, the judges also evaluated the teams on the level and magnitude of impact that the cash prize could create in their business plans.

Team Load and Go from SMU clinched the top prize of S$50,000. Their winning idea is a platform that provides end-to-end logistics solution for e-commerce companies with services like last-mile delivery, warehousing, inventory management, and more.

For the first time in P.A.K Challenge, two teams tied for the first runner-up position. Team Quest from SMU and Team Floramis (made up of students from SMU and NUS) both walked away with cash prizes of S$10,000 each. Quest is a platform where people can earn money or help one another by running errands or solve an issue. Floramis is an integrated hardware and software solution that makes plant care easier and more interactive.

Bryan Koh, a final year student from Lee Kong Chian School of Business and founder of Load and Go, shared that through this competition, the team learned the power of being concise.

“After many iterations, we managed to trim our idea down to its essence and help the audience understand it better. Through our learnings at this competition, we are now able to better communicate our value proposition to customers and key stakeholders”, he said.

Looking ahead, Bryan wants to use this PAK Challenge victory to propel Load and Go forward by systemically building their product and releasing it over the next 9 months. By building a portion of their product, one at a time, he hoped that it allows Load and Go to continue iterating and improving as they grow.

At the closing of P.A.K Challenge 2021, Clarence Ong, President of Eagles Inc said: “On behalf of SMU Eagles Inc, I would like to thank all participants and partners for playing an active contributory role to our community of student entrepreneurs. We are truly inspired and encouraged by your support despite the uncertainty and doubt brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Our heartiest congratulations to the winning teams and sincere appreciation to all the participants! Watch this space for P.A.K. Challenge 2022!