Innovative ideas take flight at the 5th P.A.K. Challenge

The finals of Eagles Inc’s annual start-up competition, P.A.K. Challenge 2020, came to a successful conclusion on 10 October 2020 with the top three teams walking away with a total of $70,000 to scale their start-ups to greater heights.

Organised by Eagles Inc, a student club advised by the SMU Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, this nationwide student-led competition aims to provide the best business ideas with resources to help student entrepreneurs turn their vision into reality.

Coincidentally, this year’s finals fell on the same day as the official launch of Eagles Inc five years ago. To celebrate the club’s fifth birthday and its fifth anniversary of hosting the P.A.K. Challenge, Professor Gerry George, Dean of SMU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB) and Lee Kong Chian Chair Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, was invited to grace the occasion and to officially kick off the P.A.K. Challenge 2020 finals.

In his address, Dean Gerry  shared  how the name “P.A.K.” came about and pointed out that the three elements that makes up “P.A.K.” – Passion, Adventure and Kickstart - still holds true today and how the finalists have truly embodied them on their entrepreneurship journeys.

The establishment of Eagles Inc and the P.A.K. Challenge was made possible by LKCSB alumni Jeff Tung and Benjamin Twoon who had donated $1 million to set up the P.A.K. Entrepreneurship Fund in 2015. Earlier this year, Jeff made an endowed contribution of S$1 million to enhance the Fund in celebration of SMU’s and LKCSB’s 20th anniversary, as well as the 5th anniversary of the Fund. It is the single largest gift by a SMU alumnus to date.

This year's P.A.K. Challenge featured an impressive group of start-ups in the finals, shortlisted from more than 70 teams from across six universities and polytechnics in Singapore. 50 of these student teams came from SMU. To support these start-ups as they sharpen their business models and hone their pitches, a series of three masterclasses were organised in September for the participants to learn from industry experts, and improve on their start-up ideas, business models and pitching strategies.

The five finalist teams were required to pitch their ideas to a judging panel of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and industry experts. The panel comprised of Benjamin Twoon (Co-Founder and COO, Fundnel Limited), Jeff Tung (CEO, Sheng Ye Financial Group), Vihang Patel (Co-Founder & CEO, Finaxar), Kelvin Leung (Senior Associate, Openspace Ventures) and Augustus Ilag (Investments, Sequoia Capital).

The judging criteria were problem description, proposed solution, business model, market opportunity (sizing), competition analysis, go-to-market strategy (growth strategy), financial projections, team suitability, funding and presentation skills.

Keeve Quah Lian Wei, Team TicTag

Team Tictag from Singapore Management University (SMU) clinched the first place and  $50,000 with their idea of a platform that makes data preparation easy through gamification and provides high-quality datasets for companies that require it for data or artificial intelligence models.

Daryl Lim You Quan, Team Augmentus

Coming in second place with a prize of $12,000 was Team Augmentus from National University of Singapore (NUS)  with their idea of a unified and code-free industrial robot programming software enabling non-technical users to develop and deploy robots with high speed and accuracy.

Felix Tan Jia Song, Team Skilio

Team Skilio from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) came in third and took back $8,000 with their idea of a soft skills measurement and analytics platform that empowers organisations to track soft skill development.

Keeve Quah, a final year student from Lee Kong Chian School of Business and co-founder of TicTag, shared that through this competition, the team learned to modify their presentation to make it more exciting and easier to understand for its student users. “Personally, I'm also delighted to have learnt more about the start-up ecosystem in Singapore and met so many capable student founders in P.A.K. Challenge 2020,” he said.

Being in Korea during the semi-final and final stage of the competition posed a challenge to Keeve and his team. “We found time between our schedules and regular internal meetings to meet up and work on our pitch, and we'd do video calls at 12 midnight to make sure that everyone had a chance to contribute. It was tough, but the team persevered and supported each other every step of the journey,” he added.

Looking ahead, the team will be investing the prize money into developing its product. “We're looking to grow our product development team, and as we've recently qualified for the SGUnited employment grant, any amount of grant funding would go a long way in hiring one or two new developers.

“Within six months from October 11th 2020, we're aiming to implement automated tagger curation and task creation features on the TicTag platform. To this end, we plan to onboard developers passionate about gamification and UI/UX to help in implementing more of our proprietary algorithms to curate and manage taggers on the TicTag platform, with the ultimate goal of increasing the efficiency of our crowdsourced labelling services, and allowing us to cope with increased demand from our clients,” Keeve shared.

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