They came. They pitched. They won.
A group of Richmond high school students sold the judges on their concept for a computer tablet-based music training aid at the initial Venture Challenge event Saturday at UBC Robson Square in Downtown Vancouver.
In a pressure-filled atmosphere that capped the YELL (Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad) program offered to students in Richmond, West Vancouver and Coquitlam, the team of four — Alice Zong, Claire Wu, Angela Guo, and Alyssa Chen — presented their idea for NuMu to a panel of business leaders a la CBC’s reality TV show Dragon’s Den.
Up against two other finalists from Vancouver and Coquitlam, NuMu and its creators took top honours which earned the group some personal coaching time from local industry experts to explore their business idea further.
The Richmond group qualified for the Venture Challenge finals by beating out three other Richmond teams, with the help of a local business mentor that each group was matched with.
Brittany Whitmore, director of communications with Procuify.com, a cloud-based purchasing software for small and medium-sized businesses, was NuMu’s mentor and said the students were on to a winning idea by developing a business idea in an area they were familiar with — music.
“The group had a strong vision for the product from the beginning as to the problems they wanted to solve for other musicians,” Whitmore said via email. “Music has a rich culture, which may be a cause of the lack of other products like this.”
Whitmore, who was also a musician (flute) in high school, added the group was ambitious about their idea from the start and had a seemingly endless list of questions on best business practices in the technology industry.
“When we realized that we were gamifying the tedious task of practising, we knew that we were really on to something,” Whitmore said. “Why not learn a real instrument instead of learning a fake one playing Rock Band or Guitar Hero?”
The concept uses a tablet screen to display sheet music instead of on paper, and as a progress bar scrolls across the musical notes displayed on the screen for the student to follow it negates the need to manually flip pages — something that can break a budding, young musician’s train of thought.
“I believe that it was the simplicity of the product and the pain points that it solves that helped them to win the competition, as well as the compelling presentation,” Whitmore said. “Rather than trying to be too many things to too many people, the team selected a niche they knew well, and solved some very simple problems faced by it while maintaining continuity of the overall appearance and feel of a real music book.”
Amit Sandhu, CEO of Richmond’s Ampri Group of Companies that develops housing, was one of three entrepreneurs who developed YELL. Sandhu said he was proud of all the teams that competed in the program that sought to offer Grade 11 and 12 students with learning options that were not restricted to the classroom.
“It is a challenging course and the format is quite different from a traditional class,” said Sandhu a former McNair secondary and SFU business grad who, along with two business colleagues — Rattan Bagga, CEO of New World Foods and Punit Dhillon, CEO of OnoSec Medical — founded YELL.
For more information on YELL and register for next year’s intake visit rvs.sd38.bc.ca and search for YELL. Or email Kuldeep Gill, a business studies teacher at Richmond secondary at firstname.lastname@example.org.