TOMODACHI Social Entrepreneurship Award Recipients Travel to Silicon Valley to Present Their Business Plans
From March 6 – 9, 2017, the winning teams of the TOMODACHI Social Entrepreneurship Award from the University Venture Grand Prix Competition 2016 (UVGP 2016) traveled to Silicon Valley on a study tour. The winning teams, Keio University and Ritsumeikan University, were joined by a team from the University of Tsukuba, which was also awarded a trip to Silicon Valley at UVGP 2016.
The study tour aimed to develop the students’ business pitching skills, while also offering the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship and improve their business plans.
The day before their first presentation, the students practiced with three professional mentors accompanying them on the trip. They exchanged ideas around entrepreneurship and their business plans during their travels around Silicon Valley, which helped them enhance the content of their presentations.
The students visited 10 institutions, including Stanford University and startup support organizations, and pitched their business plans in 8 different locations. Following these pitches, the teams refined their business plans based on the feedback they received in the Q&A sessions.
During the Q&A sessions, the teams were asked tough questions, such as “Why focus on that particular business?” and “How will you implement your business?” The members from Keio University received particularly insightful feedback. The team was originally considering expanding beyond their agriculture-focused business plan to also enter into the cosmetics industry. However, the feedback from Silicon Valley insiders was to limit expansion into such a vastly different industry, given the completely different market characteristics and approaches of the agricultural and cosmetics industries. Instead, when expanding their business, the team should think about the unique market characteristics of the regions in which they plan to operate, the competitive environment, and the distribution structure.
All the teams received crucial feedback that revealed qualities their business plans lacked, along with encouraging comments that renewed their determination to achieve their respective goals.
One of the participants stated, “We received very important feedback and comments on our presentations from different perspectives. Having traveled outside of Japan and pitched these presentations will certainly help us further advance our business plans.”
All seven student participants will now start a new chapter of their journeys as entrepreneurs with enhanced skills and new perspectives.