Startup Weekend 2019
by YU Krystle Keju
13 October, 2019 - As the timer wound down, the energy in the room ramped up as all forty-four participants scuttled around, putting finishing touches on their presentations. The subjects of their presentations ranged from education accessibility to animal rescue—each one a unique embodiment of their group’s venture into the world of social entrepreneurship.
This was the wrap-up of the 4th Annual Startup Weekend at Lingnan University.
The Lingnan University Startup Weekend is a rigorous two-day event that brings together participants to learn about the skills behind realizing their own startup ideas. Throughout the two days, participants are coached by mentors experienced in the world of business and entrepreneurship and led through workshops that give students insight into the entrepreneurial world. At the end of the event, participants bring together their own experiences with the skills they learned through the event to pitch their startup ideas to a panel of judges and potential sponsors.
Last year’s Startup Weekend was organized around the theme of Social Innovation, and encouraged participants to develop and conceptualize solutions to the social, cultural, and environmental issues that they were passionate about. The winning startup, Break FAST, exemplified this theme with its goal of improving public health and helping consumers develop healthier eating habits.
When asked about the goal of Startup Weekend, Jessica Wong, one of the event’s organizers, replied that she hoped participants would develop, “the confidence and willingness to speak up about their ideas.” She further stated that she hoped the event could empower participants to believe that they can play large roles in addressing social issues. In other words, Wong hopes for students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, which she defined as a combination of, “a risk-taking spirit, a willingness to venture into the unknown, communication skills, confidence, [and] creativity.”
The lasting impact of Startup Weekend is evident in the story of Cecilia Au, the winner of the Business Model Award at the 2017 Lingnan Startup Weekend. At this event, which centered around the theme of “Civil Society”, Cecilia and her group first conceptualized Gatherly (耆匯), a startup that aimed to bring together the elderly community in Hong Kong and uncover their talents through trade skills workshops and other job training. Since then, Cecilia has persevered with the idea and recently licensed Gatherly as a company. Now, she returns to Lingnan Startup Weekend as a seasoned entrepreneur and a mentor to participants.
Cecilia stated that before Startup Weekend, she would not have thought to create something like Gatherly. “I never thought about becoming an entrepreneur—I was a very young student... After Startup Weekend, I started to think of what I could do.”
And Cecilia is not alone in her positive reflections of Startup Weekend. When asked about her experience, Angel Han, a first-year Lingnan student, expressed optimism for what one can gain through the challenges of realizing their ideas at Startup Weekend.
“Most of us think that startups are a difficult thing. And they really are. But if you try, you will enter a whole different world, which I believe is a precious experience,” said Angel.
As the Lingnan University Startup Weekend event drew to a close, the participants were not the only ones with their minds racing—the organizers were already thinking through plans for the coming years. According to Jessica Wong, one particular ambition for future iterations of Startup Weekend is to extend student contact with mentors beyond the two-day event itself to create sustained support for Lingnan’s aspiring entrepreneurs. With these ambitions in mind, it appears hopeful that the conversation surrounding entrepreneurship at Lingnan University is only beginning.