Startup founders come from all walks of life and experience levels, from seasoned professionals and engineers, to students and fresh graduates. As education becomes more open and democratized, anyone can learn coding or business management skills using online resources. University students, in particular, have shown a greater interest in becoming entrepreneurs, inspired by success stories from their alma maters.
Responding to student enthusiasm and demand, universities in Indonesia are beginning to develop their own programs to support budding entrepreneurs by holding seminars and panel discussions, developing internal incubators and even hosting co-working spaces. Prasetiya Mulya University, a private university known for its top-tier business program, has gone a step further. In May 2018, it launched its New Ventures Innovation (NVI) master’s degree program, aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals looking to innovate within their own companies.
“We found that startups are growing but the founders are not equipped with business management knowledge," said Hendro Tjaturpriono, a Prasetiya Mulya lecturer who helped start the NVI program. "We're trying to address that need by combining traditional knowledge and skills-based programs and the actual practice of building their own business.”
To that end, the 18-month program combines traditional business classroom learning with workshops and seminars that prepare students for the startup life: pitching contests, market research and even basic coding. Graduates will earn a standard MBA degree, but with the added benefit of early exposure to and immersion in the startup ecosystem.
All applicants to the NVI program are required to pitch a business idea to a selection panel, with that idea becoming the focal point of the student's journey through the program. “The core of the curriculum is the new venture they proposed in the application process,” Hendro said.
Dinta, an NVI student who goes by one name, graduated with a degree in dentistry and built a thriving practice before entering the program. She shared her business idea with CompassList: a platform that connects dentistry students in their residency programs with potential patients. “It can be hard for students to find patients," she said. "The more patients they can work with, the faster they can graduate from residency."
Throughout the program, students refine their business ideas, putting them to the test through assignments, simulations and market research activities. As the students go through the program, they may change their business ideas outright, or work with other students to develop compatible ideas together.
NVI students Agus Mahendra and Arrestiadi Wiratomo did just that, deciding to work together on a business idea to help SMEs leverage their collective purchasing power when dealing with manufacturers.
“Each student starts out with their own business idea and does their own assignments, but they might find others who share similar ideas and work together,” said Agus, who also works as a branch manager at Bank Banten. Arrestiadi is an employee of agritech startup TaniHub.
The litmus test
The faculty members behind NVI know that business ideas can be developed in the classroom, but the ideas must eventually be tested in real life. Providing real-world insights can be challenging for universities, so the NVI program seeks out VCs and mature startups to come into the classroom and give the NVI students a taste of the development process.
One recent collaboration involved Venturra Discovery, the seed investment arm of Jakarta-based Venturra Capital, which is led by Lippo Karawaci CEO John Riady. NVI students pitched their business ideas to Venturra associates in a speed-dating-style event, where the students received immediate feedback and suggestions after they demonstrated how much they had researched their potential markets and developed their business concepts.
For VCs like Venturra Discovery, collaborations like this can help the company find potential investment opportunities and partners. “We always want to be at the top students' minds when they graduate and start their own businesses,” said Kartini Andri Wardhani, a Venturra Discovery associate.
More mature startups also stand to gain from such collaborations with universities, she added, as they can identify and recruit high-quality talent from among the the pool of student entrepreneurs.
As for the students, the event gave them an investor’s perspective on what makes a business idea feasible, as well as the importance of market research. “I am now aware that it isn’t as easy as it seems, but now I feel more ready to start my own business,” Dinta said of taking the sometimes daunting path toward becoming an entrepreneur.