Boot Camp for Startuppers
Ujjwal Shrestha is the Executive Director of Panchakanya Group. He started T Foundation, a networking platform for entrepreneurs, two years ago. He shares his vision of T Foundation and how it is preparing fresh minds to start real ventures.
When did you setup T Foundation? Who are the people involved in it?
We started T Foundation in 2012. Anand Tuladhar(Managing Director of Bluestar Complex) and Ken Koh and Mark Holumbert, who were part of T Foundation in Singapore, are its co-founders. It is a two-day-long training camp for entrepreneurs. So far we have trained around hundred participants. I call it an ‘unstructured boot camp’ for entrepreneurs because we do everything impromptu. We have designed our program to reflect the way things are in the real market.
Why did you feel that there was a need to start something like T Foundation in Nepal?
We see that there are a lot of people who want to start their own business. But they neither have the right platform to start a business not can they find the right mentors. Through T Foundation, we want to build a platform where people can get opportunities to start a business. I was involved with Idea Studio, a business incubation program, and I realized how so many of the small enterprises do not have the right knowledge to grow their businesses. I thought that if we could groom such entrepreneurs and teach them the basics, like creating a business plan, for example, they could do so much better.
How would you describe a typical participant?
We generally look for participants who have graduated from business schools because we would like to show them that the reality is different from what they learnt in school. But we are not very strict about it. We are on the lookout for entrepreneurs who are concerned not just about making profit but are looking for opportunities to help develop their communities.
So what sort of training do you provide at this camp?
Through T Foundation, we want to help participants learn practically all the things one would learn in a business school, but through a more interactive platform. Unlike other boot camps, we organize play stimulation games to help participants understand the market better. We have a game called the Fish Market; it’s a game introduced by Ken. In this game, participants work on the buying and selling of a stock of fish.
It is really exciting to watch the players try to create their own markets in an unpredictable environment. Many of the people who played the game complained that it wasn’t fair that we closed down some facilities without much of a warning. But that is how the reality is. By the end of the camp, the participants come to understand this. Through such trainings, we want to make these participants think twice about what they are starting because creating a company is not easy.
You said boot camps help emerging entrepreneurs learn the basics and get a good platform. How do the participants benefit from this?
The participants become clearer about their ideas. They come to understand some of the difficulties they would eventually have to face. After participating in a T Foundation program, some of the entrepreneurs have already started their own businesses. We stay in touch with them to track their development. With the help of T Foundation, these entrepreneurs know that they can approach their mentors anytime they need. This helps us in the corporate world as we are able to focus on those entrepreneurs who are serious about their ventures and are looking for possible investors.
So does T Foundation provide seed funding?
Not exactly, but we do provide the winning ideas with some prize money to start their business. Through T Foundation, we are also looking for people with ideas whom we can mentor in the long run. This way, we are also making it easier for the participants to gain access to investments and venture capitalists in the future.