The University of Melbourne’s Master of Entrepreneurship is a highly intensive learning-by-doing experience delivered by an expert faculty of teachers. Kwanghui Lim is one of these teachers using his knowledge, passion and the ability to inspire to create a new generation of highly-skilled and connected entrepreneurs.
We sat down with Kwanghui to discuss:
Watch the Q&A with Kwang, or read the highlights below:
1. The Master of Entrepreneurship is all about being hands on and practical. What does a year look like for the practical work of a Masters of Entrepreneurship student?
The course is designed so that students are always being practically engaged. Think of the year as being composed of two halves, the first half is exploratory, with programs like the Garage Project. Students get to explore who they are, the problems they’re trying to solve and the kind of people they want to work with.
In the winter break, students huddle together for a week-long intensive to get together theory and concepts that they can make sense of in terms of proposing an idea for the second half of the year. This is where my subject, Create Your Own Enterprise comes in. Over the 12 weeks, students start to build hypotheses and test them, in some cases they actually start the company. At the end of the 12 weeks they finish with something rigorously thought through and with some kind of action in the marketplace.
One of the main things that people get confused about is that students aren’t just partaking in ‘project businesses’ but the real deal – we’re trying to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand they’re academic deliverables (with assessments in week 4, 8 and 12) designed to help push students. On the other hand, the ultimate goal is to engage with potential customers and get the word out there. The course ends with students pitching ideas to the class for feedback, and then to a live audience at the annual showcase.
2. You’re somewhat of a ‘prac-ademic’ – can you tell us a little about what you do at Melbourne University?
I’m an associate professor at Melbourne Business School and was involved in launching our BioDesign course. The course brings together students of engineering and business backgrounds to work with hospital clinicians in developing new devices and bringing them to the market.
I collaborate with a lot of people across different parts of the Melbourne Uni campus, and I think this is important when it comes to my work at the Wade because it’s important for an entrepreneur to have this kind of broad perspective. An entrepreneur is someone who breaks things apart and reaches across different boundaries to create something new, and that’s kind of like what I’m doing at Melbourne Uni.
3. One question that we are frequently asked is whether students need to have an idea before they start the Master of Entrepreneurship. How best would you answer this question?
I don’t think you need to have a specific idea prior to doing a course like this, in some ways it might even inhibit your growth. What you have to have is a real, genuine care about a problem or a community for whom you wish to solve. We’ve had students who have a strong desire to help improve women’s lives, or some interested in making more suitable prams for babies – a whole variety of students with a passion to do something for particular groups of people.
In some sense having one idea doesn’t really matter because as you build an entrepreneurial firm, the idea will change, evolve and unfold with it. The important thing is caring about a particular issue or having deep experiences about it so that you can really empathise with those that the problem impacts and find a practical way to solve it.
4. Entrepreneurship is all about making connections and working closely with other people of different strengths and professions. How does coming into the Wade Institute help students make those kinds of connections?
I think there are two levels on which the magic happens: the first is the formal level, where Georgia and the team organise events for students, faculty members, alumni and industry players to interact and get to know what projects are happening across ideas.
The second is informal, where students meet other like-minded students on a day to day basis and form personal connections. This is where, those of us who have the initiative and passion to cold call or meet someone new for coffee, takes place.
At a formal event, there are so many people that you can meet, but it’s only when you sit down and engage with one person informally that a meeting of the minds happens. You’ve got to go beyond simply networking.
5. What do you think is one of the largest benefits of being a student at the Wade?
I think that it’s all about the richness of the experience. I often tell students that this experience is analogous to when you learn to play a musical instrument – you don’t just learn your own scales and genre. Rather you explore all different genres, styles and musicians before you find your fit. This means you’ve learned to play with other people as well as solo. It’s kind of a ‘you bring that and I’ll bring that’ scenario – and combining different strengths and weaknesses allow opportunities to bubble into reality.
6. People who are coming into the Master of Entrepreneurship are looking for practical outcomes – can you talk a little about how far your students from last year have come?
My students are everywhere – some building businesses, others working in innovation or building corporate spinoffs. Eleanor and Sarah are building on their idea from 2016, MimicTec, using technology to solve farming problems. From experimenting with live chickens in the Wade early last year to now they have come a long way and are prototyping and working with like-minded organisations around Melbourne.
Jamal is also building on his cosmetics idea from last year. He had a clear problem that he wanted to solve, being providing cosmetics for dark skinned people. He has been building up contacts in salons that will eventually be stakeholders that can help him in marketing in the future. He is using what he learned at the Wade and building it organically.
7. What do you love about this job?
I think what I love most is watching each cohort grow. At the start of the year, students often struggle with who they are and what they want to do. Over the course of the year, it comes together when students are not just learning from us but from each other – when they see someone else making progress a particular way, they say ‘I’ve got to go and try that’. Suffering produces acceleration and its very gratifying for me to see people growing like that and compare their progress to where they started from 12 or even just 6 months ago.
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