Ann Chan – 2 start ups at the age of 20

Ann Chan (沅葶) is a former enterprise society leader at university and is now working on two startups – all at the age of 20. Born in Hong Kong, Ann came to the UK at the age of 16 to study for her A-levels and has remained ever since. She is currently an Economics undergraduate at University College London (UCL). She led her university’s enterprise society (UCLentreprenuers) as president for the academic year of 2013/14 and is part of the NACUE network.

So what are the projects you’re currently working on?

I’m currently working on Reseed and Bazinga. Reseed is a social enterprise and sustainability brand. Essentially it’s a non-profit organisation working to turn waste paper into trees. It was awarded the Mayor of London’s Low Carbon Entrepreneur award by Boris Johnson in 2013, and has won the support of the Clinton Global Initiative and Siemens.

Bazinga is a crowdsourcing tool to improve presentations in real-time. It allows audiences to give feedback during presentations and lecturers and allows them to ask questions.The product was developed out of a hackathon ran by Entrepreneur First and Swiftkey in August 2014. My team won the hackathon and have since secured an opportunity to trail the product at a tech meetup. We are currently in the stage of building the next version of Bazinga.

Have you always had an interest in enterprise?

Yes!  When I was a teenager I’d always dreamt about opening my own restaurant/café. I had the impression that you could only start a business when you saved up a huge amount of money – so I treated the restaurant as part of my retirement plan. It was when I got to university I realised that you actually can start a business whilst you’re young. After learning more about startups and business models I started to dream beyond the restaurant – I want to build a venture that will have a positive impact in the world.

ann chan

How do you think entrepreneurial societies compare with that in Hong Kong?

I think enterprise societies are more active in the UK, however I do think there plenty of entrepreneurial young people from Hong Kong (HK) and China. I know quite a few friends who are running businesses whilst studying in HK. I am not aware of any student run-societies in HK that focus on startups. I do feel that there is more resource and funding support in the UK, for example there is no equivalent of the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE) in HK.

What project(s) did you enjoy working on the most whilst at UCL entrepreneur society?

The first project was UCLs first ever hackathon where students from all disciplines got together to code, build tools and apps to solve problems in 24 hours. We had 80 students participating, and it was truly inspirational to witness how the event enabled idea sharing, innovation and problem solving among the community that the society worked so hard to build.

The second project was hosting Nathan Blecharczyk, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Airbnb for an evening of startup learning and pitching competition. I could’ve never imagined we’d run an event to host the CTO of a $10bn company.

What do you think it takes to be a good society leader?

Three things that I think are most important are the ability to build a great team, learn quickly and constantly and have the passion for entrepreneurship, startups and helping others. Running a society is a team effort and you need to be able to attract and retain great talents who will volunteer their time to help you achieve your vision for the society. Also being able to learn quickly and apply your new knowledge to situations helps tremendously. A leader has to inspire, and if you don’t love entrepreneurship how can you convince other students to join the startup world?

How important do you think it is to get involved in enterprise?

I believe everyone who wants to be successful should have the entrepreneurial mindset, and get involved in enterprising activities because you learn to create value, be resourceful and solve problems. The skills are very useful on both a personal and professional level.

And it’s so much fun!! I’ve had an amazing and truly memorable experience during my time at UCLe. I have become friends with many talented individuals who are doing cool things.

How has your experience as an enterprise leader impacted your future ambitions?

It has inspired me to dream bigger. I have met so many inspirational students and entrepreneurs through the enterprise network. Every conversation and every project has inspired me to want to do more.

Getting involved in enterprise has changed my career ambition. Previously I was only interested in the business side of things due to my Economics degree. However, after working with developers and designers through UCLe, I was inspired to learn coding and user experience design. Now I want to work more on product development.

Being an enterprise leader has built up my confidence, and connections I’ve made have led to greater startup and job opportunities. I’m very grateful for that.

This article was written for Nee Hao by Yarohey Secka, Communications Officer at NACUE (National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs), which works proactively with colleges, universities and enterprise societies to help build a skilled and enterprising generation.

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