Sophia: HEX Discovery/ Virtual Innovation Program (July 2021)

The Hacker Exchange Virtual programme was divided into daily stand up, lesson, workshop, discussion, social activity and mentor time. A checkpoint must be submitted every three days to ensure the student has kept up with the progress. The Hex team has created a website where students can find everything related to the programme, such as the programme schedule (with zoom links), the cohort, mentor portal, speaker list, submission portal and social activities, etc. Furthermore, there’s a page where students and mentors can post and interact. I picked it up quickly as the website was straightforward to use.

What I enjoyed the most is the workshops, such as the UI, VR/AR workshops. I had the opportunity to explore the technology world with some hands-on experiences. I also enjoyed hearing the global guest speakers from innovative multinational firms. They were very interactive and willing to share their experiences and provide us recommendations. I have gained deeper insights into the Asian & Pacific region’s business environments, technology ecosystems and start-ups from the Hacker Exchange APAC Innovation Programme. In just two weeks, I flexed my entrepreneurial skills, took my start-up concept from ideation to prototype, and had excellent pitching in front of real investors.

Meanwhile, I have developed diverse skills. This includes using lean canvas and business model, conducting market research, app design, rapid prototyping, etc. In particular, I experienced working on an international project while using a range of industry-standard tools and software and collaborated with a multidisciplinary team under pressure. Meanwhile, I developed some interpersonal skills by connecting with my mentors, cohort and global speakers proactively on Linkedin. Building confidence and communication were the key to develop interpersonal skills and networking. This will enable me to better connect with my colleagues, whether at the university or future workplace. Additionally, the skills I have developed in this virtual programme will enable me to apply to my studies as it’s quite relevant to what I’m learning now.

It was challenging to keep up with the daily lessons and activities. The programme was intensive as the schedule was packed. The programme started at 11am NZT and ended at 6pm-8pm everyday. Sometimes we have to spend additional time working on the research and checkpoints. Therefore, time management was crucial. The most challenging part of the programme was to deliver a high-standard business pitch to the real investors and audience in three minutes. The preparation time frame was short, but lots of things have to be covered. I had to step out of my comfort zone and pitch in front of many people, as well as Live on Youtube. This enabled me to become more confident now.

Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I would definitely recommend students explore this virtual programme from any faculty. It will open up broader perspectives and opportunities which would be beneficial for their future career. They would harvest a lot of knowledge and skill within these two weeks. Lastly, thanks to Auckland University for sponsoring me this scholarship to attend this programme.

Selda: HEX Discovery/ Virtual Innovation APAC Program (November 2020)

I was grateful to be sponsored to participate in a 6-day programme teaching all there is to know about start-ups, innovation and business. Various sessions were held allowing students to experience, discuss and learn more about different aspects of start-ups and business from learning how to create an app to understanding the aspects and legalities of patents and intellectual property. These learnings were supplementary to a project where we were teamed up with other students around the world to create a fully-fledged start up during the 6-day course, ready for presentation to investors and VCs.

I met many new people from all over the world with different areas of expertise and specialisation which helped me develop a network of strong, intelligent, amazing professionals and friends. My group consisted of myself and an RIT student from New York specialising in Industrial Design. With my strong belief of equitable healthcare and goal of improved health outcomes for the public as well as background as a Dietetics student we developed an app platform that allows dietitians to connect with the NZ public to provide accessible, reliable and equitable nutrition support.

During the 6-day programme we developed this platform with all the necessary components of a true start up including a business model, marketing strategy and a very aesthetic prototype which we condensed down into a 5-minute pitch that we delivered to our peers, staff and investors at the end of our course. I was so grateful to have stumbled upon this programme and get sponsored by the university to participate. I was able to learn so much theory about start-ups, business and innovation while also being able to put these learnings into practise with a start-up idea of my own.

The HEX learning environment helped me develop my idea further in a collaborative, safe space with access to experts in every field imaginable. I am so grateful for the amazing network of people I met, the valuable learnings and experience I gained from HEX. As someone with no prior experience in business but many ideas that I had no idea what to do with I would recommend anyone that has even the slightest interest in business or innovation to participate in a HEX programme. Since the programme was completely virtual it had its merits and challenges. It was great to be able to learn from home in a safe, familiar and stress-free environment. However, one challenge that we had to overcome and adapt to was working with students in our groups from all around the world and compromising to find times to collaborate with people in completely different time zones. Regardless, it was a very exciting and new experience that I would do all over again and recommend to anyone of any background.

Yokiu: HEX Discovery/ Virtual Innovation APAC Program (November 2020)

The Hacker Exchange APAC virtual exchange programme is a fun and challenging experience to work on a start-up project, given the current conditions, an actual visit to the APAC region is not possible. We have two Program Leads – Matt and Jac. They are very good at their jobs in organising and engaging people in the programme. We have a Slack channel for easy communication and a “Command Central” page where Notion (one of the useful applications that I am introduced to in this program) is used as the management system, and the program schedule, mentor and speaker lists, and submission links for daily tasks e.t.c. are all in one place. Before the start of the programme, we also received a goodie bag with a HEX T-shirt and a pair of cardboard virtual glasses to be used in the programme.

The program runs for 2 weeks, Monday to Friday from 9am to evening. HEX is based in Melbourne and the programme is scheduled to Melbourne’s time zone as well. Most students are from Melbourne and Sydney but there are also students from other countries. For me who is in Auckland, the start time of the programme at 11am (9am AEST) is nice but the end time of the programme could be too late, ranging from 7pm to 9.30pm. Other than that, the programme schedule is very rewarding.

Every day we virtually travel to a country in the APAC region by changing our Zoom backgrounds to 1 of the 3 photos provided for that country. A part that I personally really enjoy is that we get introduced to a few common phrases or slangs in the country’s language at the start of the day. Speakers from the region that we “travel” to will come on the Zoom meeting and present their area of specialty. They are very qualified professionals and willing to connect with me on LinkedIn. I have therefore gained a lot of insights and knowledge that would help the start-up process, from marketing, AI, to legal issues from multiple speakers.

There are also mentoring sessions that I can attend by booking on Notion to talk to mentors 1 to 1, and speed networking sections in Remo. I am therefore building more confidence in talking to professionals and pitching my ideas. There are also workshops where we are being introduced to different resources and applications to aid the start-up process, such as using Pitchspot for my business model canvas and Figma for prototyping.

The project that I am working on during the two weeks of the programme is called Petite Designs. I am thinking of building a brand that specifically designs apparel for petite figures by collaborating with designers and brands who do not normally design for petites. The petite community is very underrepresented and ignored in the fashion industry. Regular women’s clothing are designed for heights of 5’5 or above, which does not fit a petite figure properly and does not flatter us. Simply cutting a few inches off the hem cannot solve the problem because the garment has to be redesigned to allow the darts, waist, patterns e.t.c. to hit the right place and hug the figure properly. It is time for the industry to start designing for petites. One of the judges in my final pitch questioned the need for this brand with the availability of customised clothing out there. However, if women of “regular” height have the option to choose from customised clothing and off-the-rack clothing, why wouldn’t petite ladies want this option too? Why are the petite community only bound to options in customised clothing, tailoring and the kids section? This problem might seem niche but the average height of women in most countries are below 5’5, including New Zealand. And in America, 50% are below 5’3. In my research survey, 93% of petite ladies agree that there is a need for more supply for petite sizing.

Ryoka: HEX Discovery/ Virtual Innovation APAC Program (November 2020)

The HEX Discovery Asia-Pacific program (APAC) was an eye-opening experience. The programme is a startup experience to prepare for the demo day, which is to present in front of real investors around the world. It may start early in the morning, depending on where you are currently located, but it is definitely worth waking up and joining via Zoom. Every day, we have travelled virtually to a country, talked to business founders, and learned about the ecosystem. We went to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore. Not only discovering the country, but it was also a great experience to build connections through LinkedIn after the session.

HEX also offered us mentoring sessions at least once a day, and we had opportunities to ask questions about our business ideas individually to those who have experience in our fields of interest. I have talked with mentors who have backgrounds in journalism, technology, management, finance and so on. They all gave me supportive advice and also fun casual chats.

The contents of HEX was practical in terms of building the business idea and creating a prototype. At first, I did not have any clear idea of what I wanted to do, but through an ideation session and talking to mentors; it became much clearer. No one had denied anyone’s idea, and I think that was the best part of HEX. Some of the cohorts have already graduated from universities or already have experiences in startups, so not everyone was in the same boat. But everyone was very interactive and supportive of each other, such as giving tips on digital marketing. I had never created an actual website and had no idea on how to create the prototype at first; though, of course, HEX had a few sessions teaching us how to do it. This programme is not only about building an idea but also gaining various skills to use in the future.

A difficulty I found was that doing everything by myself. I have experience in a startup during high school, but I had a team. So whenever I had ideas, I could talk with them and gain new perspectives for the business. On the other hand, creating businesses individually also allowed us to do whatever we want. If we were in a team, we might allocate the tasks and focus on the task, which may limit the learning. Everything was new for me to do by myself, both doing input and output helped me to understand how to create a sustainable startup- market validation, financial estimated plan, and pitching.

I recommend future students to leave the two weeks blank with no plan, I was doing another internship at the same time with HEX, and it was a bit stressful. I think it was such a valuable experience to gain insights and build connections for the future. I hope future students also to enjoy what HEX offers!