Entrepreneurship is no easy journey for anyone. Especially for students who want to balance both their academic performance and business breakthroughs, entrepreneurship is an exhaustive uphill battle. SousChef, however, proves that with perseverance, a student can embark on his entrepreneurship journey while successfully graduating from the university.
Entering SUTD as the pioneer batch, Tushar took a gap year to pursue his passion in entrepreneurship and graduated recently in 2016 together with the second batch of undergraduates. Tushar spent 3 years in SUTD exploring food technology outside his curriculum time and experimenting with various prototypes with his team, SousChef.
Ruihe, co-founder of Souschef, joined SUTD on 2013 with manufacturing background. While demonstrating his leadership capability in technical student societies from leading 3 student clubs to organizing international robotic competition, Ruihe found his passion in entrepreneurship and joined Tushar’s journey on the 2nd year of his university life.
Through the Entrepreneurship module conducted by Professor Luo Jianxi, Tushar and team learnt the hard lesson of starting a Indiegogo campaign. The campaign raised a modest US$4.4k, half of what the team set out to achieve. When asked about the experience, Tushar mentioned about the amazing experience of taking a school project into a commercial setting, “It is not a common practise where students are allowed to take calculated risks and present your work to the general public. The amount of support and encouragement given by the SUTD faculty helped us to overcome the fear of failure, which is the one of the most important qualities for a startup.”
From an automated breakfast machine to a smart dried ingredient storage system to an all-rounded kitchen automation system, Tushar received various feedbacks from SUTD Entrepreneurship Centre (SUTDEC), faculties and industry contacts and continued to refine his product. Some industry contacts include Lester Chan, managing director of BeaconRock Investments and adjunct lecturer at Singapore Management University, and Lim Song Joo, Founder of BWG Consulting Pte Ltd who advised the team to focus on B2B strategy rather than B2C.
As part of the journey to bring their product to the market, the team applied for the SPRING Ace Startup Grant through SUTDEC and was mentored by one of SUTDEC’s partner mentor, David Isaac, a veteran in startup branding strategy and customer engagement. At the evaluation, SUTDEC and Song Joo advised the team to focus on the actual lead generated and come up with a specific solution than to create a generic product for the market.
Tushar and team also participated in major innovation and enterprise events such as CommunicAsia and Techventure under SUTDEC’s participation, where startups, incubators, and investors gather to hear the latest trends and exhibit their latest products. Tushar was able to network with the key industry players, gather valuable feedback for product validation, and gain insights into successful startups.
Through SUTDEC’s recommendation, Tushar was introduced to Anne Marie Droste, Director at Entrepreneur First (EF). Entrepreneur First runs a 6-month programme that helps talented engineers and computer scientists build their own tech startups/companies from scratch, even before they have a fixed team or an idea. As part of EF’s pioneer cohort, Tushar and his partner Ruihe are now working on a new product which will reduce food wastage and improve quality consistency for F&B outlets. The team has gotten rapid traction on their startup journey, sealing their first purchase order from a Malaysian company within three months of the programme.
“Looking back at my time in SUTD, I can finally understand the importance of BIG-D curriculum. It has immensely helped to look at a problem from different perspectives. Souschef could not have been possible without the knowledge and guidance I got from SUTD” – Tushar, CEO and co-founder, SousChef and graduating batch 2016.