Finding a job or internship that perfectly matches our passion and talents can be hard. That’s why four young female entrepreneurs, hoping to walk their peers through these struggles, created Zeech, a search engine that helps secondary students enhance their CVs.
The prototype, jointly created by Yu Kakinoki, Ritika Mehta, Ashton Power, and Divina Samtani, won the judges’ hearts at the first-ever youth edition of Startup Weekend Hong Kong held at Cyberport on January 12-13.
It was a race against each other and time as the 20 student participants aged 14 to 19 – divided into teams of four – worked through the weekend to transform their team’s business idea into a full-blown product. Not only did they have to design safety features for their app, they had to conduct market research, and create advertising and marketing plans for their product.
Young Post spoke to the champions to learn what it takes to build an innovative start-up in just two days’ time.
“As I was going through my university application process, I realised how much my peers and I struggled to find internships, jobs, or events that would let our interests and skills shine through,” said 17-year-old Kakinoki, who first recognised there was demand for an opportunity-hunting app tailor-made for teenagers.
The Year 13 Island School student came up with the idea for Zeech, a solution to her generation’s needs. “Through personal experience, I believe [assessing students’ needs] will be most effective in creating a product that is meaningful,” she said.
Divina, 16, agreed. She said some of the best business ideas came from those who wanted to make people’s lives easier. “Since we’ve all experienced the problem [of finding internship opportunities which correspond with our interests ], we were all invested in solving it,” said the Year 11 Kellett School student.
The quartet’s digital product has four key functions – an internship/experience search engine with filters, an internship experience tracker capable of curating online CVs, bookmarks, and an internship application messaging system.
While Zeech contains all the features that a senior secondary student could dream of and would need, the entrepreneurs also had to make sure their business was profitable, which wasn’t easy when their target market – teens – have no income.
“As teenagers ourselves, we knew that the application fee would be an immediate turn-off for users. Therefore, we needed to get creative on how to make a profit,” said Kakinoki.
Ashton, 17, also understood that “putting up a hard paywall” was not feasible.
“Our final idea was to allow schools to pay subscription fees for additional management features ... to support local and international students engaging in meaningful experiences to meet the DSE and IB curriculum’s Other Learning Experiences or Creativity, Activity and Service requirements,” said the Year 12 student from Discovery College.
“There were many times when we couldn’t visualise our product,” said Ritika, 15. “We faced many issues, ranging from how to monetise our product to advertising and attracting our target group ... But would I say [the experience] was worth it? Absolutely!”
The Year 11 Kellett School student added that her team gained a lot of insight from speaking to their mentors. “[Their] perspectives and solutions allowed us to drive over our [hurdles] and cross the finish line,” she said.
Ashton said she has gained a lot of confidence and become more outgoing after the competition. “The business pitch was quite a new experience for me, and being able to achieve that was just genuinely amazing.”
Both Divina and Ashton said their biggest reward was the strong friendship that developed among the team members. “Because the workshop was so intense, overcoming problems together [has] made our friendship much stronger,” said Divina.