Director MBMG Investment Advisory
mai Bangkok Business Challenge proves there’s still room for the entrepreneurial spirit
One of my great concerns about the global economy in the
aftermath of the financial crisis is how central banks’ money-printing
bonanzas are falling way short of reinvigorating the economic engine.
Instead of using the newly-created money to finance businesses, banks are
using it to speculate on the markets - cases like the ‘London Whale’ serve
to emphasise this point.
This comes at a great cost to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship and new
business start-ups play a crucial role in any modern economy. Many of the
technological giants such as Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Apple began life
as small start-ups with big ideas. The German economy, which seems to be
propping up much of Europe right now, would be nowhere without these vital
components. Going back in history, the resurgence of post-war Japan, Italy
and France and even the economic emergence of the US in the late nineteenth
century were all formed on the basis of entrepreneurs and start-ups.
It was with great pleasure then, that I was invited once again to be on the
judging committee at the mai Bangkok Business Challenge at Sasin Graduate
Institute of Business Administration. In the Challenge, representatives of
business schools from all over the world presented business plans and
competed for H.M. the King of Thailand’s Award as the best entrepreneurs
with the best start-up business. The Challenge was first held in 2002 and
has gone from strength to strength ever since. In the last two annual
editions, most of the plans involved technology and products that were
environmentally friendly and socially beneficial.
The 2014 version of the Challenge took place a couple of weeks ago, where 16
semi-finalists were split into four groups. They each provided a business
plan to the judges and the winners of each group moved on to the finals,
where they presented their business to the judges. Chanitr Charnchainarong,
Executive Vice-President of the SET, was chairman of the judging committee.
The entries were hugely impressive and made me optimistic that
entrepreneurship is not dead and buried even in this era of limited access
to investment. Business plans covered a vast array of sectors, namely:
solar-powered energy, water supply, agriculture, building materials,
software, disaster relief, chemical engineering, pharmaceuticals, packaging,
biomechanical engineering, education and food. It was very heartening to see
such high-quality innovation in so many areas which touch ordinary people’s
The winning entry was Lemna Cropping System, from the Queensland University
of Technology in Australia - the second straight year that the winner has
come from this institution. The company is a producer of an alternative
source of high-value, high-protein animal feed made from lemna, an aquatic
plant crop. Over two decades of university and government R&D has shown that
lemna far surpasses traditional plant protein sources such as soybean meal
and the team showed how this could be put into use.
The runner-up was RediGen, from the host institution, Sasin. The team
presented a material invented by one of its members, called
Multifunctional-composite (MF-cpo), which is produced from 100% recycled
components that can mimic and enhance current materials used, such as brick,
drywall, wood and plastic.
The four other finalists presented business plans for a chemical blend which
inhibits corrosion (A-76 Corrosion Inhibitors from Rice University, USA); an
Asian internet platform which provides a marketplace for trading surplus
chemicals (Offstock Pte. Ltd., Nanyang Technological University, Singapore);
providing solar lanterns to rural communities in India (Vikaas, INSEAD,
Singapore); and the eradication of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ZYMtronix
Catalytic Systems Inc., Cornell University, USA).
As well as the H.M. the King of Thailand’s Award and accompanying prize
money which went to the winners, there were also awards for the best plans
and pitches in each group, best exhibit and four Recognition of
Sustainability awards, which went to the teams with the most
Seeing the combination of exceptional research and development, innovation
and a large dose of entrepreneurship gives great relief from the overall
economic doom and gloom which is amongst us today. If the central banks
could get the money to such enterprises, we would see a real economic upturn
than benefitted the majority, not just the very few.
MBMG Group Investment
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