Written by Patricia Reiter
Shark sightings were reported in our 7th-grade Learning Live classes this past December! Our students participated in an entrepreneurship competition modeled after Shark Tank, the popular television series where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to savvy investors. Inspired by the show we launched our students head first (pun intended!) into an ocean (again!) of product development and high-pressure pitching. They absolutely loved it.
Our sharks consisted of a former CFO, COO and executive vice president of IBM Global Services, a computer vision research engineer, and a product manager. They considered our students’ pitches carefully and asked pointed questions within each of their respective expertise (finance, computer engineering, marketing).
The students were definitely in “unfamiliar waters” as they sunk or swam. Abner, Gene, and Ian were ready when they were asked about the product liability for their small-space-living-problem-solving “Double Sofa Emergency Alarm System Toaster Clock”. Their fire retardant material was water-resistant/stain-resistant and even had a built-in alarm system that called the authorities for help (whether or not you used the automated wifi connected communication). Oh, it also detected earthquakes and sounded the alarm but still made you breakfast.
Another student, “HC” proposed a new currency just for students. The currency would work just like Taiwanese dollars but would be given to students from their teachers for things like good behavior and high grades. HC furthered that the money would expire two years after graduation. This would allow students who worked hard to gain a positive start in life.
Our former CFO was intrigued but wanted to know how HC made money on the product. HC replied, “You have a credit card, right?” and explained that he would assume the credit card company role and keep a small percentage from all transactions. Since the projects had to be realistic but not real, HC was able to explain that he already had funding approved from the Taiwanese government in an effort to promote domestic spending and to retain the best local talent in Taiwan for the first two years after their graduation. This would help to solve a major problem facing Taiwan right now: a brain drain to neighboring China where economic opportunity can oftentimes be greater than in Taiwan.