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Under-20 entrepreneurs pitch their startups to business leaders at international trade forum

The BC Chamber of Commerce hosted their annual #TradeTalks event on 11th October, 2018. This was a half-day forum for BC Business leaders to take a closer look at Canada’s trade and export agenda, with key insight on CPTPP from Maryscott Greenwood.

Eight YELL students got the opportunity to attend this amazing event and this year we had two YELL teams pitching to industry professionals.

Below is a Q&A with those young entrepreneurs.

Presenter #1: Saimir Sulaj- Oigo   

Saimir Sulaj currently is a 3rd year Computer Software Engineering student in UBC as well as the co-founder of Oigo, an AI-driven text-to-speech annotation platform that allows university students to record lectures and search for specific snippets of audio with their desired topic.

Staring from this summer, Saimir has been working on Oigo for four months. “University can put lots of stress on people. You should be enjoying yourself. So I tried to see what I could do to help that.”

Actually Oigo is already his fourth start-up venture. “Two of them failed. One of them was generally successful.” But Saimir learned a lot from all the failure and progress. “That’s good because I meet lots of people and I get exposed to different kinds of projects. I love building things and dreams. Entrepreneurship is kind of ideal.”

“Before YELL, I had zero interest in business. And then I took YELL and it literally changed everything. It is about building and creating. YELL by far was the class had most impact on me.”

The week before #TradeTalks was extremely stressful for Saimir. He had three midterms in three days and needed to prepare for pitch at the same time. He did a lot of research and practice. “I didn’t sleep the night before. But It is fun, stressful, and I feel alive.”

After his pitch, panelists, Takuji Sakai, Executive Director of JETRO, and Angela Hollinger, Director of the Canada-Japan Society of British Columbia, came to Saimir and shared their opinions on his future expansion plans for the Japan market. 

( I wish I had this program when I was in high school !!)

For the whole video, click here.

Presenter #2: Javed Gill- SmartPill

Javed Gill graduated from YELL last year. His team, with Ali Bhagudi, Amaan Mangalji and Faaiz Walji, won 2nd prize at the YELL Venture Challenge 2018. Their venture idea, SmartPill, is an app that connects patients to physicians and pharmacies to reduce wait times for reoccurring prescription orders.

“We actually originally started with making sure patients take their medication on time, and then we pivoted to focus on helping patients get their medication. We figured this was a better and more solvable problem.”

#TradeTalks was memorable experience for Javed. “I was excited, and nervous at the same time. I think a little bit more nervous than excited. But I practiced and did it over and over again in front of different people just to get everybody’s opinions.”

Javed heard about YELL from his friends, who are currently part of his team of SmartPill. “It was a great experience. I never wanted to be an entrepreneur before. But after YELL, I actually want to pursue entrepreneurship.”

The part he liked most about YELL was the experience of pitching at the Venture Challenge. “I liked the YELL venture challenge  because it felt high profile and it gave me good experience in public speaking. So even now, when I give speeches in school, I just feel more comfortable.”

As for the good tips for our current YELL students, Javed mentioned YELL weekly guest speakers. He encouraged students to take seriously what YELL weekly guest speakers say. “They have a lot of good stuff to say. It is really important that you put their experience to good use.”

The full video is here.