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Participant Interviews: Kang Yao

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Participant Interviews: Kang Yao

Matthew Wong Kang Yao, born and bred in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Currently, Matthew is residing in Johor to pursue his PhD studies at University of Southampton Malaysia. The nature of his research mainly focuses on renewable energy, particularly biofuel. Research and education have always been his interest, as he genuinely enjoys the process of sharing knowledge. 

Matthew has been involved in several education projects, mainly on school level outreach to teach high school students about renewable energy. At the moment, he is also working with a local startup community (Start Malaysia) to promote startup culture in young adults and fresh graduate, through a series of outreach and awareness program.

Why did you participate in the bootcamp here?

I participated because I am genuinely curious and interested to meet like- minded people in the bootcamp, especially people who are young and passionate about contributing and making positive changes to their local community. The bootcamp is also organized by the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia and co-organized with Me.reka and Biji-biji initiative, hence I had confidence that the bootcamp experience will be fruitful. Additionally, it also serves as a great platform for attracting talents from all over the country, therefore it’s a great opportunity to learn from the coordinators and the participants.

Tell me a little about your winning idea and what you hope to see beyond the bootcamp.

For my team, we’ve been issued a challenge by Feng, the founder of StartupJohor to address a brain drain problem in the state of Johor, and we need to come up with a solution to encourage young adults/fresh graduates to choose startup industry in Johor as a first choice for their career option. Our idea revolves around the university ecosystem, where we specifically target students and promote the startup culture, before they graduate. The proposed methods are local startup tour/visits, startup internship program, short-courses, and mentorship program for those who would want to build their startup. The proposed approach enables the student to have a taste of what startup is while not having to fully commit into the industry, as compared to choosing startup as a first option upon graduation, which is widely regarded as risky. Through a series of activities, they are able to find out if they are suited to be in the startup industry, because let’s be real, startup is not meant for everyone. We really hope to shape a startup landscape in the university settings, where students and young adults can embrace the growing startup culture in Malaysia.

How has design thinking and the overall bootcamp changed your approach/view in solving problems?

I really appreciate the outline of the design thinking workshop which is very practical while remained to be beginner-friendly for the user. The learning outcome from the workshop had helped me to create streamlined solutions which are objective-orientated, especially the introduction of the Business Model Canvas which enabled me and my team to quickly prototype a working solution.

What have you benefitted most from participating in the bootcamp? Or, what have you taken away from the bootcamp that you haven't picked up at university?

I think the biggest highlight of the bootcamp is to take on a real-life case study, and designing our solutions around the problem. The conversation with Feng was especially meaningful and beneficial in terms of understanding the local startup scene, while the feedback on our prototype was constructive and insightful. Also, the abundance of help and resources that I get from the facilitators in the bootcamp, and having to pitch our ideas to the NGOs and U.S. embassy representative was also very exciting.

How has this bootcamp changed your view (for better or for worse, there are no wrong opinions!) about community/social work in Malaysia?

The bootcamp showed me that younger generations in Malaysia are still genuinely positive about contributing to the society, as the passion they shared are reflected in the effort of their work, full of energy and creativity. Nevertheless, the NGOs that participated the bootcamp are also making significant impact in the community, which I personally think is a huge asset when it comes to civic engagement and social entrepreneurship in Malaysia. 6. Moving forward I will stay on my priorities and complete my PhD studies, while pursuing my interest in education and research. On the hand, my team and I will continue to be the student ambassador for the startup industry in Johor, advocating startup culture for younger adults. Through StartupJohor, I’ve also picked up an interest in entrepreneurship and might venture into building my own startup in the near future.

What do you hope to go on to do after this? (The bootcamp, your studies...the general future)

Moving forward I will stay on my priorities and complete my PhD studies, while pursuing my interest in education and research. On the hand, my team and I will continue to be the student ambassador for the startup industry in Johor, advocating startup culture for younger adults. Through StartupJohor, I’ve also picked up an interest in entrepreneurship and might venture into building my own startup in the near future.

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