Growing with Regional Impact Sustainable Entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia
Thank you Impact Youthopia for featuring us alongside amazing ecosystem players in the sustainability impact making scene helping to achieve SDGs. Shoutout to them for taking the time to get to know Sai Surya and his team's journey of incubating three years worth of regional sustainability startups in Southeast Asia helping sustainable entrepreneurs grow, under YSI SEA, and letting us be honest about how it wasn't an easy task that we couldn't have done without the sustainability community supporting us.
It has been a long time coming when we moved from an incubation program to an online sustainability platform but it has been worth it!
Over at Impact Youthopia, they strongly believe that our youths are our future, and thus the National Youth Council’s Impact Initiative aims to feature ecosystem players making an impact to the world around them. We also love seeing familiar faces such as Rachel Lee from Package Pals, who was so kind to sit down for a podcast session with us! Hi Rachel!
Here are some quick highlights from the feature!
Starting YSI SEA wasn't easy for Surya. He distinctively recalled the moment when that potentially life changing funding was rejected and with a heavy heart, he had to let his team, that worked really hard, know about the results.
“Hey everyone, the partnership has fallen through. We’ll need to find alternative ways to secure funding.”
Back then, Surya and his team were a handful of twenty-somethings behind YSI SEA, an impact incubator that aims to enhance the capacity of young startups and youths to tackle sustainability issues.
By then, they already had more than 50 funding rejections over seven months.
But this rejection in particular hits the hardest.
They had high hopes on this specific partnership after rounds of great discussions as they had finally convinced someone of the importance of the sustainability incubation programme.
Yet nothing materialised.
PS. This was when regional sustainability incubation programmes were unfortunately not common in Southeast Asia.
What makes the attempt extra challenging was the belief that an individual’s socio-economic background should not hinder them from innovating for sustainability. Thus, they should not be expected to fork up any expenses for the programme.
Without any funding, the countdown was on and they had exactly five weeks left before our 25 regional startup founders would fly to Singapore to participate.
Thankfully, through sheer persistence, the team managed to raise the required funds through a National Youth Council grant and crowdfunding, and support of mentors.
Soon, participants were in Singapore, pitching their novel business solutions in agriculture, healthcare and circular economy sectors to a crowd of over 350 attendees which consisted of investors, industry experts and aspiring youths, with the Minister for National Development of Singapore Desmond Lee as the Guest-of-Honour.
Watching the team's efforts and overwhelming positive feedback reaffirmed the importance of the much needed work.
Fast forward to 2021 and the team has conducted three fully-funded annual Sustainability Innovation Programmes, incubated 27 startups and worked with 75 regional entrepreneurs.
It felt like it was a really long time coming and everything that happened feels like it was only just yesterday.
If you'd like to hear about Surya's reflection such as the importance of a communal support and more, check out the article.
PS. Recently, we decided to move away from our five-month programme to build a digital platform – Interseed.co. With this, we aim to reach out to more founders to facilitate sustainable innovations and develop more talent ready to take on pressing sustainability issues! Check us out