With D-sider creator: helping hands for designers in the future

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Are you designing a product of your own? Have you been racking your brains for an original idea? Are you longing for a professional community that can offer you suggestions and guidance? The business plan we are about to discuss might be an idea that meets these requirements.

Today we have Kai Duan with us. He graduated from International Media Business of University of Westminster and is a co-author of this business plan. Now let Perfect Pitch ask questions on your behalf. All you wanna know is right here.

P=Perfect Pitch     K=Kai Duan

P: Would you tell me something about your business plan?

K: Our project is called “D-sider”. It’s an online community for burgeoning designers who want to share their ideas and exchange views with others. Traditional social sites are obviously not an ideal place for such a purpose. According to our survey among designers, 93% of respondents deemed it necessary to get inspiration from works and ideas of others while 90% of them hoped for comments and advice on their works from experienced professionals. Many unknown designers may be very capable. But there hasn’t been a good platform where they can display their talent. What we are doing is to provide such a platform.

P: How did you come up with this idea?

K: We did a lot of brainstorm together. Every member of the team agreed that we should design a product to really help students. Actually, there were many design majors in our school. We often saw them busy with their works in the forum or lab. It’s very difficult for young designers to establish a name for themselves in a big city like London. So, we decided to create a platform to help them. And then we developed the simple notion into a full business plan.

P: Was there any trouble during the preparation? How did you solve it?

K: Yes. Market analysis was the hardest part of our business plan. I guess other teams might face the same problem at that time. Building a website isn’t as easy as it may sound. It requires a lot of fund for daily maintenance and operation. Moreover, we had to convince investors of our project before we could get any investment. We figured that the business plan must be as thorough as possible. We had to consider related services, subsequent upgrading and improvement of the website. We brainstormed on the details of the product over and over again to make it impeccable. We often asked ourselves this question: what did we care most if we were investors. Then, we improved our project accordingly.

P: How did you feel when giving your presentation?

K: We completed the design of the project and submitted all materials a month prior to the presentation. We spent much time together going over every little detail of our project. We were fully prepared when that day came. We were excited and a little bit nervous because in front of us were real investors. It’s really an exciting and also rewarding experience. Given that time was limited, some team members didn’t have a chance to present their part of the project so fully. Although we were well prepared, some factors did affect our performance more or less.

P: What benefits did you get for participating in this project and activity?

K: The best thing I learned is how to think thoroughly and methodically about the details. It makes me more rigorous. By creating a business plan of my own, I have formed a basic understanding of the market. I feel that I become more mature and experienced after this project. It’s something I could never learn from any book.

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An exclusive interview:Countdown to JustBuyIt launch

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Maybe you have noticed the special interview we are doing with graduates. Yeah, that’s right. Maybe they are not entrepreneurs in a real sense, but they have built up their own teams and come up with creative business plans that are spoken highly of by venture investors.

This time we have a happy chat with Zimu Jia. She is a Media Management graduate from University of Westminster. Now let’s listen to her business story at Perfect Pitch.

P=Perfect Pitch     Z=Zimu Jia

P: What’s the name of the project you started?

Z: It is called JustBuyIt. It’s a mobile application designed for women who love shopping. During shopping, everyone wants some suggestions from others. “Which color suits me better?” “Does this look good on me?” They are typical questions we hear in a clothing store. To get some advice from others, some girls shopping alone may try on a new dress in the fitting room, send mirror selfies to their friends and wait eagerly for their replies. Our product will be a perfect solution to this problem. But I’ll leave some room for imagination because our team members are working on turning the concept into a reality. Hopefully we’ll soon present you a real product and share the joy of success.

P: How did you come up with this idea in the first place?

Z: We found this idea in ourselves. There were four girls in our team who loved shopping very much. Sometimes we hung out a lot together or talked about our experience on shopping. Gradually, we came to realize that everyone needed a product or a service to solve this problem in shopping. Based on this requirement, we created our business plan.

P: Were there any difficulties during the preparation? How did you solve them?

Z: The biggest problem we met was calculating the cash flow for the whole business plan. We are students of media majors. None of us knows much about corporate finance. Anyway, we had to figure out the cash flow. We referred to all kinds of documents and consulted a lot of accounting majors. We also learned a lot from other business projects, which was very helpful for solving our own problem.

P: How would you rate your performance at the presentation?

Z: I was not quite myself that day because I was running a fever. But our team did a great job. I’m proud of them. The first one to speak that day was Jun. She used to work at 4A. So she had much experience in making proposals. She really knew how to draw attention from the audience. “What will you do after the presentation?” By posing a simple question on the stage, Jun successfully ignited their enthusiasm and introduced the theme of our product. She described the trouble she had herself when shopping and explained why our product could meet the user requirement. Story telling I think is a good way to draw audience attention at a presentation.

P: What have you learned from this project and activity?

Z: It makes me realize starting a business is an exciting but also very frustrating. It’s an idea and a common goal that keep motivating every team member all the way through. Even those knotty problems now appear interesting. Striving for perfection is an attitude essential for doing anything. That’s what I learned from this program. The experience is still very helpful in my work now.

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Look  how University of Westminster students pitch their business plans:

Planning apps, group work and pitching from our buddies at Buddy App

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Since there is a traditional project for the students of Media Management in Uni of Westminster, all of us are told to make an elaborate, feasible, and creative business plan,and pitched it at the end of semester in front of some investors just like “Dragons’ Den”. I have to say, it really drives us crazy. So we contacted with Ms. Arianne who did that last year, let’s see what did she say about it.

P=Perfect Pitch     A=Arianne

P:What was your project about?

A:Our business plan was a mobile application. It  was called Buddy App. Originally it based around idea structure as a well known app Tinder. The main concept of it that you can swipe the things you like to the left and things you don’t to the right but instead of people as in Tinder, Buddy Up has various event for the audience to choose from in London.

P:How did your group generated such an idea?

A:It was very hard at the moment.  A lot of people were using Tinder and while brainstorming all the time. We were sure that we want to make an application instead of magazine. As application was much easier to build but still required all the different skills. Our group was trying to understand what London is missing? What app would be very useful in such a vibrant city? There are a couple of websites that a based around the idea of finding events, but we found they are quite boring and not so easy to use.  And we really wanted to concentrate on the small events, try to attract people to discover new places around there area, and not concentrate on musical or such events that other websites are concentrate more. We were all international students and this is one thing that we all were trying to search for – interesting and entertaining events.

P:Could you tell us more about your experience of presenting this idea?

A:I loved it! I really enjoyed but I know other people were quite nervous. It was a big project and everyone was preparing for it for a long time. We had people from outside attending the event to hear our ideas. Yes, we were quite pumped up but more because the pressure of the event was building up over the time. We all dressed up for the event and we all spend so much time on it that we were really nervous but excited to show our product. For me it was exciting!

P:Looking back at you experience, what would you advice to our readers to avoid the stress of giving the presentation?

A:Practice a lot! Practice a  lot because there is a time limit. and we have practiced with the time watch to make sure we will be on time. As it would be very disappointing to be stopped by the lecturer and to have enough time to finish the  representation. We divided the whole presentation into sections. We all wanted to make sure we deliver the idea and every aspect of it. My advice would be practice.

P:Is there is anything important you took from the whole experience?

A:It is very interesting  to work together with a very diverse people. We were very good at seeing each other strength and trusting each other on the parts that each of us was responsible for. Everyone who came to this course had a quite a different background so we were discussing who’s good at what and would like to do for the project. We would have meeting every week to give a feedback on each others work. At the time I don’t thing we did it on purpose but looking at it back I think it was crucial for us to dived work in such a way.

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An interview with a graduate: A special day during her student life

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Xinmiao Zhang graduated from the University of Westminster with a master’s degree in Media Management in 2014. During the one-year campus life, a special day, she believes, is of life-lasting value to her.

Now let Perfect Pitch take an insight look into the unforgettable day for all Media Management and International Media Business students including her.

P: Can you tell us what happened on that day and what makes it special?

X: It was the 2nd of May last year. Then we were having a course named “Responding to a Changing Media Environment”, which required us to present in front of three real investors with our business plans by the end of the term. It’s absolutely a rewarding experience, like a rehearsal for the day of great significance in your life. Unlike what we acquired from book knowledge, such training taught us how to transform our creative ideas into a business project and to present them on a stage. That’s why the day is quite special for me.

P: So what is your business plan then?

X: Our project was called SurfChina, an app which was dedicated to help foreign tourists with a thorough tour in China. Apart from detailed travel guides, it’s also designed with social function. In this way, foreign users can get to know Chinese friends of their destination before arriving in China, making the trip more convenient and joyful. For Chinese users, it offers an opportunity to make new friends and practice English while showing foreigners around.

P: How did you come up with the idea?

X: Our team was composed of six Chinese girls: Anqi He, Cheng Yin, Qiao Xu, Ying Li, Xinyuan Zhang and me. At first we were thinking about setting up a company to bring in children’s programs from abroad. However, predictably, such business would be limited by political factors. So soon the idea was shelved. But later we began to think that as it’s a trend to introduce foreign products and cultures into China, why not do something to enable foreigners to know more about China? Then I consulted some of my foreign friends and was told that they traveled to China out of the enthusiasm for Chinese culture; however, the language barrier was really a big trouble for them, particularly when sitting in a restaurant, they had to order the same dish every day as they couldn’t understand the characters on the menu. And in such moments they’d wish an English-speaking Chinese friend was there to offer help. Starting with the concept, we planned to create a bridge between foreign tourists and Chinese, especially students who are learning English. Meanwhile, we also believe that since most travel guides about China on the market are written by foreigners, they might miss places that really deserve recommendation. If they have a native guide to introduce local specialty, foreign tourists would authentically get access to the culture and customs here, other than superficial experiences.

P: What do you think was the most difficult part when preparing for the project?

X: I think it might be the different habits between Chinese and foreign users. For example, Chinese and western people have different opinions towards app design. Chinese users prefer software with integrated functions. By and large, they are unwilling to pay for apps. On the contrary, foreigners like apps with a simple function and are more inclined to pay for them. But it’s essential for our products to attract Chinese users first before getting foreign users. Thus it became a key problem to work out an app appealing to both Chinese and foreign users. Actually we received comments from the judges later, advising us to simplify the functions. Another difficulty lied in the differences of opinion within our team. Sometimes arguments arose. However, looking back on the whole process, I think arguments and doubts, which facilitated our thinking and discussions, contributed a lot to our success.

P: How did you feel on the day of presentation?

X: I was both nervous and exciting. Actually we were somewhat messed up that day. Something was wrong with the printer then. As the first team to do the presentation,

We worried that printed papers couldn’t be submitted to the judges on time. Then it’s the time planning. Six team members were supposed to have a speech. Thus there should be a reasonable division of time that each member took to speak. That’s why we timed out in the end. But I was very happy to see the accomplishment of a project that we had put so much effort into; moreover, it gave me a sense of achievement to share our ideas with so many people.

P: What’s the greatest benefit that you got from the experience?

X: Before that, for either work or study, I had little chance of collaborating with a group of people to complete a project. From the practice, I gained a lot of new experiences, for instance, when to insist on putting forward my own ideas and when to compromise for the sake of the team’s interest. Those can only be acquired from practices. Meanwhile, it also benefits my work and study, since team work has been an increasingly popular concept nowadays.

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An interview with a Uni of Westminster graduate: how did he make a business plan

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Since there is a traditional project for the students of Media Management in Uni of Westminster, all of us are told to make an elaborate, feasible, and creative business plan,and pitched it at the end of semester in front of some investors just like “Dragons’ Den”. I have to say, it really drives us crazy. So we contacted with Mr.Gaspar Oladosu who did that last year, let’s see what did our upperclassman  say about it.

P=Perfect Pitch     G=Gaspar Oladosu

P:What was your business plan? Could you give a brief introduction of your project (both the idea and the product or service)?

G:We named our business plan INGRIDI. It was a name we coined based on USP of the business. Ingridi was positioned to be a mobile app with a fully optimized website, which sought to capitalize on the success of food industry but unlike the typical food search app, it follows a revolutionary path by creating an ingredient-based menu database.

‘In a multicultural society, different groups expect different ingredients in a dish. Ingridi seeks to cater for this need. Searching by ingredients and considering the search history of the users makes it possible that it can offer entirely revolutionary and unique restaurant recommendations based on the dishes users want to eat.’ (Ingridi Business Plan 2014).

‘Ingridi is mainly designed for people who exhibit sensitivity with regard to what their meals contain: Hungry Surfers, Picky Eaters, Food Explorers, Specific Needs Dieters, inter alia. The number of sensitive eaters is on the increase because of health concerns. Ingridi also serves users who look for suggestions on their dining choices. It is poised to build up a community based on food and lifestyle information.’ (ibid).

The fundamental database of ingredients of dishes from restaurants is the key resource Ingridi acquires and holds on to, whereas the unique value Ingridi provides to its users is to provide results to them directly, quickly, and accurately –exactly what you want to eat in just a few steps!

P:How did you generate such an idea?

G:We arrived at the idea after a series of brain storming and research. (we followed the guidelines given in one of the modules…I think the one on Project Management) There were various ideas on the table, but after analyzing the merits of each based on the data we had gathered, we settled for Ingridi. With the entry of disruptive technologies onto the global scene, app developers have identified the food industry for prospective growth and as such have keyed into the rapport between food service and mobile commerce. It is against this backdrop that it became a wise decision to seek to capitalize on the success of this industry.

P:How was your preparation? What was the biggest problem or the most difficult thing in the process? What did you do to solve such problems? Or if it was not that difficult for you, could you please talk about how did your prepare the whole things?

G:In all honesty, this was the most tedious group work. It involved putting to use all the tools we had been equipped with during the course of the taught masters – from scenario planning to management report to the finance and media markets etcetra. I was lucky to have a group of team players dedicated and hardworking, but it still wasn’t a stroll in the park. After arriving at the concept or idea of our business plan, we drew up a project timeline and distributed functions amongst ourselves. Some handled the product structure, market strategy, technological framework , some researched into competitors, others handled finance and finding… etc. The biggest challenge in my own opinion, was making our business plan water tight by which I mean not subject to any loop hole or criticism, especially when we faced the dragons. It was tough but it was very rewarding. In terms of our risks and mitigations however, our major difficulty amongst others, was how we were going to change user experience in terms of the existing way of food searching.

P:What did you feel on the big presentation day?

G:The presentation day came with its usual anxieties, especially as we had to pitch before ‘strangers’ called the ‘Dragons’ being fully aware of their frightening resumes, as well as the fact that our grades were at stake. But because we had put in a good shift in terms of preparation and even had mock presentations earlier, we were able to handle the pressure. That in no way suggests it was an easy task, especially when we had to respond to the queries of the dragons. In all, it was very eventful.

P:Looking back the project and the process, what kind of help did it bring to you?

G:If I must say, the business plan project (as well as the Social Media Project which was my favourite) provides a platform to put into praxis the theoretical lessons gathered in all the modules. It presents a real world situation. The project has transformed me to ‘a jack of all trade’. You get to learn something about everything.

P:Is such help also very helpful and valuable for your current work?

G:My previous answer says it all. Project management, Team Work, Elevator Pitching, Brainstorming, Value chain evaluation…. these are all tools need on the job. The project equipped me with some of these.

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Look  how University of Westminster students pitch their business plans:

An interview with Kai-Fu Lee: Top advice for students and startups on pitching

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It was very lucky to have an opportunity to interview Kai-Fu Lee, who is a super famous ‘incubator’ for Chinese tech startups and also on the list of “The 2013 TIME 100”. At the meantime, he is an influencing micro-blogger in China as well with fifty million and seven hundred thousand followers.

In 2009, Kai-Fu Lee left his job as the VP of Google, and founded ‘Innovation Works’ which is an angel investment firm that aims at helping young people succeed as startups. After a very serious disease, he is now still trying to help Chinese students overseas with smile from heart.

Fortunately our group at Perfect Pitch had the privilege to interview Kai-Fu Lee in London. Here is what he had to say to us on the subject of pitching, giving top advice for students and startups. Check out the short but sweet talk we had.

P=Perfect Pitch     K=Kaifu Lee

P: Whether it is risky to have startups just after graduated?

K: It depends, like if you don’t have confidence or you only have confidence but nothing else, I wouldn’t recommend you try that. Instead, if you have a great idea, a great opportunity and a great team it would be a strength gift for starting a business. Due to the rapidly growing economy, especially in China, there are giant opportunities to success. What’s more, there is a 10-year golden time since you graduated, don’t waste it, don’t miss the opportunity to learn and to grow in your best age.

P: What kind of project are you interested in?

K: I’m always interested in Internet and technology industry. And now what attracts me most is new stuff about the generation after 90s. They are different from 80s, they were born under the Internet environment and there is in the internet blood of the 90s, their business projects tend to be more creative and easier to arouse young generation’s sympathy.

P: What kind of project is most likely to get invest from your company?

K: I value the person who established business most. Most young people I have invested are talented or have successful projects before.

P: What unique potentials do they have?

K: Most people don’t belong to talented group, maybe one of ten have that inborn ability. In my mind, a successful entrepreneur may have these qualities: learning ability, resistant capability, execution and the capacity to make decisions. Making a wrong decision is better than making no decision.

P: How to convince investors?

K: Firstly you have to prepare well, a detailed proposal is very important.

Meanwhile you must look at yourself as a salesman, your product is your business plan, and you should do your best to sell it.

Good expression and presentation is necessary, cause maybe it is often the only chance you have to promote your product to investor, make sure that you have shown the best of yourself.

P: Are there any advices for young start-ups?

K: Great ideas are the most irreplaceable wealth. As time goes on, many staff in specific industry will replaced by robots and high technology. But talents of art and other creative business are always needed, and it is the same to the relevant projects.

Another suggestion is joining in an excellent startups team may better than looking for a mature large company, your growth and knowledge will be totally different, you will have more freedom and flexibility to express your ideas, not just being a lag spike of a huge machine.

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