In end of March, a virtual workshop entitled ‘Global Business Pitch 2021 Connecting Japan and Estonia’was held between students of the Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences (EUAS) and the Faculty of Economics of Oita University in which the students presented their business ideas.As far as is known, this is the first direct form of cooperation between Estonian and Japanese students.
The idea, a historic milestone in the field of education in Estonia, came about from an inquiry by Kunio Ikari, innovation lecturer of the Faculty of Economics of Oita University, to Tsubasa Yoshito, project manager for Japan at the Estonia-Asia Trade Agency of Enterprise Estonia, who made a proposal for cooperation with EUAS as a higher educational institution well known for its focus on entrepreneurship.
The objective of the workshop was to exchange students’ business ideas based on a local product or service and thereby broaden the knowledge of students with very different cultural and educational backgrounds and approaches to creative solutions.
Seven teams consisting of three to four members responded to the announcement sent to all EUAS students to participate in the competition. Of these teams, a committee selected the five best, who then presented their ideas to the school’s jury (Inna Švartsman, Ranno Päi, Kristel Oitmaa). They all had speed training in pitching by Harald Lepisk (training.ee) who gave useful tips on how to effectively introduce a business idea. Finally, the jury selected three teams that were asked to represent the school at the workshop.
EUAS was represented by teams comprising graphic design and web technologies students:
Sofa Tour - Edward Reeds, Kristel Kukk, Lija Davarashvili
The idea of the solution: to offer a virtual travelling opportunity during a pandemic. The objective is to create a platform where on certain days and times people are taken on virtual tours to various places in Estonia. The virtual tour is conducted by a guide with the help of an interpreter who puts the spoken text into the Japanese language. The tour is undertaken in real time.
Remarks of the team:
‘The members of our team have previously participated in cooperation initiatives and development of ideas. This time we contributed all our creativity, energy and skills for the benefit of the most effective business idea. Our ‘Sofa Tours’ project was born out of this intensive cooperation and the many ideas generated during the project.
As we have so little free time, the task was challenging. We were only able to meet and develop it in the evenings, which inevitably led to some sleepless nights. However, we learned to listen to each other, not to be afraid of new solutions and to continue developing them even if we failed to achieve the exact original idea. We believe that our business idea has a bright future. We should certainly develop it further. There should be more such projects because they help us learn to look into the future and think outside of the box.’
WeCare - Marietta Bauman, Maria Kesvatera, Sten Evert
The idea of the solution: WeCare home sensor is a complete digital solution that gives a sense of security to people living alone.
Remarks of the team:
‘Our team worked together very actively and seamlessly. We assigned parts of the project to different team members and communicated via Zoom where we agreed specifically on how and what we have to do. As everyone was dedicated and enthusiastic, parts of the project were completed even before the deadline, leaving us additional time to make improvements.
The hardest was the beginning – how to find information about Japan with sufficient facts and one problem or area on which to base a new service/product.
The feedback given by the committee was generally supportive and gave ideas for improvement of our product. The experience we gained developed our ability to plan and work in a team. This project also helped us learn more about Japan because none of our team members had any idea about their life and problems. All in all, we gained valuable experience in product and service development by starting a project from the scratch.’
Bite of Estonia – Anna-Liisa Tuuna, Jana Šalamova, Meril Tangsoo and Triin Kalmus
The idea of the solution: the service brings to a consumer’s door a package with products characteristic to the seasons that best represent true Estonian tastes.
Remarks of the team:
‘Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to work on an actual project that sparked huge interest and was a great lesson for the entire team!
The team members were super from the beginning as was the cooperation between them. When researching the Japanese market, one of the team members had an idea to offer tastes typical of Estonia. We created a shared document and began finding answers to questions. We did not even assign specific tasks. One team member started to write and the others added to, improved and made it easier to follow. Everything fell into place seamlessly.
As it turned out, the most complicated part of the project was preparation for the pitching because none of us had ever made a presentation via the web. Anxiety and fear to make mistakes was big. We were also afraid about whether the slides would work when shared on the screen and that everything would be clearly audible. None of us had much experience in making presentations.
What we liked was that we received actual and constructive feedback from both the committee and the students. They immediately pointed out issues we had not noticed ourselves.
It is hard to say if we will continue with the business idea or not, but we will certainly consider it. We learned that when everyone is dedicated and cares for others, work flows well. We gained a valuable teamwork experience.
Of course, the presented task was challenging in many ways and forced us to think differently. It was fascinating to see how two different countries see each other and assess the other’s needs. In addition, we were able to watch the presentations by the Japanese students and received direct feedback from the target group of our idea.’
The business ideas presented by Oita University students were the following:
E-store platform offering products of Japanese origin
Healthy sake made from local raw materials
Healthy salad dressing
The jury that evaluated the business ideas comprised Mari Taalmann, Anete-Johanna Vedder and Kristel Oitmaa from EUAS and Yoshiyuki Kosuge from Oita University, Tsubasa Yoshito, Takeshi Omika and Naofumi Makino.
The initiator of the project: precondition of innovation is new value offer
Kunio Ikari,the initiator of the project and innovation lecturer at Oita University, said that although the students of his university have won many awards at domestic business plan preparing competitions, the different view of the Estonians was enriching.
‘The joint event gave a superb opportunity to teach entrepreneurial skills for building a sustainable future. In the contemporary business world, a leading global role is important for young people. However, students experience difficulties in gaining sufficient opportunities to improve their international experience. I hope that this initiative helps develop more interest in businesses related to Estonia and Japan,’ said Ikari and stressed that the broader objective of Oita University is to grow into an international community and thereby support global business development.
In characterising the EUAS students’ projects, Ikari noticed their sense of reality. ‘It is important for a young entrepreneur to understand the trends of the time and create feasible business ideas. Along with the improving situation, they should be increasingly knowledgeable about their customers and competitors. This allows for adding uniqueness to a business idea. Innovation does not happen before there is interest and an ability to offer customers new value,’ explained Ikari.
EUAS Business Development and Partnerships Manager Kristel Oitmaa: ‘Sharing experience internationally has great value for students from the perspective of acquiring new knowledge as well as expanding their contact network. The Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences in Ülemiste City is always open to new initiatives. We immediately accepted the proposal of Oita University. I believe that this unique form of exchanging ideas and experience has established a basis for even larger cooperation projects.’
Several presentations were made during the workshop:
Takeshi Omika, representative of the Estonian branch of the Japanese Marubeni Corporation. Marubeni is the fifth-largest sogo shosha (general trading company) with sales revenue of over 50 billion euros;
‘Kyoto Start-Up Visa’ by Naofumi Makino;
‘Importance of innovation and entrepreneurship initiated in small countries and cities’ by Kristel Oitmaa.