Powering Through: A Chat with Skilio’s Felix (Part 2)

If you are new to Felix and Skilio or missed our first interview here, here’s a brief introduction of them. 

Felix is the Founder and CEO of Skilio. With the belief that soft skills tell a greater story than paper qualifications, Skilio is a soft skills measurement and analytics platform that empowers organisations to track soft skill development. 

A current undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Felix participated in NUS Overseas College (Singapore) where he worked full-time on Skilio over 6 months. 

Tun Yong: Was it tough juggling Skilio and full-time studies? What are some tips for aspiring student entrepreneurs on juggling both?

Felix: It depends on your priorities. I was clear that in my first year of university, I knew I didn’t want to have a perfect grade. I wanted to utilise my four years in university to do something that can leave behind a legacy. That’s why I prioritized my startup journey.

That did not mean I gave up on education altogether. Instead, I put in less time and am fine with a B-plus or B-minus. Its a question that you have to ask yourself, “are you okay with a B-plus or a B-minus? 

If you are, you need to allocate your resources properly. Maybe you can study for two days and continue hustling on your startup for the remaining three days.

Once you are clear of your priorities and what you want to achieve in your time in university, you can allocate your time and resources more efficiently towards the outcome and the goal that you want to achieve.

I have seen different student entrepreneurs. Some are really dedicated and they can take a leave of absence (LOA) and put their studies on hold to do their startup full-time.

There are some that continue to juggle both studies and startup, treating the startup as a side hustle. Both methods are fine. It depends on what you want to achieve for yourself.

Tun Yong: Do you have any tips for student entrepreneurs fundraising? Should they approach VCs or are there alternative sources of funding?

Felix: It is difficult for student entrepreneurs to raise from VCs. If you want to go to VCs, you need to be super prepared. You need to know your numbers and have considerable traction. VCs would not want to take on the risk and place their bets on students that are still studying for two main reasons.

Firstly, student entrepreneurs are not experienced enough. Secondly, they prefer to invest in full-time entrepreneurs. The VCs will be thinking, “Am I investing $500,000 into seed money for you to study?” These are red flags for VCs. 

There are other ways to fundraise for student entrepreneurs. The route Skilio has taken is to go for grants and competitions. That will help you to raise some form of money to sustain your startup until you graduate. This can extend your runway until you are ready to raise your first VC round. Enterprise Singapore has quite a few grants, including the SG Founder’s grant (which we have successfully applied for).

Universities also distribute grants to help startups. You can also look to join hackathons and they serve as additional validation of your idea and the feedback shared can be quite useful.

After securing funding from these different sources, it is about allocating resources well to ensure the startup has sufficient runway.

The Skilio Team with Minister of State Alvin Tan at the Youth Action Challenge

Tun Yong: Did you face any difficulties when speaking to schools and corporates as student entrepreneurs? How did you overcome them?

Felix: I faced that issue, especially in the early days of Skilio. You have lower credibility initially as student entrepreneurs as schools and corporations will perceive you as “just another university student.”

You will face rejections. However, as you keep going at it and start getting initial traction, people will be willing to listen to you. Eventually, you will have champions amongst your clients that can help you spread the good work that you’re doing. 

Skilio’s first client came out from a mentorship session. We were just sharing what we do with her and it turned out she runs a youth organisation and was willing to try out our solution. At that time, we didn’t even have a prototype! The AI we claimed that our platform had was us doing manual mapping of soft skills in the background.

She took the leap of faith on us and became our first customer with that prototype solution. That gave us confidence that what we were doing was moving the needle in the right direction. In the end, she became a champion of our product and went to different schools persuading people to try us out.

Initially, you will always face rejections and have credibility issues. It is similar to doing sales. You knock on 10 doors and nine will reject you. However, you will have that one person who will hear you out. And if that person likes you and the work you do, they will become the evangelist to help you share the good work you are doing with others. 

And if you do this to 100 people, you have 10 people who might speak to you and these 10 people can advocate and get nine more onboard. That is how you can gain traction and get more people to listen to you. It becomes a knock-on effect thereafter. 

The initial phase is always hard. But once you get your first users, people will start to notice and you gain credibility. This makes it easier to speak to others as you come with social proof.

Interested in learning about Skilio and the work they do? Check them out here.

This interview is part of our “Founders X EDGE” series where we seek to hear the insights of youth entrepreneurs to demystify the scene and empower youths to turn their ideas into reality. Do reach out to us if you are interested in being featured alongside other great, young minds!

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Tun Yong Yap

Passionate about start-ups that identify problems, develop ideas and execute solutions that value-add to the community. As the Content Manager at EDGE, I seek to connect with youth founders to share their story and inspire others to turn their ideas into reality.

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