Google EYE and CUHK Announce 40 Startup Teams Moving to Mentorship Stage of Program

Over the weekend, 40 teams moved into the mentorship stage of the Google EYE program, bringing them that much closer to a visit to the tech giant’s Mountain View headquarters. See which 40 teams made it through here.

With a starting 900 in the program, teams put together 150 business plans and went through multidisciplinary training to build the foundation for entrepreneurship and tech know-how. In the next stage, the 40 teams will go through an intensive mentorship program and will continue building on their business plans and prototypes with the help of veteran mentors. After pitching to a panel of judges, chosen teams will head to the Bay Area and have the opportunity to connect with local entrepreneurs and investors. Read more details on the program here.

We had a chat with Professor Kevin Au, director of CUHK’s Center for Entrepreneurship and one of the organisers of Google EYE, to get an inside look at the program. According to Kevin, the Google EYE program’s focus is on attacking weaknesses in Hong Kong’s culture, which will strengthen the overall environment for entrepreneurship.

“A multidisciplinary kind of thinking is missing here. The education system and general social setup in Hong Kong is that people are quite uniform in their interests and training,” he said. “In university, students usually focus on their studies and don’t make friends outside of their faculty, so their network is also very uniform. But when you set up a company, you will need multidisciplinary teams.” The strength of a great startup team is drawn from the diverse expertise of its people, so Kevin said it’s imperative for engineers, designers and business-minded folk to learn to work together.

(Professor Au on the far right)

Besides attempting to disrupt the uniform way of thinking Hong Kong’s culture is known for, the EYE program is also looking to improve the mentorship process. While mentors traditionally operate as a standalone support system for teams of entrepreneurs, the EYE program will also group these experts into teams so they can pool their resources and learn from one another. Kevin said that the program aims to benefit not just mentees, but mentors as well.

Besides ensuring both sides have a great learning experience, Kevin also said that EYE program organisers have intentionally built in intrinsic competition between mentor teams. “Mentors need to be motivated to do good work. Of course, they join the program because they have the heart, but as time goes on – people get busy and their motivation might drop,” he said. By being transparent in the progress of other teams, such as sharing which mentors are spending more time with their mentees, Kevin feels it will add a motivating and competitive element to the process.

The mentor-mentee matching session will take place on June 21st and the mentorship stage of the program will run from July to August. Kevin said Hong Kong’s startup community will be invited to the final pitch day – stay tuned for more information!

Watch this clip of Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s visit to CUHK:

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