In February this year MIT returned to Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane to run the MIT Innovation & Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. This year’s week-long Bootcamp concentrated on technology-enabled innovation with a focus on sustainability in the environment, agriculture, and mining sectors; areas of strategic importance to Queensland. Suhyun Kweon was one of the talented Queensland entrepreneurs selected to participate in the Bootcamp that brought together 130 innovators from 40 countries. Suhyun is currently completing a Masters of Optometry at QUT and was one of three Queenslanders who received an Advance Queensland-QUT scholarship to fund her participation in the Bootcamp. We catch up with Suhyun to talk about how the Bootcamp has changed her ways of thinking, the connections she has made and what comes next for her.
Can you tell me how you got involved in the 2018 Innovation and Entrepreneurship MIT Bootcamp?
A year ago, I was working as a student research assistant at QUT. I was looking through the QUT website and saw a post about the 2017 MIT Bootcamp. I was quite interested in this as I could see many researchers applying for and not getting grants and so many researchers struggle to pursue their area of interest because of a lack of grant funding. So I thought entrepreneurship might help me. I thought every time you have a good idea you need to be practical and you shouldn’t just think about your passion. You also need to think about your marketing strategy, your finances, and ways to make your passion sustainable. So I applied to the 2018 MIT Bootcamp.
How did the weeklong bootcamp work?
The Bootcamp is based on Professor Bill Aulet’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship framework. So over the six days you move through the 24 steps. On day one we followed through steps one to five, then steps six to ten on day two and so on. It really helps you be entrepreneurial as you move through this step-by-step process. It means entrepreneurship is not too scary because everything that needs to be addressed is there in the 24 steps. It’s a really good framework.
What solution did you work on?
The topic of this year’s MIT Bootcamp was sustainability. I formed a team with one person from India, one person from South Africa, one from Perth and another from QUT; we worked on water quality assessment. There was a corporate challenge posed by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation about water quality in the Australian cotton industry. We tried to solve that sustainability issue for the cotton industry.
What was your favourite moment?
It is all about people. There were people there from 40 countries and everyone was very exceptional and very bright. It’s always good to work with like-minded people and it was surprising to work with people who sync with you really well even though they come from different backgrounds and different countries. It was an incredible experience.
I think that post the MIT Bootcamp, it is the relationships I made and the network I built that was the most valuable aspects of participating. After the MIT Bootcamp, we have had alumni events to go to and I have just returned from a meeting with MIT representatives in Boston about dementia, which is an issue I am interested in researching for a PhD.
What did you learn at the Bootcamp that you would like to pass on to other innovators?
It sounds really clichéd but it’s all about people. It was a good opportunity to be around people 24/7 for six days. You got to know people personally and build trust with them. Before the MIT Bootcamp, to be honest, I thought I only needed to access skills from other people, and I didn’t need to socialise or get to know other people if I wanted to work with them. Now I know that getting to know each other and build trust is more important than just accessing skills other people have.
The other thing that I learnt is that execution is the key to success. Often I think about starting something I don’t think I’m ready. But now I know that if I follow the 24 steps then I can start executing. People can follow this systematic approach even if they think they are not ready.
What excites you about studying in Queensland as an innovator?
I think innovation and entrepreneurship are big issues here at QUT and in Brisbane. Last year I participated in a lot of QUT startup competitions and events where I met many people in the ecosystem. I found that everyone was trying to help each other. I like that culture, to be honest, and that’s why I have gotten more and more interested in entrepreneurship. I was really lucky to get a scholarship from Advance Queensland and QUT to attend the MIT Bootcamp, it was really eye-opening.
What is next for you?
I have always wanted to do a PhD in clinical neuro-science especially in the area of dementia. Right now, what I am interested in, is the research from the UK that looks at ocular motor abnormalities to predict the early biomarkers for dementia. I think this is important; and I think entrepreneurship can help me in this pursuit. Researchers should not just stay in the lab. They should actively promote their work and work with others from different disciplines who have different perspectives to make the most of their research. Research is not about just about discovering stuff; it is about making things happen and trying to develop usable solutions for our society.
Suhyun has also recently received an official offer from MIT and Harvard Medical School to participate in the MIT-Harvard Medical School Healthcare Innovation Bootcamp in August this year in Boston.
The MIT Bootcamp is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Advance Queensland funding supported the 2018 MIT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Bootcamp to run in Brisbane in partnership with QUT. Advance Queensland and QUT offered three full scholarships to Queenslanders attending the Bootcamp. The 2018 scholarship recipients were Mr Murray Saylor, Ms Suhyun Kweon and Mr Max Wasley.
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