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  • Writer's pictureAnderson Lam Wei Cheng

Entrepreneur Coffee Chat (Mr. Ken Singer) - SCET Berkeley

November 1, 2022 - 2:10 PM

I had an opportunity to have a coffee chat with Mr. Ken Singer, Managing Director of Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at UC Berkeley as part of the SCET Student Innovation Fellow Challenge. Mr. Ken is one of the founding members of the Applied Innovation Institute, a Silicon Valley-based non-profit think tank dedicated to the creation and continuous development of innovation as it should be applied to real-world issues. He wishes to take the concepts of the competitive nature of the course and turn it into a global competition between universities worldwide.

The first time I encountered Mr. Ken was he gave a talk at my ENGINE 198: Transfer Link class. He shared a lot of things about networking, diversity, and entrepreneurship that sparks my interest in learning more from him, which is why I decided to meet him and have a coffee chat together. Throughout the coffee chat, I learned a lot from him, and the things he told me really make sense. He shared with me a lot of wisdom and advice that I need to grow and think as an entrepreneur.

Since my career goal is to help the agricultural industry in Malaysia, instead of just thinking about the apparent level of the agriculture problem which I can easily find on Google, Mr. Ken challenged me to ask the farmers "what are the things that keep them up every night." This question can help me to figure out the "real problems" that I as an engineer and entrepreneur think about and probably solve one day. Google has the answers that might both be correct and wrong but if I directly ask the farmers who are experiencing the difficulties will allow me to know the actual deeper problem. "Find the source of the problem, the actual deeper problem and how is it going to affect."

He also took some time to share with me that there are a few companies that use innovative technology to identify what kind of problem a plant has, for example, lack of water, lack of a specific nutrient, too hot & humid environment, and others. We are not able to see the problems of a plant with our naked eyes but with the innovative technology that the company entrepreneurs realized and designed, we are now able to identify the problem of the plants and provide the right solutions to them. This is how entrepreneurs think, they think about what is the actual problem and what can they do to solve the problem.

He also shared with me about plant-based meat. Eating pork meat or bacon has been prohibited by Muslims because it is not halal but now with plant-based meat, Muslims can be able to try out the taste of bacon that is made up of plant nutrients and is halal for them to consume. Animals have been really intoxicating the planet for the past few centuries but if we can all stop consuming animal products real soon, we are able to save our planet. Thus the plant-based meat initiative has been really successful and worth the time for us to work on.

Moreover, he also shared and explained to me the concept of the "Failure Case." He used the example of why battery-powered vehicles were not a trend in the past. This is because there is at least 1 in a 10000 battery that might fail or doesn't work the way it is depending on the surrounding environment. Every day there are around 115 million cars and trucks driving on the road and if they are all battery-powered, there are at least ten thousand vehicles broke down per day, and that ten thousand people won't be able to make it to the workplace on time. This is why gasoline or petrol-powered vehicles are used by people most of the time as the failure case percentage is much lower. As an entrepreneur, we also need to think about the failure case percentage of the solution we provide to the problem and the effect on the surrounding. Will the drone stop flying and injured someone if its battery is empty? Will the laptop explode if the battery is overheated? Will the plant die if we added more fertilizers than needed?

Mr. Ken challenged me to think about what the actual deeper problems are there in the world and how can I help or what can I do. "Just keep thinking whenever I am free though there might not be answers to the questions yet."


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