HSBC selects five finalists

By Karen chapman

CONGRATULATIONS to the five teams who have made it to the third and final round of the HSBC Young IT Entrepreneur Awards 2003! They are: Palmaris, Kafelnikov, PTC, Just Startup and Epsilon. 

The teams impressed the panel of judges with their creativity, innovativeness and project viability. The chief judge, HT Consulting (Asia) Sdn Bhd group CEO Harres Tan, said the panel decided on the top five teams after much deliberation. 

''The judges were given all 28 business plans to read. So when we came today, it was to discuss the entries,'' he said on Thursday.  

Originally, 30 teams out of 333 were shortlisted for the second round. However, one team dropped out while another was disqualified. 

The business plans were judged for innovation and creative thinking, commercial viability and potential, application of IT knowledge and skills.  

VIABLE VIBES: The judges looking for well-researched and feasible business plans.

Said Tan: ''Top marks go to teams for their creativity and innovativeness. We were looking for something practical, not something that can only be applied in the future. Perhaps what was lacking was the financial side as the students may not have been exposed to it yet.'' 

Some of the business plans stood out from the rest and it was obvious how much work and research had gone into them, said Tan. 

''As an example, the Epsilon team came up with the idea of a 24-hour karaoke satellite broadcasting channel. This works along the lines of pay-per-view movies, except that in this case, it is a monthly payment for karaoke songs. 

''The Palmaris team also have a good idea in using PDAs in the practice of medicine as it is a growing trend,'' he said. 

The panel of judges included HSBC Bank Malaysia chief information officer Chu Hong Keong, Sunway Technology CEO Mok Sew Wah and The Star In.Tech editor A. Asohan. 

Fellow judge Mok was just as impressed with the plans. ''Considering that the participants are students, some of the plans submitted were obviously very well researched. It was clear that much effort had been put into them,'' he said. 

Asohan said the top five stood out as the ideas were not just good, the teams showed their ability to think things through. ''Although some of the ideas may not be commercially viable, the teams scored well because of this,'' he added. 

Chu, who was chief judge in the first round, said the judges were looking for viable plans. 

''We were not looking for something from Star Trek. Sometimes, it is the simple idea which people don't think about which stands out.” 

Concurring with Tan, Chu said the idea from the Epsilon team is viable as existing technology can support it.  

Organised by HSBC Bank Malaysia, this challenging competition is running for the second consecutive year. It is open to full-time undergraduate degree or diploma students at public or private universities and colleges. 

Congratulating the five teams, Chu said the next step is a presentation skills workshop on Jan 27. ''The five teams will then compete for the championship by making a formal presentation of their business plan before a panel of judges on March 6,'' he added. 

The hard work is almost over. The winning team will not only win trophies, but also earn RM15,000 and a trip to Seattle, in the United States. In Seattle, the team can look forward to an exciting itinerary, including the opportunity to observe and learn about the latest IT and media developments and meet successful young entrepreneurs. 

Team members will also get a taste of life as university students in the United States as they will be living on the University of Washington campus. Highlights of the trip include visits to Microsoft, the Seattle Times (an online newspaper) as well as Boeing’s Flight Museum. But it’s not all serious stuff as the winners will get to do some sightseeing in Seattle too. 

For all their hard work, the other finalists will also receive prizes. The second and third place winners will get Silver and Bronze awards respectively. 

The other teams in the second round which in the judges' opinion produced an excellent performance, will receive RM2,000 and a certificate of excellence. They are Team Flea (Mantissa Institute), TRI (Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology) Geneo Generation-E (Inti College), Team H.O.T (Monash University) and Team RMS (Kolej Universiti Teknologi Tun Hussein Onn). 

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