Malaysian Students Create 3 Startups In 15 Minutes At Ginza Hub

Malaysian Students Create 3 Startups In 15 Minutes At Ginza Hub

Robert Millar presenting BLast week I had the pleasure of mentoring a group of switched on young international business students from Monash University Malaysia, a branch campus of the Australian Monash University, right here at Ginza Hub. They were travelling to Vietnam and Japan to learn about local business environments, to visit various companies and their representatives, and to cover different areas of business from HR to franchising to manufacturing.

I imagined that these young Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and Bangladeshi students would be bored silly listening to executives from big Japanese corporations drone on about corporate economics and such, so I thought I’d shake things up a bit by asking them to create their own startups during my presentation, in just 15 minutes. And damn! They stepped up to the challenge and did just that! Here’s what happened…

Robert Millar presenting CI was given the topic of “local management style and its applicability in foreign ventures” so I laid the setting by welcoming everyone to Ginza Hub, Tokyo’s only everything-in-English co-working space, and presenting two of the major business models used in Japan, The Standard Business Model and The Lean Startup Model.

  • The Standard Business Model – Describes how an organisation creates, delivers and captures value, enabling both new and existing businesses to focus on operational, strategic and marketing efforts. It’s all about developing the relationships between customers, suppliers, partners, and stakeholders, and extending best-selling products. Very much old school Japan (and a bit of a yawn…)
  • The Lean Startup Model – An adaptation of the Standard Business Model which promises an actionable and entrepreneur-focused business. It focuses on problems, solutions, key metrics and competitive advantages. It deeply focuses on startup factors like uncertainty and risk by identifying a problem worth solving, by validating a solution in the marketplace via a Minimum Viable Product or “MVP”, by measuring key metrics, and by establishing a competitive advantage. It’s rapidly becoming the new face of Japan.

Students listeningThe students were clearly familiar with these two business models, judging by the looks on their faces, so I quickly moved on to the next phase.

I proposed the complication by explaining how a former Australian business of mine followed the Standard Business Model diligently, only to fail spectacularly because we never really identified a problem worth solving and certainly didn’t think about validating our solution in the marketplace pre-launch. I used a lot of big gestures for this, even a “mic drop” (using a whiteboard marker, ha!) along with some exaggerated facial expressions to show my true dismay at having lost that otherwise cool business, and the students started to warm to my story.

I then delivered the turning point by showing them the very different story of Ginza Hub’s complete success as a startup, sketched out on a huge sheet of paper which had startup guru Ash Maurya’s Lean Startup Canvas printed on it. I showed them that the creation and development of Ginza Hub had this time not followed the the Standard Business Model at all, but instead had followed the Lean Startup Model (which I’ve created a short course on here), complete with a genuine problem worth solving and real validation in the target marketplace via an MVP, and I believe I then had their full attention.

So, at that moment, I decided to release Surprise Number 1 :

Tia Haygood presenting 1I told the students not to simply take my word for it that the Lean Startup Model  really worked, but to take it from a young entrepreneur, who’s startup wasn’t even a year old, but who was amazingly just about to hit her first big revenue target. Enter Ginza Hub expert and superstar photographer, the lovely Tia Haygood.

Up to this point in the presentation, Tia had been quietly moving about the room taking photos and pretending to be a local photo journalist or some such. Then I called her up to the “stage” and asked her to map out her own business on another huge Lean Startup Canvas fixed to the whiteboard. Many of the students were leaning forward now, and seemed really impressed with Tia and how she was able to deftly describe how she stepped away from the comfort of regular employment to follow her startup dream, and how she was actually making that dream happen (just look at the photos in this post to see clear evidence of that!)Tia Haygood presenting 2

So, when Tia was finished with her presentation, I decided to release Surprise Number 2 :

I told the students that, given what they’d just learned from Tia and I, they had 15 minutes to create a startup of their own! Ha!

We divided them into 3 teams, each with big Lean Startup Canvases and whiteboard pens, and started the timer! I was truly amazed at the awesome collaboration and synergy (and panic!) that this exercise produced (Surprise Number 3, maybe?) And when the time ran out we had some really great ideas down on paper in a meaningful flow.

Student synergy 1Each team then selected a presenter or two to get up and pitch their startup idea to the entire crowd. We then voted for the best startup, which ended up being an offline phone application showing maps and places of interest in the Malaysian capital to help foreign tourists navigate that fair city without any phone network or WiFi access. Brilliant!

Student synergy 2Once all the chatting and laughing had died down, I concluded the presentation with the resolution and, of course, the point!

I suggested that the old, slow, over-complex Standard Business Model had had it’s time, and that as startups went from novelties to serious market movers in Japan, the Lean Startup Model would rapidly become the new standard in meaningful business. I then compelled each of the students present, as potential future business owners in our region, to consider adopting this standard too.

Brian at the helmAfter an intelligent and very thought-provoking Q&A session, we then all moved from the conference & event room upstairs to the Ginza Hub co-working area for a quick tour. There the students got to see real entrepreneurs building real businesses, plus we’d set up monitors at either end of the room displaying TopTia‘s photographic portfolio to underscore Tia’s remarkable journey.

A few of the students approached me there with really positive feedback about the presentation. And the faculty members gave me a wonderful plaque of appreciation, in gold leaf no less, which they’d brought all the way from Malaysia and which now sits in a place of honour at Ginza Hub for all to see.

Honestly, if my mentoring efforts here have encouraged even one of these students to forego his or her future life as a corporate drone and instead go forth as an educated and prepared entrepreneur, then it’ll have been more than worth my while… Rock on, younglings!

MIB in the house

* Big shout outs to MIB students Eugene (You’ll go far, this I know!), Davish (I actually liked your startup idea the best. Here’s a hint why!), Brian (first to market is usually the winner, right?) and lovely Mash who had such kind words after the event.

Ok, I’ll see you all in Tokyo again when you’re ready to launch! 😉

Ginza Hub Experts

Ginza Hub Experts Community

We’re so fortunate at Ginza Hub to have great people creating new and interesting business every day, many of whom are Experts in areas like photography, graphic design, web development and even public speaking. They know exactly how to help other entrepreneurs too, having managed many of the same processes building their own businesses.

Hire An Expert page
Our Hire An Expert page

But there’s only so much these Experts can do inside the walls of Ginza Hub, so the next logical step was to create an online directory for them on to promote their skills outside of our cosy co-working space.

So now, from our Hire An Expert page, startups and other entrepreneurs can contact our Experts directly for any assistance they might need in starting or growing their business.

Such clients can also email me at to post a job notice for them in our growing Experts community’s private Facebook Group.

Experts Only Toolbox
Our Experts Only Toolbox

I actively promote our Experts, and in turn encourage them to promote each other. The result is a wide-reaching network of people with a diverse range of startup-focused skills all helping to promote each others’ businesses and furthering the startup community as a whole. It’s pretty awesome!

We also have a Become An Expert page where skilled entrepreneurs can sign up to join our Experts community. This is a subscription-based service, where for ¥29,700 a year new Experts will be featured in our Experts Directory, will have their website’s Google rankings improved via quality backlinks from, will gain access to our private Facebook Group where they’ll receive job notifications and can connect, collaborate and learn from like-minded Experts, will gain access to our special Experts Only Toolbox of online courses and resources for business success, and of course will be found by startups and small businesses seeking both virtual and in-person business support.

I’ve made joining our Ginza Hub Experts a paid subscription service because I want to keep the quality of our Experts high. Basically, if someone can’t afford to invest just ¥2,475 a month to have us promote and grow their business, then they probably aren’t a good fit for the group.

The way it all works is an entrepreneur will first gravitate to or be referred to our Become An Expert or Hire An Expert page. Then they’ll learn that they can easily gain more than the price of the subscription by joining us, hit the Join Now button and pay the first year of membership. I’ll then contact them to gather their details and learn how good a fit they are for the group.

I imagine that most people who complete payment will have a skillset that’ll be valuable for Ginza Hub clients and visitors, but if not then I’ll simply refund their money without fuss.

So, the million dollar question – Are you an entrepreneur who has what it takes to become a Ginza Hub Expert? Can you afford to invest ¥2,475 in your business for the opportunity to gain a lot more than that? If so, check out the company you’ll keep, then sign up on our Become An Expert page or shoot me an email at if you have any questions.