Father’s Passion To Teach His Kids Future Skills, Sparks Educational Startup, Gets Noticed By VCs


“I have always felt that students shouldn’t be gauged by their academic results alone.”, asserted Manu Menon, parent of two primary school-goers and founder of edtech startup, Youthopia.

“It was worrying to see that my kids, though doing well academically, lacked skills like communication and critical thinking. These and many more foundational skills are not taught explicitly in public schools in Malaysia. Unfortunately, these are the exact skills that are needed in the future”, he said.

Bent upon finding frameworks that highlighted the power of 21st-Century (C21) Skills, his research triggered a desire to then teach these skills in a fun and interactive way. Thus, Youthopia was born with the founder’s vision to equip as many students as possible with C21 Skills so that they become lifelong learners and can adapt to the fast-changing world.

The startup has built an online platform to equip students aged 10-16 with foundational skills like critical thinking and creativity in order to produce the next generation workforce who can adapt to an ever-changing future.

“I saw the announcement [of Founders Grindstone initiative] on MDEC’s Facebook page and the application process was easy to follow”, said Menon, who received an acceptance email to Batch 1 within a few days of submitting his application.

MDEC’s Founders Grindstone programme gives Youthopia a boost in achieving its vision to develop the next-gen workforce.

MDEC's initiative - Founders Grindstone in July 2020

The Founders Grindstone is a six-month programme, launched by MDEC in July 2020. It consists of three blocks of intensive workshops conducted by global partners from venture capital firms, equity crowdfunding operators, startup-centric media and the legal practice.

It also aims to offer the opportunity to leverage funding platforms of the partners on-board, granting Malaysian entrepreneurs access to investment offerings by the global funding network.

Youthopia was one of the top 10 winning startups of Founders Grindstone’s Pitching Competition that has been onboarded to join Draper Venture Network & get connected to 23 potential VCs. The other 9 are AVANA, HelloFinance, Vechnology, Mobi, Hauz, Senang Insurance, mytruck.my, PanOpthalmics and Homecrowd.

Hauz, Senang Insurance and Youthopia were successfully chosen by the judges as three startups, to be awarded scholarships to participate in the virtual Draper University entrepreneurship programme.

Manu Menon, found MDEC’s Founders Grindstone programme useful as it helped him prepare the company for pitching to investors. Youthopia is at that stage where it is looking for strategic investors to help it scale.

“The ideas shared by the Draper Startup House and Izwan & Partners helped us focus our pitch deck and understand the legal requirements to look out for when pitching to and negotiating with potential investors. We feel this will serve as a boost in helping us raise our seed round,” said Menon.

Commenting on the success of the 10 top performers of the initiative, Surina Shukri, MDEC’s CEO said, “MDEC’s strategic priorities surrounding digitally skilled Malaysians, digitally powered businesses and digital investments, serve to accelerate local companies to become global champions. Through initiatives like the Founders Grindstone, MDEC is well-positioned to help startups like Youthopia, Hauz, Senang Insudance and the other 7 toppers, to become global champions that, together, can propel Malaysia towards being a digital nation and place Malaysia as the heart of Digital ASEAN, as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution to achieve shared prosperity.”

Heads-up to all startups!

Founders Grindstone is an MDEC initiative that empowers tech entrepreneurs to maximise their potential of gaining funding from renowned global investors. Through this programme, entrepreneurs will receive first-hand coaching and tips from the investors themselves before submitting their pitch decks. 

MDEC will open the second batch of Founders Grindstone soon. For more information, stay informed here https://www.malaysiadigitalhub.my/virtualfunding

by Shobha Janardanan

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