A year ago Tomsk State University hosted the Business Game «Build a Company. Sell the Company» that gave four of its students a ticket to TechnoSpark, the best technology park of the country so that they can launch their startups there. This year after they complete their internship and defend their startupdiplomas, all of them will start their work in high-tech business in Tomsk and Troitsk. The graduates claim to have taken away a lot from their internship.
Tasks from Artificial Intelligence
There have already been four editions of the Business Game “Build a Company. Sell the Company” held in TSU – in the spring of 2019 and 2020 – under the supervision of TSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship within the Institute of Economics and Management. The game is organized by TechnoSpark which, is a technology park that creates high-tech businesses. In the 10 hours of the main stage, participants live through all steps in the creation of a new innovative industry. Despite the duration, the game will have you on the edge of your seat. Elizaveta Samoylova, who got to the finals in 2019, said that everyone could choose a role to their liking and participate at their ease.
One of the distinctive features of the game is that it is moderated by artificial intelligence: participants receive tasks in individual interfaces on their phones, and a robot-analyst evaluates each of their game moves. Personal communication between participants, moderators and organizers does not affect the result unless it leads to business deals, just as it is in real life.
The game leaders share that there is no single strategy to get through to the finals. All participants are equal at the start and only have to do what they think is right. According to Konstantin Nekrasov, the game screens you for a few qualities: interest, discipline, self-organization, and ability to act in uncertainty.
The main thing is to overcome the fear of trying because success is in the hands of the participants. Even those whose business failed had a chance to make it to their internship to work on their mistakes.
Eventually, those finalists who made it through the interview with Denis Kovalevich, TechnoSpark CEO, were awarded a paid internship that lasted nine months in various technology companies in Troitsk.
Photo by Media Office of TechnoSpark
Social Adaptation and Help from Mentors
The internship is a new experience, emotions, and contacts. The winners were accommodated in apartments in pairs, and every day they commuted to their new place of work by bus. All living expenses were covered by the university, but they still had to adapt to the new environment. For some, it took quite a while to get accustomed to their new workplace, residency, and people around, which sometimes caused disagreements among the new neighbors and affected the overall emotional comfort, wellbeing, and productivity.
The adaptation period was quite a challenge since it was when my life literally changed its course. I found myself all alone in a new town where I had nobody around, so I had to rely fully on myself, with friends and family somewhere far away. Now, most of my time was taken by work and finding solutions to real-world problems, though it actually proved to be the easiest part. It was much harder to adapt socially when you have to deal with a lot of new people and learn to interact with them.
In Troitsk, the participants were to make up their minds about how and what to work with. Even though they had the business game simulator behind their backs, reality turned out to be more difficult: unfamiliar town, different work conditions, interaction with new people, and other factors. The students had mentors who helped them navigate the new environment. They were always ready to give a hand and assistance regarding any issues so that their trainees could adopt their best practices and learn a lot.
Our colleagues from TechnoSpark did their best to make us feel at home. There was this teamwork spirit: we were welcome, cared for, and talked to. It was delightful to be there and work.
All the four winners, though, unanimously agree that they had to demonstrate a high level of concentration and responsibility. The fact that only four of 100 participants managed to get through to the finals is further proof.
All organizational activities were put on us, and, while in the process, we were getting to know a lot of people, learning to negotiate, make decisions, and think of what and how to invest in the best way. We were responsible for everything, from minor things to negotiations.
Photo by Media Office of TechnoSpark
Hands-on Experience in Real Business
When faced with something new, one always has certain expectations of how it is going to be. This time, the students who had no previous experience of what entrepreneurship is like, came up with some of their own expectations of the internship. Maria, Elizaveta, Konstantin, and Vadim alike agreed that “it lived up to all expectations, and brought even more.” Students were happy that the team of TechnoSpark proved to be friendly, and their coworkers treated their contribution seriously, which made it even more exciting.
Alongside their ongoing project, each of them could build contacts and interact with representatives of the sphere they were working in. For example, Elizaveta Samoylova completed her work on the development of a test system for microbiological control of biocorrosion in oilfield equipment and delivered a few pilot projects with oil companies. Maria Berdnikova marketed a DNA test to screen lawns for grass diseases. Konstantin Nekrasov checked a technological hypothesis and decided to completely change the technological basis of a startup, which saved substantial funds that would have been spent on a dead-end development; his company started work on a new product for cleaning pipes. Vadim Timoshenko came up with technical specifications for a serial model of a concussion sensor designed for athletes and eventually remained at TechnoSpark.
New knowledge was drawn not only from interactions with colleagues but their own work on the projects. In the course of their work, they found loose ends that had to be resolved on the spot and required new skills and knowledge. Konstantin Nekrasov was even forced to “freeze” his startup because of the business hypothesis didn’t find technical grounding. Now, the startup is going to resume work with the updated business hypothesis.
This hands-on experience did not only bring the participants first-hand knowledge of entrepreneurship but also helped them find their future jobs. Vadim Timoshenko, who is currently working at TechnoSpark, combines his work on the project that he joined at the beginning – building concussion sensors for athletes – with a new one in biotechnologies.
New participants of the 2020 #startupdiplom internship are recommended to clearly evaluate their capacities and get ready to rise above themselves, take up full responsibility for their actions, and work hard for desired results.