If you’re a high schooler looking to start your own firm, or simply keen on learning the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, then a great approach you should consider is to learn by doing. While there is no shortage of courses and classes teaching entrepreneurship and leadership, as any founder would tell you, nothing teaches like experience. Fortunately, there are equally numerous competitions and challenges for all the would-be entrepreneurs out there, that encourage participants to innovate and work on their business ideas, in a trial-by-fire form that forces you to learn in real time. One such competition that is the subject of today’s blog post is the Global Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (GYEC).
What is the Global Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge?
The GYEC is an international, online, 12-hour business idea competition specifically designed for high school students. It is hosted by the Center for Entrepreneurship Development, a Japanese non-profit that works with the aim of promoting entrepreneurship in Japanese society. The challenge is designed to bring together students from around the globe to tackle a global problem from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and attempt to solve it via an innovative and sustainable enterprise idea.
Is the GYEC Prestigious?
The GYEC is one of the most accessible international entrepreneurship challenges in the world. This accessibility means that you will be competing against hundreds of students from around the globe, which doesn’t help your chances but does mean that winning or making it to the finals is a marked achievement. In 2023, over 80 teams participated, totaling more than 600 students. Additionally, the challenge is sponsored by some of Japan’s (and the world’s) most notable firms and organizations, like KPMG, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, Nichicon, and Nissin Electric. We would classify GYEC as quite prestigious simply due to the competitive nature of the challenge both in terms of the submission and the global competitors, as well as the significant industry exposure you will receive.
Eligibility + Application Process
To be eligible for the Global Youth Entrepreneurship Competition, you must:
Be a high school student aged between 14 and 19 years on the day of the competition.
Form a team of 3 to 8 students.
Up to 3 teams are allowed to represent each country, and only 1 team is allowed to apply from the same high school as a country representative.
Fill our the application form and submit it between February 1 March 31.
Pay the registration fee of 10,000 Yen (around $66 USD) once selected, by April 7.
How is the Global Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge Structured?
The GYEC is conducted in two phases:
Primary selection: This is a requirement for all teams not from Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mongolia or Turkey, where representative teams are selected at national competitions. This is essentially a mock competition conducted in the exact same manner as the main event, where the top 3 teams by score will be chosen to represent their country in the main event of the GYEC. If there are less than 4 teams applying from the country, then this event simply works as a practice session.
Main event: On the day of the competition, the challenge will be announced online at 08:00. All registered teams will have 12 hours in which to conduct research, come up with a solution, and submit the following:
3 photos in which we can confirm all of the member’s participation
If you gather online, send a screenshot of the video meeting with everyone.
a 2-page business plan, single-spaced, minimum size font 11 pt.
a 3-minute video presentation with a 3D prototype model or a 2D illustration of the business idea.
a post-competition questionnaire: All the members of the team need to answer the questionnaire after the competition. This will also become evidence of each member’s participation.
In both phases, your submissions will be judged on the following criteria:
Creativity and Innovation
Finance and Production
Marketing and Market Research
What do GYEC Winners Receive?
The winner and runner-up teams will receive a trophy and an award certificate, while all participants will receive a certificate of participation.
Pros and Cons You Should Consider Before Participating
The competition is accessible: The combination of the low registration fee, virtual access, and single-day structure make it one of the most accessible entrepreneurship challenges around.
You will develop core entrepreneurship skills: Aside from learning about sustainability and entrepreneurship, the competition will teach you various skills such as teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and time management. The GYEC is designed to encourage creative thinking and innovation, which are essential skills in the entrepreneurial world.
You can enhance your college application: In 2023, 83 teams participated in the GYEC, with approximately 600-700 students. If you’re able to win in such a competitive environment, you will greatly boost your profile for college admissions. Even making it to the main event, representing your country at an international level, is no small achievement.
You will receive exposure: Participating in an international competition that is sponsored by notable firms means that your performance is likely to get you exposure to important people should your idea have merit. This exposure can go a long way to improving your own chances of starting a successful business or bringing your idea to life.
You need to commit a significant amount of time and effort: While the event itself is for 12 hours, to stand a chance of winning you’ll need to devote plenty of time to researching the Sustainable Development Goals and related business ideas and innovations.
Creating a team may not be an easy process: To be able to innovate, ideate, create a solution, then a prototype, and finally a video, all within just 12 hours, means that you will need a strong team of specialists. This may be hard to find depending on where you live, your school, and how easy or difficult it is to find similarly interested and available students.
It does not provide any cash awards/scholarships: While there’s a lot to learn, and a lot of prestige to be had, there is no real tangible award from the GYEC.
Tips to Win
If you’re prepared to invest the time and effort to gun for the GYEC, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Be original: Ensure your business idea is fresh and innovative. The competition seeks unique business concepts that stand out. Try to think outside the box and present an idea that hasn’t been explored extensively.
There is no “I” in teamwork: Collaboration is key. Utilize the strengths of each team member and ensure that tasks are allocated effectively. A well-coordinated team is more likely to succeed.
Do your homework: Conduct thorough research to support your business idea. Make sure your concept is backed by solid data and realistic projections. Understanding the market, potential challenges, and the feasibility of your idea is crucial.
Clarity is king: Your presentation and business plan should be clear and concise. Make sure your ideas are communicated effectively, and your vision is easy to understand.
Manage your time wisely: The competition is time-bound, so managing your time efficiently is essential. Plan your tasks and allocate time for research, discussion, and finalizing your presentation.
Make time for iteration and improvement: Structure your 12-hour window to make some space for feedback sessions and plan revisions. Be ready to make necessary adjustments to your business plan or presentation. Continuous improvement and refinement of your idea can enhance your chances of success.
Practice, practice, practice: Practice makes perfect. Ideally, practice aplenty before the event even takes place. You need to ensure that you are well-prepared to present your business idea confidently, and effectively, and are clear on how your time split is going to work and that everyone is familiar with completing their allocated tasks.
Utilize diverse perspectives: Try to view your business idea from various angles. Consider different perspectives to ensure that your concept is well-rounded and applicable in real-world scenarios. One method is for each team member to evaluate it from an entirely different point of view, to ensure your idea is as bulletproof as possible.
Be clear on the rules: Make sure you follow the competition guidelines and rules meticulously. Every aspect of your submission, including the business plan and video presentation, should meet the specified criteria.
Learn from past participants: Review the experiences and advice of past participants. This will help you understand the innovation pathways followed and what potential pitfalls to avoid.
The Global Youth Entrepreneurship Competition is a great opportunity to learn about the intersection of sustainability and entrepreneurship while putting your innovation and business development skills to the test.
Keep the above tips in mind, bring together a team, and start innovating!
Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you’re looking for the opportunity to do in-depth research on various topics in sustainability and entrepreneurship, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.
Image Source: GYEC logo