Building the Next Generation of Founders with Reactor School

By
Writers@Aspire
Published
April 9, 2021

At a glance, the education systems across the region are doing a decent job in teaching students how to be book-smart. But how often do you come across schools that offer an entrepreneurship syllabus to challenge the way young people think as part of their approach to education?


Founded in 2012, the Reactor School is on a mission to disrupt the current learning system by cultivating the next generation of founders through cohesive entrepreneurship education. In the same way that incubators build startups from the ground up, the Reactor School takes that same approach and helps entrepreneurial students turn their ideas into lucrative companies.


Intrigued by the unique nature of this startup, we spoke with the CEO and Co-Founder of Reactor School, Rusydi Khairul, on what spurred him to create a platform for youth entrepreneurs to grow in their startup journey, the hurdles they have faced, and what’s ahead for them.


Tell us about yourself and your company!

Reactor School helps entrepreneurial students turn their ideas into projects and their projects into companies. We work with senior high schools and colleges across Asia-Pacific to implement an Entrepreneurship Education (EntreEd) curriculum with a mission to cultivate the Galaxy’s Best Young Founders.

How did the idea for Reactor first come about? What are you trying to solve and achieve?

We think that the education system is broken. Students are good at pen and paper testing, but not so much when it comes to solving real-world problems. We believe that the world’s biggest problem is that there are not enough young people solving the world’s biggest problems.
If we get students to be comfortable with uncertainty, they will be able to redesign their own jobs and continue to stay employable in the future. There’s no better training ground for that than being part of a startup environment, and we feel that every student should experience this at least once in their lives—either as a founder or early employee. Not every student should be an entrepreneur, but every student should be entrepreneurial.  
“Not every student should be an entrepreneur, but every student should be entrepreneurial” — Rusydi Khairul, CEO and Co-Founder of Reactor School


What differentiates Reactor from other educational players?

We are one of the few EntreEd companies that can invest in our student-led teams with an average ticket size of SGD 100k per team. On top of that, our syllabus is also contextualised to Southeast Asia while using startup examples and case studies that are Asia-Pacific centric as well.
Having partnered with TechinAsia, our students will be provided with high-grade startup journalism at the same time. From day one, we already encourage our students to form international teams. When they join a Reactor Programme, they’ll get to meet and be exposed to our student entrepreneurs from all over Asia-Pacific, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia and Brunei.


What has been the highlight of your journey in building Reactor to date?

Over the years, we’ve built quite an alumni network. Venture building with these student startup teams is the most fun as they are working on difficult world problems such as air pollution in Hanoi, upcycling plastic in Jakarta, and applying AI to edutech in Singapore.
Some have raised their post-seed round or have been accepted into top accelerator programmes worldwide, and the highlight for us has always been the amazing impact that they are creating in their individual fields.  


What was the toughest challenge you faced on your journey in building Reactor, and how did you overcome it?

When we first started the first Entrepreneurship Education (EntreEd) programme in a junior college here in Singapore, and the first pre-incubator programme in a university, a lot of educators were sceptical about the merits of teaching students startup skills.
To address this, we rallied co-founders and venture capitalists who were alumni from the respective schools to form an academic advisory board in hopes to convince school leadership that EntreEd, cross-cultural skills and digital working skills were important for the next 2 generations.  


What tech solutions or services have helped Reactor so far?

We’re big fans of Pipedrive, which is the default CRM that we use. We also subscribe and use the SaaS built by our Reactor Alumni, including:
• Novochat (https://novochat.co/) which we use for sales communication.
• Reward Nation (http://rewardnation.co/) which we use for teammate engagement since part of our team is remote.
Finally, we also use Aspire as our preferred partner. The first great feature is that it allows us to categorize and visually see what we are spending on each month. Since we experiment and sign-up with a lot of SaaS products regularly, having a disposable digital debit card allows us to cancel the card at any time in case of a charge dispute.


What made you decide to use Aspire?



Aspire doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement and has the lowest transfer rates in today’s market. At the initial onboarding stages, it was great that we got an extended cashback on our qualified SaaS spend! Over time, we also found it more convenient to track and categorize our expenditure as compared to the pdf statements provided by others.


As a founder, what is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

“Sales solves everything.”  


What advice do you have for other founders who are starting on their journeys?

I love Elon Musk’s most recent quip on Clubhouse: “If you need encouraging words, don’t do a startup.”
As for ed-tech founders, the education ecosystem is a complex puzzle. You would need the buy-in of various stakeholders simultaneously, including school leaders, board members, school owners, parents, educators, students, alumni, corporate representatives and government agencies.


What’s next for Reactor?

We’re currently in the midst of overseas expansion and setting up our offices all across ASEAN.


What do you foresee the ed-tech business will look like?


We expect to see the rise of cyborg schools, where half of the classes will be online and half will be offline. Top-tier schools will realize that they do not need students to come to campus all the time. Essentially, this means that they can increase enrolments.
Another factor is cross-cultural learning. As the economy regionalizes, supply chains get more intertwined. With remote working taking off, more schools will start to pay attention to students developing EQ, and learning to work with peers of different nationalities and cultures.
Lastly, the rise of corporate universities. There will be a higher learn-to-earn mentality amongst both developed and developing nations, and corporates will help to fill the gap for their future talent needs by investing directly into campus recruitment and on-the-job training.


Finally, are there any special offers or upcoming events that you want to share with the Aspire community?

Indeed! We are holding Asia’s 1st virtual Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Youth! This 3-day hackathon-style program is open to all students aged 13 to 24 across the Asia Pacific and will teach them the fundamentals of entrepreneurship through hands-on learning and cross-cultural exchanges with peers across the region.
The top teams from each EntreCamp cohort will showcase their startups at Reactor School’s bi-annual virtual Global Demo Day. Register now to enjoy the early-bird discounts!


While many of us could only hope for such an education at a young age to hone our entrepreneurship skills as early as our teens, it’s never too late for those who are young at heart.


As the entrepreneurship space continues to grow with younger entrants entering the industry, we need to cater to the startups of tomorrow by providing the most comprehensive digital solutions to help them grow their business.


In the same way that Reactor School designed education for entrepreneurs, Aspire designed an all in one finance platform for entrepreneurs as well. From the lowest FX fees, expense management, and cashback on qualified market spend, you can enjoy a seamless business finance experience with an Aspire Business account.


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