• Jae

Ground Zero 2020: An online student-run startathon




Ground Zero is an annual event, run by the NUS Entrepreneurship Society, for tertiary entrepreneurs to kickstart their startup ideas.


This year, the action-packed startathon was held online, over the course of one weekend. Participants generated startup ideas based on three challenge statements by Lark, Ovo and IMDA. Out of 112 teams, nine teams got a chance to pitch their ideas to the panel of established judges.


The Refuel Team had the opportunity to speak with the first runner ups of each category - read on for more on the teams and their stories!



Winner of Challenge Statement 1 by IMDA: Sprint


Challenge Statement 1: Create a startup that complements daily consumer routines with machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI).





Team Sprint consists of three NUS Computer Science undergraduates, Caijie, Delong and Shimei, and one NUS Business undergraduate, Tim. The team's common interest in hackathons led them to participate in Grounz Zero 2020 together.

The team's idea, PhishPatrol, is a ML based mobile application that safeguards the elderly online. The team found that unsuspecting victims of phishing SMSes were led to scam websites, and $168m was lost through scams alone in the past year. Senior citizens who utilise smartphones in their daily lives are especially susceptible to these scams.


Some of PhishPatrol's features include a real-time detection and analysis of incoming threats, and Natural Language Processing to determine the likelihood of an SMS scam.


The team believes that their idea is able to solve an important problem in society, and they would explore the possibility of taking the idea forward and developing an MVP.


Winner of Challenge Statement 2 by Lark: Nybble


Challenge Statement 2: Create a startup that enhances workplace productivity or educational productivity





The Nybble team is extremely diverse, and consists of Carina (Industrial Design), Michael (Marketing), Jing Han (Computer Science) and Simon (Engineering Science). The team created Tidbit, which is a productivity tool aimed to create healthier digital habits and enable productivity by training the brain.


The idea was born when the team of four found themselves constantly distracted by YouTube videos and their favourite Netflix series while doing work. Despite tirelessly trying to stay disciplined, it just didn't work all the time. As the group came together and reflected, the concept of building small habits that amount to big long term results came to mind.

Everyone has goals they want to achieve in their life - and they change as we enter different phases in our lives. Achieving those goals are even more important than the goals themselves, and breaking them down into smaller milestones are immensely helpful for you to envision your progress and reach them faster.

That's why the team at Tidbit is so passionate about creating something that helps people get more productive through small steps - and eventually get to their goals faster. Instead of saying: "No more Kdrama, Netflix and memes on Facebook from today on!", Tidbit says: "Lets spend just 5 minutes less on Facebook today." It sounds simple, achievable and seemingly insignificant; but if users were to do that for a month, they would have shaved off over 2 hours of liking and sharing memes on Facebook.

The team believes that the small steps and actions that one takes everyday can build a routine that creates results in the long run. Tidbit aims to push users to take the first step, and allowing that first step to be easier to take.


Check out the Tidbit business model!


Winner of Challenge Statement 3 by Ovo: RaMaNi


Challenge Statement 3: Create a product to accelerate financial inclusion in third world countries





Team RaMaNi consists of three second-year NUS students - Nicholas from Yale-NUS, Rahul from Business Administration and Marsha from Sociology. The trio met through a group chat as part of Facebook's Summer Engage Programme. When their internship at Facebook was cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation, they began sourcing for alternative Summer activities, and decided to join Ground Zero.


The team's winning idea, Tulay, is an application that collects alternative data and empowers individuals by creating a credit score for the underbanked and unbanked through a Community-Based (Barangay) approach using a Point Of Contact (POC). The team's goal is to make financial services and literacy more accessible to all individuals by removing the intimidating factor of going to physical banks. Using the POC system allows for people to guide others who do not have access to technology or the ability to read. Check out the Tulay business model!


The idea came about when the team thought about the issues with financial inclusion and the lack of financial literacy within the developing world. Individuals in the developing world might lack guardians and teachers to guide them on how to be included in the financial world. Hence, a financial inclusion solution that took a community-approach made a lot of sense to the team.


It was the first time attending a startathon for most of the members, but they felt that the online format allowed them more space to be creative, whilst in the comfort of their own homes.


Refuel was founded to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs through the stories of startup founders. We aim to build a global community of entrepreneurs and innovators, and hustle on together.

We hope you liked the story! If you have any requests for startups to feature, questions on entrepreneurship, or just simply want to chat, feel free to drop us a line at hellorefuel@gmail.com, on Facebook or Instagram!