NUS alumni Mr Julian Koo, Ms Kuah Ling Ling and Mr Aaron Lee co-founded Jaga-Me, an on-demand platform that matches caregivers to registered nurses, on the premise of making healthcare more personal and easily accessible by the masses. While getting their start-up off the ground, they also made the effort to offer fulfilling internships to students from the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme.
NUS Engineering alumnus Mr Koo attended the NOC in Silicon Valley in 2011 as well as in Mumbai in 2010. Finding both experiences “life-changing”, he said, “I think the key takeaway of my time in NOC is that it gave me the confidence to start my own company.” Close contact with entrepreneurs also provided him with a better understanding of the pitfalls they had experienced.
Adopting a pay-it-forward approach, Mr Koo said, “The first reason I decided to take on interns from the NOC programme was that I wanted to give back because I’ve learned a lot from the programme.” He was appreciative of the mentorship and support he had received from the founders of the companies he worked at during his NOC stints, and believes that this is one key value of doing an internship with a start-up. As such, he wanted to offer that learning experience to NOC students. He also wanted individuals with entrepreneurial drive to inject new ideas into the company to improve value for their consumers.
To date, Jaga-Me has recruited six interns from the NOC programme. Representing about half of the company’s interns, they come from various faculties — NUS Arts and Social Sciences, NUS Business School (NUS Business), NUS Computing and NUS Engineering, and they have exceeded Mr Koo’s expectations. “NUS students have never been more entrepreneurial and ready to take on the challenges of working in start-ups. This is a trend I expect will only increase,” he said. Jaga-Me hires interns from colleges across Singapore, but one thing which makes the NUS students stand out is their “can-do spirit”, added Mr Koo.
Year 4 NUS Business student Andrea Yeo worked as an intern at Jaga-Me for five months before her one-year NOC stint in Shanghai, China. “I was already an aspiring social entrepreneur so I did my research on Jaga-Me and saw how it solves pressing issues in the healthcare industry and how it has a sustainable business model,” she explained. She added that her time in the start-up served her well in Shanghai as it provided her with perspective and experience in problem-solving.
There were perks to working for an NOC alumnus, Andrea explained. “He was in your position before, so he totally understands where you’re coming from, what you’re going through, what you’re experiencing, and he knows how to guide and mentor you,” she said.
Fellow NUS Business student Lim Ying Xuan, who recently completed her internship at Jaga-Me and would soon be starting her NOC programme in Shanghai, said that joining Jaga-Me was probably one of the best decisions she had made. “It made me realise what I look for in an internship or a job in the future, which is a sense of fulfilment and also a sense of ownership,” she said.
A fulfilling internship experience is something which the co-founders strive for. Ms Kuah, who graduated from the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, shared that one of the company’s core values is empathy and this drives how they work. “For example, every single member of team Jaga-Me goes for home visits with our nurses, so that they understand and feel for our clients. We do our best to empower them to reach their respective goals for the company and for themselves,” she shared.
Jaga-Me — “jaga” means “to guard” in Malay — currently has some 300 registered nurses located island-wide in its database. The company is working on providing training to their nurses so that they can continue enhancing their skills, such as in the area of palliative care.
This is the first article in a series by NUS News profiling young alumni who are sharing considerable time and energy to mentor a new generation of NUS students.