Update, 17 Oct: Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has been named Asia’s top university in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Asia University Rankings.
After years of lagging behind the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has successfully bucked the trend, overtaking the former in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings this year.
NTU moved up two places from its 13th position last year to clinch the 11th place, while NUS fell three places from 12th to 15th.
The ranking, which gauges universities on six metrics – academic reputation, citations per facility, employer reputation, faculty student, international faculty, and international students – revealed that NTU made improvements in four of the metrics, rising the most in employer reputation and citations per faculty.
Said NTU President Prof. Bertil Andersson, “To climb up to the 11th spot, just one place shy of the Top 10, is remarkable progress. Even though NTU is now the highest ranked Singapore university, I maintain what I have always said – Singaporeans should be very proud that a small nation like Singapore has two world-class universities.”
Both NUS and NTU remain the only two Asian universities in the global top 20. The next in line is China’s Tsinghua University at the 25th position.
But before the rankings, NTU undergrads and alumni have long been making their alma mater proud – here’s a look at who they are.
Mohamed Abbas, Onelyst
Founded by 26-year-old NTU alumni Mohamed Abbas and his army mate Hizam Ismail, Onelyst is an app borne out of wish motivated by Abbas’ humble background.
The son of a roti prata man and a hawker lady, Abbas lived with his parents in a one-room rental flat, and fully understood the difficulties that blue-collar workers face in making ends meet.
Thus, Hizam and him decided to do something to help these groups – by creating a solution that could help them find personalised loan offers in under 5 minutes – a process that usually takes a few hours.
In 2014, while pursuing his business degree with a major in banking and finance at NTU, Abbas took the leap of faith, taking on a two-year leave of absence to build Onelyst. In the same year, the duo emerged as the top 10 winners at NTU’s Ideasinc, receiving an undisclosed sum of money from Spaze Ventures.
As a recognition of his efforts, Abbas was even featured on last year’s prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 list!
The Telepod Team
Recently, the startup has been in the news for their introduction of e-scooters into the thriving sharing economy in Singapore.
Founded by 5 NTU alumni, the team created Telepod as a multi-purpose e-scooter sharing platform to accommodate to three different groups of consumers – tourists, local commuters, and businesses.
While not as widely available as the bicycles from ofo, oBike and Mobike, the startup has plans to eventually increase the number of e-scooters available for rental if there’s healthy demand for it.
Currently, the e-scooters are currently available for trial at Suntec City, and from next month, will be available at 3 locations at their alma mater.
More notably, due to a collaboration between NTU, SMRT, and JTC to develop solutions for multiple modes of transport, 50 more of these e-scooters would be added to the fleet by October.
Ernest Ng, Airmocks
Ernest Ng, founder of local hammock startup Airmocks, began his entrepreneurial journey in 2014 when he was a final year business marketing student at NTU.
Inspired by his travels overseas during his internships and exchanges while in university, he realised how untapped the hammock market in Singapore was, and decided to bring them, along with the culture, over.
However, he noted that due to the many restrictions that public housing has, especially when it comes to drilling holes in walls and ceilings, he needed to find another way to make his hammocks actually usable by Singapore dwellers.
Thus, he started creating free-standing hammocks – with the first one turning out to be a huge hit.
After 3 years and new iterations of his special brand of hammocks, his products are now found at cool millennial offices all over Singapore and large-scale events with high footfall!
Syarafina Halim, The Buku Bookstore
For Sociology graduate Syarafina Halim, her inspiration to start up The Buku Bookstore actually stemmed from the days when she was helping her father implement a point-of-sale system for her family’s 95-year-old bookshop.
Realising that the inventory of books was simply too massive and intimidating for the regular customer to browse through, and how brick-and-mortar was slowly losing its appeal, she knew she needed to do something.
Quitting her full-time job in 2014, she dived straight into the world of e-commerce, picking up skills like website designing and hosting along the way.
At just a few months old, the bookstore is still young, but Syarafina already has plans to expand the range and depth of books she has on offer, and also start catering to schools and madrasahs (Islamic schools).
Her story is a perfect example of injecting new life into an older business, and she has since been featured on mainstream media as well.
The Average Joe Team
Founded by 2 business undergraduates from NTU, The Average Joe is a subscription services that aims to give the average Singaporean dude his supply of wax and/or pomade for a reasonable price each month.
Ricky Quak and his co-founder (who prefers not to be named) met while staying in the same hall of residence, and decided to embark on their entrepreneurship journey after realising how overpriced grooming products for men are due to middlemen fees.
Admitting that they were highly inspired by US-based Dollar Shave Club, they chose the subscription service model over the more common e-commerce route because they felt that given how men are creatures of habit, the former provided even more convenience to their customers.
Formed early this year, Ricky reveals that he hopes to soon expand the list of offerings that the service provides, but still reiterates the importance of taking things one step at a time – a given, seeing that they’re still undergraduates with academic obligations to fulfil.
Jeremy Lim, Workwander (and many more)
A serial entrepreneur, 25-year-old Jeremy Lim is the co-founder of not just 1, but 4 startups.
A communications graduate from NTU with specialising in public relations and minor in entrepreneurship, his first entrepreneurial venture was Zest+, an e-commerce platform for BlackBerry users in Singapore. A student in Singapore Polytechnic then, the startup was incubated by the school’s entrepreneurship department, and he achieved an impressive total sales revenue of $30k from it.
In 2014, he co-founded Picccolo+, a digital marketing agency specialised in startup marketing strategies, and the startup was acquired a year later by Hong Kong-based ed-tech startup Snapask, which was expanding to Singapore.
After a stint at Snapask as its COO, he went on to become the co-founder of Makerscut, a platform connecting independent designers with skilled craftmen in SE Asia, and Workwander, a mobile app for on-demand booking of workspaces.
In January this year, he also created Coworking Singapore, a directory of workspaces in Singapore for freelancers, startups and professionals who want flexibility in where they work.
The NTU Bus Arrival Chatbot Team
An NTU alumni myself, I understand the pain that comes from the very ulu location of the campus – especially when it comes to getting around.
Thus, hopping onto the trend of chatbots, 2 NTU undergrads decided to create an NTU Bus Arrival bot, which works exactly like how its name suggests – it tells students when their bus would arrive, and more importantly, it also gives users a map of the bus stops in the sprawling campus.
Created by Yap Deep and Marcus Tee, the duo got inspired while waiting for their shuttle bus, and agreed that a solution should be available without the need to download an extra app.
They concluded that a chatbot was the way to go, and were so excited that they got started the very next day.
Even with the coding knowledge they picked up during their years of education, they still needed to employ the wisdom of the Internet, as they searched for solutions to tackle the issues they faced along the way.
With graduation on the horizon, both of them plan to discuss with the Student Union (or even NTU itself) on ways to improve the internal shuttle buses system, and hopefully, be able to transfer their knowledge and the bot to the relevant department after.
Chomel Yang, Fratini La Trattoria
A business student from NTU, 25-year-old Chomel Yang realised her love for the F&B industry when she was paying off her university tuition fees via the sale of her homemade desserts.
Not giving up on her passion, she then pursued a diploma course at Le Cordon Bleu in London, eventually becoming the owner and head chef of popular omakase Italian restaurant Fratini La Trattoria in January 2016.
Located at Greenwood Avenue, the restaurant has been getting rave reviews from food bloggers – no surprise, given the care that Chomel takes in personally picking out the ingredients used herself from wet markets, and importing them from overseas.
A shining example of following your passion even if it doesn’t coincide with your degree, there is definitely much to look forward to from this promising young chef and restauranteur.
The HouseTrac Team
Addressing the accommodation issues that migrant workers in Singapore face is the team from HouseTrac.
Managed by 5 NTU undergrads Hang Zhi Cheng, Loo Hong Chai, Chan Jun Yan, Tan Peng Hian, and Han Yi Chou (who are all developers), they got their idea after talking to their NTUitive mentor Mr. David Leong, who introduced the idea of helping the often overlooked migrant worker community in Singapore.
As a means to ensure that these workers are staying in quarters that adhere to the standards set by the Ministry of Manpower, HouseTrac is an app where workers can send photos of their lodging to their employers.
For employers, they would be able save the time from going down physically to inspect the quarters.
The photos would also be saved on the app’s portal, allowing the company’s HR to judge if living conditions are up to standard.
Launched in June 2016, the app saw its first paying customer in November, and have also linked up with employers from various industries after presenting at the Singapore National Employers Federation last year to further the use of their app.
Lim Jialiang, Demochoco
Another NTU alumni who found a calling in F&B, Lim Jialiang is the founder of Demochoco, a small-batch chocolatier which has garnered a fiercely loyal following since inception.
A Sociology graduate, Jialiang’s motivation to become his own boss came after a fateful trip to Paris in 2014. Inspired by the chocolates he tasted there, he decided to make his own creations with the flavours he acquires on his frequent travels.
Starting as a small home business simply selling to friends, he soon realised that in a world of Cadbury bars and M&Ms, there was a market for those who preferred chocolates of better quality, and went into the business full time in 2014.
Not just confined to his online shop, Jialiang’s truffles are regularly stocked at Keepers, a local collective with an offline presence at the National Design Centre (and soon, at the revamped Funan mall). He also revealed that in the 3rd/4th quarter, he would be moving more into the offline scene, to “select museums and hopefully one hotel”.
Having made over 40 unique flavours to date, Jialiang is now looking to focus more on local and Asian flavours for his upcoming batches.
Kenny Choy, Marcus Ng, Sqkii
Founded by Kenny Choy and Marcus Ng from NTU, and Eleazar Lim from Singapore Management University, Sqkii (pronounced ‘squeak-ki’) is a mobile app that wants to help small companies get their foot into the fight for eyeballs by making prime advertising affordable for them.
Bringing up the idea of how a common folk belief dictates that elephants are afraid of mice, Sqkii thus wants to be the mouse that can pick a fair right with the big elephants (aka large companies).
How their app works is that it doesn’t just reward consumers for every second they spend viewing an advertisement, it also helps retailers create a simple ad for their products – something they might not have the money or time to come up with.
Given that they were undergraduates then, running a startup on the sideline was something that required them to balance their time carefully, something that Kenny revealed his competitive nature came in handy for.
“I try to be the best in whatever I do – I wanted to retain my position in the Dean’s List, be a good club president and succeed with Sqkii. Fortunately, I was able to perform decently in all three aspects last semester.”
Before The QS Ranking Leap, They Have Been Making NTU Proud
While the leap in the QS ranking is something NTU undergrads, faculty, and alumni are raving about, at the end of the day, it’s really less about stats, but more of the positive impact that those affiliated with the school have made.
And from this impressive list, it’s safe to say that NTU is acing in that as well.