This week we meet $1 million Hult Prize winner and UCL alumnus Kisum Chan, who chats to us about working full time on his social enterprise Rice Inc and the best foodie spots to check out in London.
What are you studying, why are you interested in this subject and what do you plan to do in the future’
I was studying Biomedical Sciences and just graduated half a year ago! Though I found the content in the course stimulating and challenging, it wasn’t my calling. I founded a social enterprise - Rice Inc - during my second year with a couple of friends, and am doing that full-time now!
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at UCL’
Getting involved in the UCL start-up scene. Not many people know this, but UCL has a department dedicated solely to helping new and existing start-ups initiate and grow - it’s called UCL Innovation and Enterprise. They even have a co-working space aptly called ’The Hatchery’. The amazing folks there were very pivotal in helping us develop Rice Inc, especially since my friends and I had close to no business experience prior to starting.
Shout out to Bao and his team!
Have you discovered any hidden gems during your time at UCL’
UCL’s network is extensive - to say the least. It stems far further than the all the cool people your lecturers might know. I’m talking about the UCL Alumni community (which there is a convenient platform for!) that has a whole host of amazing people willing to connect and help you if they can! Whether you’re looking for advice on getting an internship at a big consulting firm or starting up a bakery, chances are that someone’s had similar experiences and is willing to help you on your own journey. All you need to do is reach out on the platform. I only found out about this towards my third year and finding people and mentors to learn from helped immensely. I wish I’d found out about this sooner!
Give us your top three things to do/see/go to in London:
I love food so:
If you were Provost for the day what one thing would you do’
I’d try to enter through the entrance to the Provost’s Office (through the South Cloisters) to see if the doors work - I’ve never seen those doors being used in all my three years at UCL!
Who inspires you and why’
My dad - I don’t know anyone who’s worked as hard as he does. He came from a rough background when he was young and didn’t get the opportunity to even finish high school because he had to work to provide for his family growing up. We’re talking selling rice porridge on the streets and working hard labour in factories. He’s managed to work his way up and eventually provide my sister and I with a comfortable home to grow up in and me the opportunity and privilege to study in one of the best universities in the world.
What would it surprise people to know about you’
I was born in Hong Kong but I’ve grown up most of my life in Sri Lanka (I spent 10 years there!). I’m an Asian with a soy allergy (which means I can’t have soy sauce) and is the equivalent of my Italian friend’s gluten intolerance.