Features, On-Campus Profiles, Profiles

Two BC Sophomores Aim to Transform Education With MLV Ignite

Most students have been there—sitting in a required high school course, asking themselves why they are there. Many students sit through classes they have no interest in, thinking, “Why do I have to memorize the quadratic equation?” Or, “Why do we have to discuss the significance of a green light in The Great Gatsby?” 

One of the most difficult elements of high school is how few courses seem to inspire future careers or teach skills that directly translate to the workforce, according to Dylan Kim, MCAS ’26, and Timothy Liu, CSOM ’26.

To address this issue, the pair co-founded MLV Ignite, an educational technology company offering summer and winter courses for high school students interested in entrepreneurship and financial literacy. 

“We saw a problem in schools,” Kim said. “You don’t really use what you learn in high school for a job—maybe in college. So what we wanted to do was offer things like entrepreneurship education and financial literacy, things that I personally think really matter in helping students understand what they really want to do with their lives.”

MLV Ignite is based in Vietnam, Kim’s home country, where they offer summer and winter programs for high school students. This past winter, 110 students applied for the company’s inaugural seven-day program—10 were accepted. 

MLV’s courses focus on reflection and project-based learning, Kim said. During the program, the students are facilitated through the process of creating their own companies. 

“Teaching them by giving them homework and tests—we thought that just wasn’t the right approach,” Kim said. “What I told the students, the most important part about this program isn’t what you do during it, but what you do after the program. We are just the starting point.”

Although Kim and Liu are only second-year college students, they are experienced entrepreneurs, as this is Kim’s third startup.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim co-founded an app that provided academic support to students struggling with online learning. The platform gained interest from a company called Fiveable, and Kim sold his app to them for over six figures in his junior year of high school, he said

“People who already excelled at school did even better, but I just felt like that was an injustice to those who were already struggling in person,” Kim said. “Without the guidance of a teacher constantly over them, they were bound to struggle even more.”

When Kim started college, he passed the company off to trusted colleagues so he could focus on becoming acclimated to college life and living in Boston. In his first year at BC, Kim met Liu through BC’s Edmund H. Shea Jr. Center for Entrepreneurship, and the two connected through their similar interests in education, social justice, and entrepreneurship. 

“Like Dylan, I was interested in entrepreneurship because that was a childhood dream of owning a business,” said Liu. “Especially nowadays, because of social media … as long as you have a computer, you can start learning how to make a business and make money online.” 

Liu works on the financial and banking side of MLV Ignite, which Kim said makes him a great partner. 

“[Liu is] very finance-minded, a logical-thinking guy, while I’m more creative,” Kim said. “If I say something super absurd and unfeasible for the next five years, he’s more like, ‘How do we get there,’ and we break it down into a yearly goal, which works perfectly.”  

Kim’s role is similar to that of a CEO, Liu said. 

For their inaugural winter program, Liu said he conducted market research to understand entrepreneurship and education in Vietnam, searching for sponsorships and companies focused on education who might be interested in working with them. 

“It is more of a learning experience for me right now,” Liu said. “Being a co-founder of a startup, you have to learn a lot. You give yourself a title—I’m CFO of finance—but really, it’s about learning how to do different roles. Learning how to do market research and contact sponsors. How to do all of these things that are all applicable skills to any job. That’s the beauty of entrepreneurship.”

Because Liu did not begin MLV Ignite with as much experience as Kim, he described the startup as a major learning opportunity.

“It’s an interesting dynamic,” Liu said. “Our company is about teaching entrepreneurship, but at the same time, I was learning everything, learning as I go. Trying to learn everything I could about entrepreneurship while building a startup was awesome.”

This process of learning by doing reflects how Kim obtained the skills that made his past startups successful.

“You have to actively do what you want to do,” Kim said. “I try to see opportunities where I can apply what I learn from reading books.”

Without the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim said he might never have begun a start-up so early in life. In turn, his goal for MLV Ignite is to allow students to delve into entrepreneurship.

“When I was in high school I did have this opportunity,” Kim said. “I want to give that to others to see if they also are interested in following a similar path as me, building companies at an earlier age.”

This aim for accessibility can be seen in MLV Ignite’s cost and financial aid practices. While it is a paid program, costing $200-$300, Kim said similar programs typically cost about $6500. In the long term, MLV Ignite aims to work directly with schools so students do not have to pay out of pocket.

“I told Tim that I don’t care if we are profit negative as long as we make an impact,” Kim said. “Money will always follow if you make an impact. That said, we are heavily relying on the generosity of a lot of sponsors who agree on our mission to help these students.”

Khoa Minh Nguyen Mau is one of the high school students who participated in MLV Ignite’s winter program. He said the experience gave him unique and exciting opportunities. 

“I’ve always had a passion for entrepreneurship, not because I want to make a lot of money, but to make my dreams and projects come true,” Mau said. “When I found MLV, I thought it had a vision. I’m not the only one with this dream. MLV took the opportunity of this market in Vietnam and provided the perfect course for it.”

During his time at MLV Ignite, Mau worked on developing an app to connect high school students interested in becoming International Baccalaureate (IB) or Advanced Placement (AP) level tutors with students who are in need of academic assistance but might not have the money for a private tutor.

Thanks to MLV Ignite, Mau said the startup is already underway. 

“After the program, I have a clear view of what starting a business needs,” said Mau. “Dylan isn’t much older, but he has a very big connection. He’s basically living my dream. When I told him that, he said I should aim higher. He is a resource to me and is always happy to introduce me to people and help people who want to be entrepreneurs reach their goals.”

February 16, 2024