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Sydney Uni’s student union launches start-up program Incubate

Tuesday, 25 September 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

The University of Sydney Union has launched a development program in the hope of identifying high-potential start-ups on campus, securing entrepreneur Matt Barrie as a mentor.

 

The Incubate scheme is a start-up development program open to all students, researchers and recent alumni of the university.

 

The program will fund high-potential start-up projects with $5,000 business grants and co-working space over the summer break, as well as mentoring from high-profile entrepreneurs.

 

Among the list of mentors is Matt Barrie, chief executive of Freelancer.com, who has donated $20,000 to the program, doubling the number of spots available from four to eight.

 

“I think it’s a great program and the guys have shown a lot of initiative to put it together,” Barrie says.

 

“I put up the matching funds because I felt that eight teams would be better than four going through the program. A great outcome would be to get one or two real companies to graduate.”

 

“Then future success will be self-fulfilling.”

 

Other mentors of the program include 99dresses founder Nikki Durkin and Curicon.com founder Matt Byrne.

 

Incubate is the brainchild of James Alexander, an engineering student at the university, and student union board director Mina Nada.

 

“We realised there was almost no support for entrepreneurial-minded students and alumni to get funding for their start-up businesses on campus,” Alexander says.

 

“So we went to the USU, who believed in Incubate, and were able to get the program up and running really quickly.”


“We’ve had a great response from the university community, with alumni saying things like ‘I wish this existed when I was at university’.”

 

Incubate is modelled on leading incubators such as Y Combinator in Silicon Valley, and similar university-based programs such as StartX at Stanford University.

 

Applications close on October 19. Successful start-ups will be expected to devote at least 20 hours a week for the duration of the summer break to work on their start-up, and attend weekly dinners and presentations.

 

The program will culminate with an on-campus demonstration day during Orientation Week in February next year. All teams will pitch their business and progress to investors, invited guests and interested students.