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Sydney start-ups set to get the MBA treatment from UNSW students

Tuesday, 27 August 2013 | By Rose Powell

Sydney-based start-ups can apply to have an MBA student tackle a strategic issue with them as part of a new initiative launched by the University of New South Wales.


UNSW is seeking 20 start-ups for the program. Eligible start-ups will be over two years old, with a team of at least three people, not based in a home, and be willing to engage with the student.


The start-up needs to have a particular challenge for the Masters of Business Administration student, who will present to a panel of judges at the end of the 12 weeks. The panel will include the start-up’s founder. Students will sign non-disclosure agreements prior to the project.


The 12-week program will partner MBA students from the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) at the University of New South Wales with start-ups as part of their entrepreneurship and strategy elective.


Course director Jeffrey Tobias says the idea sprang from his experience in both the MBA program and the Sydney entrepreneurial community.


“Traditionally the assessment for this subject was the development of a business plan, but if you take the lean or agile model, you don’t necessarily do that,” says Tobias, who also runs his own consulting company and does some work as an angel investor.


“Immersing people in real life environments with real life problems was the best way to get them involved in entrepreneurship.”


Tobias says they’ve had more than 10 applications from start-ups since launching the program last week.


“The thing a lot of start-ups lack is that they’re good at the innovation but not so much at the basic business skills such as profit and loss sheets, budgets and balance sheets. MBA students are good at that, but they lack the innovation and entrepreneurship. So if we put them together, it’s a win-win,” Tobias says.


The program is supported by Google, Grand Prix Capital, the Sydney Seed Fund and the Founder Institute.


“The links between the business school and the start-up community are very positive and we’re keen to foster that. We’ve had such enthusiasm from the investment community, and from someone like Google to say, yep, we want to be part of this,” Tobias says.


The University of New South Wales was recently recognised as Australia’s leading university for launching entrepreneurial careers.