Five businesses are in the running for $8,000 in seed capital and a mentoring lunch with Red Balloon’s founder Naomi Simson, after being announced the finalists in Melbourne University’s 2013 Startup competition. The selected companies are: Creatologists, CareAbility, My Wingman, The Fashtag Group, and Projectboard and cover a range of industries including food, recreational services and disability services. The five emerging founders will pitch to a group of private equity and venture capital investors. Competition founder and consumer psychologist academic Dr Brent Coker told StartupSmart the ideas have been getting better and better since he launched the competition in 2009. “In 2009, we had maybe five teams enter, everyone presented their ideas and the winner got a handshake. So it was a pretty small deal,” Coker says. “This year, there were a range of new interesting and feasible ideas that gave us that instant reaction of ‘I wish I’d thought of that’. A few of this year’s entries stood out as exciting with huge potential.” Coker says the development of the standard of the ideas was in line with the growing Melbourne entrepreneurial ecosystem, but also due to some events the university has run to connect programmers to business development students. “One of the things I did this year was get engineers and computer programmers and put them in the same room as the smartest business students. I gave them beer and pizza and tried to get them to mingle, because that’s where the best ideas come from,” he says. Coker says the best business ideas are born from the potent combination of great developers, both from a product but also business perspective. “With these two roles together in the same team, you’re covering each other’s weaknesses,” Coker says. “Engineers are very good at making things, but they try to work out who to sell it to after it’s made. That’s the opposite of how we train our business students, who are trained to find gaps to fill and then create products, but they’re not usually inventors.” He adds the communication hurdles can be big, but worth overcoming. “The biggest challenge is learning to see each other’s point of view. Engineers and programmers are very good at thinking up technologies and what’s possible but the challenge is getting them to understand the business people’s point of view, which is they want to build a fairly simple solution to a problem, and after they’re doing that they’ll care about features,” Coker says. He says many Melbourne University students who are aspiring founders can feel intimidated or disadvantaged by being so far away from Silicon Valley. “Many have the perception that those at Stanford are better than them, but that’s not the case,” Coker says. “We’ve got an advantage here as you don’t need to compete with the Silicon Valley start-ups until you’re really ready.”
Data released this week by US tech database CrunchBase has found the University of New South Wales produced more technology entrepreneurs in the past 15 years than any other Australian university. The data was based on the CrunchBase dataset of over 170,000 companies, including 169 Australian entrepreneurs. CrunchBase is a free database of technology companies, people, and investors where anyone can upload information on start-ups. Australians on the database included Dean McEvoy from Spreets, Tess Walton from Aruspex, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar from Atlassian, Alicia Navarro from Skimlinks and Eddie Machalaani from Bigcommerce. The University of New South Wales was ranked number one in Australia and is credited with launching the careers of 16 entrepreneurs. UNSW had more than double the number of entrepreneurs produced by the University of Technology Sydney, which took second place and clocked in with seven entrepreneurs. Monash University, Queensland University of Technology, University of Queensland and University of Sydney shared third place with six entrepreneurs. Swinburne University, Melbourne University and the University of Newcastle were credited with four entrepreneurs each. Josh Flannery is the student enterprise manager at the University of New South Wales entrepreneur program and commercialisation arm NewSouth Innovations. Flannery told StartupSmart while the results were recognition of their commitment to encouraging entrepreneurship, he believes UNSW and NewSouth Innovations are about to reach a tipping point and start producing even more successful start-ups. “It’s been an experiment really, but we’re at a tipping point now. I’m speaking to 60 to 70 individual students who are working on start-ups at the moment,” Flannery says. UNSW runs entrepreneurial and innovation-themed subjects in every faculty and has a variety of internal programs. “What’s maybe different is our NewSouth Innovations commercialisation approach. We now give 100% of the equity to the students. That’s not the case in every university yet but it’s becoming the trend,” Flannery says. He adds that universities play an important role in encouraging young entrepreneurs and can do more to boost the start-up ecosystem. “Universities play a very important role in nurturing entrepreneurial students, but also something I’ve found that we’re doing, which is relatively new, is almost offering the entrepreneurship career route as an alternative to the safe route as a consultant in a big firm,” Flannery says. “The way we’re doing that is encouraging students to have a go at something entrepreneurial right now, when they have the least expectation on their shoulders than they will at any point of their life.”
A robotic arm maker, colour-matching database and a neurological medical devise start-up are among six start-ups to join the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), hosted by the University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering and the Faculty of Business and Economics. Rohan Workman, manager of MAP, told StartupSmart they had a tough job picking only six companies from 53 applications. “The reason we chose these teams were these people had the best chance of making their ideas work. The fact these guys were already out there and taking strides forward with their business and getting a bit of traction really worked in their favour,” he says. These are the companies chosen for the accelerator: The Price Geek, a bargain-seeking search engine; Ebla, an online publishing platform for legal professionals; Client Catalyst, a mobile marketing and inbound client call service; SwatchMate, a colour-matching database service; 2Mar Robotics, a maker of robotic arms for people with quadriplegia; and Cortera Neurotechnologies, an implantable medical device for diagnosing incurable neurological conditions company. At least one member of the team needs to be studying at the University of Melbourne, recent alumni or staff from the engineering and IT, and business schools to be eligible for the program. The entrepreneurial fellowships provide office space, funding and mentoring for the start-ups. Workman says universities are perfectly placed to do more to boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He says he expects to see them doing more with their resources. “We’re only now starting to see how universities can help start-ups, but universities can and will do more and more. It’s not a zero sum game, we’re keen to see more universities running similar programs,” he says. “We (universities) have a unique set of assets including an alumni network, connections to industry and government, expertise across the campus and a brand. All of this is really helpful for a start-up.” Workman says the buzz around entrepreneurial activity at Melbourne University is really rewarding. “Guys who were thinking about entrepreneurship as a career path are now seriously considering it, it’s no longer a pipe dream,” he says, adding Australia still has some cultural challenges to tackle. “Lots of people are quite risk averse. A lot of people are afraid of the stigma of failure, and that’s Australia wide. “We need to change that around and turn it around. Everyone who has started a business will know you fail a thousand times before you get it right. This program is about giving these guys the network to learn and accept that.”
Getting the skills and knowledge needed to run a business no longer requires that you take time away from your entrepreneurial activities to study at university.
The University of Melbourne will offer seven free online courses after partnering with US company Coursera, with three of the courses covering topics in economics and technology.
Melbourne Population: 4.07 million Start-up survival rate: 74.3% (2007 to 2009)
More than 3,000 Australian university students have enrolled in entrepreneurship classes this year, new research shows, but experts say entrepreneurs cannot succeed without experience.
The number of university students in technology degrees is in long-term decline, according to a new report, with concerns that the shortage will impact web-based start-ups.
This article first appeared on October 16th, 2011. A Melbourne university recently ran a workshop to teach its international students the logic of Australian humour, highlighting the level of interest in quirkier aspects of Australian culture.
Industry experts say students are still wary of starting their own businesses despite new figures that reveal job prospects for university graduates have dwindled during the past two years.
Most people know that social media giant Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg who, at the age of 23, was studying psychology at Harvard University.
US venture capitalist Peter Thiel has offered $100,000 to 24 young entrepreneurs providing they stay out of college for two years to further their business ideas.
Barring the remote possibility of pouncing upon that rarest of beasts – a government start-up grant – wannabe entrepreneurs have traditionally been reliant on two groups for external funding: investors and banks.
Last week, the ACCC warned budding entrepreneurs to be wary of scammers that set up websites claiming to have access to government grant cash.
By his own admission, Simon Crowe is “glass half empty” character. A fear of failure evidently propels the founder and managing director of Grill’d.