Josh Flannery

Which hot 5 startups are pitching at the UNSW Sydney Angels Deal Screening this month?

The Startup Launch program at UNSW has gone through several evolutions since its humble beginnings in 2013, originally branded Startup Games and run across four weekends each March. Since then the team behind it has strengthened and the program has grown into three streams which will run four times per year from 2017;

The Validation stream is most similar to the original version of the program and sees new teams form and incubate their ideas across 6 weeks. Next, the Growth stream is for those teams that survive and graduate from the validation stage and finally the Scale & Investment stream, which kicked off in January 2017, is for the top few percent of startups that are closest to becoming “investment ready”.

Above: Newly appointed Resident Investment Coach, Clive Mayhew mentors UNSW startup teams

For the last month, five teams have been working with Clive Mayhew, the new Resident Investment Coach in the Scale & Investment stream, in preparation for a formal pitch to 15 investors who are members of Australia’s largest angel investor syndicate, Sydney Angels, plus additional members of the UNSW investment network and senior university management on March 13th.

Investing in UNSW startups is not something new for Clive, who in 2015 led the investment round into star UNSW alumni Adam Brimos edutech company, OpenLearning. “We have five interesting companies that are pitching to the Sydney Angels in the next couple of weeks – all of which are approaching investment ready with some very bright, driven founders – similar to Adam”, Mayhew said, who retired at 42 and has a 20 year history of being a tech entrepreneur and investor, starting with taking Netscape to Asia in 1996.

So which are the hot five startups about the enter the shark tank??

1. KeyHub


What?: Smart key exchange system (IoT)

Founders: Vincent Shang, Michelle Cai, Ace Yin

2. Austern International


What?: “Career bootcamps” for millennials.

Founders: Lily Wu and Jamie Lee

3. Tot-tok


What?: A platform to support early childhood educators, parents and children (edutech)

Founders: Ankita Mehta and Shishir Belvi

4. Share with Oscar


What?: Mobile app for residents and private businesses to rent out their car spaces.

Founders: Lisa Qi and Louise Chen

5. Beam Energy Labs


What?: Low cost and reliable energy systems, off the grid.

Founders: Andrew Coffey and Andrew Lister

The investment pitch event is happening on Monday March 13th and is the latest initiative to spring from the ongoing relationship between UNSW startup programs and the Sydney Angels group. Previous activity has included a series of “mixer events” for student and alumni entrepreneurs aimed at building relationships between founders and investors and taking away some of the mystery and stigma sometimes associated with angel investors in general. The program compliments the existing MVP Grant Fund, managed by Arc and the Division of Enterprise on campus, that provides small grants to early stage startup teams and new investment related initiatives to be announced later this year.

UNSW injects $750k into Startup Programs in 2016 with larger plans for 2017

UNSW has released an additional $750k in funding for Startup Programs largely managed by the Student Entrepreneur Development team within UNSW Innovations. The investment will see flagship program Startup Launch (previously known as Startup Games boasting alumni including IoT startup Forcite Helmet Systems and fintech company, Dime) transform from a pre-accelerator program into a program for more established startups. Meanwhile, other existing programs like Startup China, Innovation Dojo and the New Wave initiative for female entrepreneurs will substantially increase in scale and become more robust.


Another program to benefit from the upgrade is the Corporate Startup Program which began in 2014 branded as the UNSW CBA Hackathon and later the Cisco Ideathon in 2015. Next year it will be run in conjunction with two leading Australian financial security and wearable related startups plus a corporate sponsor to be revealed in coming months. A number of new programs, including one focused on PhD students will also be announced in Q1 next year.

The core business of the Student Entrepreneur Development unit, a 12 stage program for entrepreneurs who are either current or past UNSW students, will benefit from phase 2 of the investments in venture incubation services within the first half of next year. The SED group, which launched in 2012 was recognised as being a leader in terms of providing a robust and diverse array of services and programs for university linked startups and entrepreneurs. A matrix of these can be seen in the diagram below.


Further announcements will be made regarding more expansion and deepening of services in the new year off the back of a more substantial second phase funding planned in 2017.

Video: Brad Lorge – Co-founder,



Top talent selected for Innovation Dojo program

This week 21 applicants from a pool of 50 attendees of last months Innovation Dojo program Info Evening last month were confirmed a place in the program which will see them form new startup teams during an intense 9-day bootcamp hosted by Haymarket HQ, Sydneys Asia-focused co-working space who have partnered with the program. The group is diverse, and unlike many similar programs that attempt to form teams with the Silicon Valley derived formula of “hipster (designer), hacker (computer science engineer) and hustler (marketing and sales front person)”, Innovation Dojo introduces a new element to each team in the form of someone with strong foreign language skills and cross-cultural business understanding. Co-founder of the program, Kaoru Nishinakagawa explained, “Most in our ecosystem agree that Australian startups need to attempt to scale into global markets but no programs are tackling this by building international capability and know-how into the DNA of new startup teams – we believe this is what will set the Dojo teams apart from the average early stage startup”.


Several Innovation Dojo Mentors at a startup event in Tokyo last month. From left: Ken Aoyama (kintone), Tim Romero (Creww), Robert Millar (Ginza Hub) and David Lawson (Australian Trade Commissioner to Japan).

“I have been involved with many entrepreneurship programs in the last 4 or 5 years and they often attract top talent, but I can honestly say I’ve never been this excited with the number of participants we have with real startup and business experience – and there are going to be bilingual people in every team”, said Joshua Flannery, another co-founder of Innovation Dojo and manager of the suite of startup programmes at UNSW. Flannery noted several examples of talented participants including co-founder of Sunapse and Pearcy ICT Pitch winner Luke Marshall, Queenie Liu, who has successfully raised $500k for her previous startup Ostone and Japanese-Australians Seiya Takeda from food startup Caitre’d and Tom Terado who has become known for growing a Facebook page to 50,000 likes in 4 days and consulting on using Snapchat for business.


Second from left: Innovation Dojo participant Kayla Medica is bilingual in Japanese and runs a successful cross-cultural consulting business and is hoping to build a more scalable startup during the program

The Innovation Dojo team already have their first international customers secured too with prestigious science and engineering university, Tokyo Institute of Technology confirmed to be sending a small cohort of participants to Sydney to participate alongside their future Australian team mates in early December. Tickets to Japan are up for grabs for the winners of the program, and a curated tour of Tokyo and Osaka based startup ecosystems with introductions to potential partners and future customers and investors are all on the table for the best of the Dojo teams. UNSW Innovations, Austrade, Osaka Innovation Hub, Intralink, doq and Haymarket HQ are among the organisations supporting the program.

Startup Launch program final at UNSW – Thursday March 31!

Something special happens every March on the weekends at UNSW.


30 students and alumni, who have been selected through a competitive application process spend their full weekends (and any time they have in between), forming new teams, identifying “problems that matter” and working through a lean startup based process with mentors to actually launch their startup within a month.

An iteration on the popular and successful UNSW Startup Games program, Startup Launch is far from a game. It might be fun but it is a serious program designed to launch new startups. Each year several participants drop out during the course of the program due to the commitment and effort required.

Some of the teams that have formed this year include a fintech startup that has found a smarter way to exchange currency, a remote key exchange solution that compliments big sharing economy players like Airbnb and a medtech team that delivers point-of-care pathogen detection. The program is run by the UNSW Innovations Student Entrepreneur Development team and feeds into their larger incubation and support services that operate all year round.


Participants have come from all walks of life including PhD’s, MBA’s, alumni with industry experience and undergrads from across all faculties of UNSW.

Tickets are about 75% sold out at time of publishing this article – get in quick to get your seat and if you haven’t already come and check out the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre where it is being held!

More info and registration here!



2015 was quite a year for entrepreneur development at UNSW

We had another massive year at UNSW Innovations in 2015 and, in fact the last 24 months have been amazing for our Student Entrepreneur Development team with 562 student and alumni teams being supported since the beginning of 2014!

There are far too many things that happened (due to the teams hard work) to list them all here but here are 12 months of highlights from the year that was:

1. January – The Fitness Calendar sisters joined the SED community. Was great having them participate in some of our programs and seeing them get this great exposure early in the year!

2. February – I got the first article I am really happy with, Lean approach to fighting chronic disease, published

3. March – A sneak peak into the Startup Muster survey results showed UNSW was more than double it’s nearest competitor in the number of entrepreneurs linked back to Australian universities.

4. April – We celebrated the success of the UNSW Startup Games program that saw amazing mentors like Bart Jellema, Jodie Fox, Todd Heslin, Julie Stevanja, Walta Kazzi, Nicole Kersh, Adam Brimo and Sarah Riegelhurth take 25 students through a journey that resulted in all female team, Student Adventurer, receiving investment from alumni entrepreneur run Student Services Australia.

5. May – One of the rising stars from our community, Riad Chikhani from GAMURS raised $500K!

6. June – A favourite of mine, Shan Shan Wang and her amazing ROAM startup won the SMART 100 ranking for 2015.

7. July – Our favourite ticketing startup, QNect, won the prestigious Hong Kong Polytechnic Global Startup Competition.

8. August – One of the 5 UNSW startups accepted into the awesome Singapore based JFDI accelerator program so far, QLC secured their first round of funding!

9. September – We were honoured to have kicked off our relationship with Springboard Enterprises with a guest spot on the panel

10. October – Was great to be acknowledged on the Sydney Startup Rail Map with some of the startups from the community we have been building since 2012

October also saw the official opening of our new Michael Crouch Innovation Centre – we at UNSW Innovations have a strong relationship with the centre where we refer entrepreneurs to them who may need some ‘innovation training’ and they refer students to us who have decided they want to be entrepreneurs for real.

We also launched a media partnership with Startup Daily which is proving beneficial to our up and coming entrepreneurs trying to get more exposure.

11. November – It felt like a long time coming but we finally soft-launched our new FounderLab service and MVP grant fund in partnership with Arc.

12. December – Our favourite drone related startup Propellor Aerobiotics raised $1M, joining Forcite and Premonition (among others) in the list of startups we have supported that raised substantial funding in 2015.

The Chief Scientist report commissioned to study current and best practice for entrepreneur support within Australian High Education institutions pointed to UNSW as leading the nation.

We took out 1st place in the NSW Pearcey Awards ICT pitching competition

We ran an awesome Lean Startup training session for 160 Westpac employees under 30. This cemented our teams experience and leadership in running corporate innovation programs after success with the Cisco Ideathon and UNSW CBA Hackathon programs.

The guy behind the Crossroads and more recent Chief Scientist reports on entrepreneur support went as far to say UNSW Innovations has created “the blueprint” for the rest of Australia to follow. We finished our yearly events with the largest ever UNSW Startup China program, this time to be televised on national TV in China!

Most exciting, however, is what is to come for us in 2016. Soon after the Australian Innovation Statement was announced by our Prime Minister, UNSW has announced it’s own Innovation Statement – including millions of dollars pledged against our ever growing startup and entrepreneur support programs!

See you in 2016 – it has been real!!!!!


How can Aussie startups win in China: UNSW Startup China program

UNSW Startup China logos













Given the number of logo’s featured above and on the program landing page, it might be hard to guess what the teams selected for the UNSW Startup China program have to expect, let alone what the winners among them will be given.

Here is a simplified version of how it all works below:


Teams will be spoilt in both the Sydney and China parts of the program – stay tuned for announcements of more special guests and the final 10 selected teams.

There is one more place left if you are a UNSW student, alumni or staff startup founder with your sights set on China.

To apply or to register just to attend the event, here is your chance!

PS. For those interested, here is a little more on the organisations and individuals supporting the program.

For all 10 participants in Sydney:

H2, muru-D, Springboard Enterprises Australia & Slingshot are working with us to identify high quality teams that fit the criteria for the program.

PwC via its Asia Practice is providing mentors for the workshop, as are our friends at Ausinan Science & Technology Society (ASTS).

Western Sydney based Chinese co-working space Next Genius and Asia Society Australia are media partners to the program.

Shenzhen Economic & Trade Office (SETO) is the main sponsor of the pitching evening whilst judges will also join from Guangzhou headquartered accelerator network Innohub, Beijing government run ZPark and Shenzehn based VC firm, Leaguer Capital.

Past participants of the program from both WattBlock and Tripalocal will join China-Israel innovation consultant, Sarah Tritsch as mentors during the program too.

For winning group in China:

Before flying out, pitch decks will be assessed and feedback provided by mentors from the Innohub accelerator network.

The China side of the program will see the winning teams meet with SETO, ZPark and ASTS representatives who will open up their networks of potential partners and investors for the group.

PwC China operations will also be involved as supporters during the China leg as will the UNSW International China office staff.


UNSW FounderLab now live as Lead Developer comes on board this week

This week has seen seasoned developer and UNSW alumni Gwilym Humphreys come on board as Lead Developer for the FounderLab initiative – a world first on-campus service that seeks to give engineering students first hand exposure to multiple startup projects whilst simultaneously providing a professional product development service for non-technical entrepreneurial founders who apply competitively for the service.

Recently returned from a stint in Canada, Gwilym has been the engineering power behind startups such as GradConnection, Vancouver based and was instrumental in the development for photo-sharing application Vidigami not to mention his experience dabbling with game development.

Rather than be set up as another typical accelerator program (of which there are plenty of great one’s within a short distance from campus), the FounderLab was established to solve two specific problems observed over the last 3 years the SED service has been running: (1) engineering students need more options to experience entrepreneurship and startups before being convinced that it is a good career option and (2) ‘learning by doing’ is stifled for many first time (non-technical) founders due to the difficulty in securing a technical co-founder or the lack of funds to pay for a product to be built.

The FounderLab at Work

The FounderLab allows engineering students to learn first hand what it is like working with a startup while being trained up by Gwilym and his growing team – and it would only make sense that some of those interns become attached to particular projects during the process and stay on as the CTO for those startups.

At the same time, the non-technical founders are enabled to go further, faster by working with the FounderLab team to create a Minimum Viable Product – a vital piece of the puzzle for many startups needing to validate their product with real potential customers.

“What UNSW is offering is not a traditional accelerator or incubator but complimentary to both”

The fact that UNSW is not building another pure accelerator program allows more collaboration with well established external accelerator and incubator programs and to source mentors from those organisations to contribute to the now 160 strong Mentors for UNSW Entrepreneurs network. Resulting outcomes of this strategy have allowed UNSW to both act as a ‘feeder’ to some of the best accelerators and incubators, but also provide another set of services that those programs don’t typically offer in a complimentary, not competing way. Some UNSW startups that landed into such prestigious programs both locally and abroad including Peddle in the Singapore based JFDI program, GAMURS in theJumpstart Slingshot program, whilst for WattBlock and Propellor Aero, support from UNSW SED has been provided during and post their time in muru-D andATPi respectively.

Entrepreneur Ecosystem UNSW

Snapshot: Entrepreneur Ecosystem at UNSW

Whilst this new FounderLab and the accompanying MVP Fund are the latest in a suite of offerings for entrepreneurs actually running businesses (Our UNSW Innovations Student Entrepreneur Development team that guides and connects UNSW entrepreneurs has now been operating for over 3 years and has supported more than 400 teams working on small business and startup projects since July 2012), as the diagram above attempts to convey, these are just the pointy end of ‘Startup Support’ on campus and compliment the wider innovation and entrepreneur ecosystem which starts within particular degree programs, is at the heart of many Arc run student clubs & societies, and most notably the new ‘centre court’ for innovation at the university, the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre which was launched successfully last week.

UNSW Event Helps Hardware Startups Get Established in Shenzhen

Ed: Regular readers will recall numerous articles we have written on the importance of hardware startups moving to shenzhen for the first 6-12 months of their startup. In my day job we prototype hardware. I now have an engineer living in Shenzhen and we are turning round prototypes in 3-10 days vs 4-6 weeks locally and at much lower cost. Raising money for hardware startups is hard enough, wasting it by trying to build hardware in Australia where we don’t have sufficient manufacturing and assembly capability or component supply is just crazy.

Its not easy to get a foothold in China from the outside, relationships are much more important than in Australia so events such as these are critically important for new hardware startups.


The rhetoric in the Australian start-up and business communities around “losing young, talented Australians to other competing markets” has been around for a long time, so when we announced a new partnership with the government of Shenzhen involving UNSW entrepreneurs I wasn’t surprised that we received a complaint.

The UNSW Startup Shenzhen event was a showcase of 6 start-ups chosen from a pool of close to 40 applicants, all with UNSW student or alumni team members, and all with China as an important part of their business or marketing strategies. With the generous prize of return airfares to Shenzhen and government led introductions to potential customers, partners and investors put up by SETRO (Shenzhen Economic & Trade Representative Office), the event attracted a diverse and high calibre group of companies which made for an entertaining evening for the 200 attendees. It was an interesting crowd, the event attracting people from the Sydney startup scene, people with business interests in China, academics and students.

The complaint we received just prior to the event suggested that by holding such an event we were supporting the economy of China instead of our local NSW economy.

Short sighted?

Here is why this suggestion is short sighted.

In both the Australian start-up and business spaces, it is old news to many that we need to do more to encourage globally scalable business models – or as Steve Blank says start-ups must be Born Global or Die Local. The star examples from our start-up ecosystem are Australian companies that have penetrated foreign markets, and, in markets like China, this would be next to impossible to do without partnering with a person or organisation that is based ‘in market’ – the only alternative being to make regular visits with a localised product, service, sales kit and marketing campaign.

Relationship & Network is Critical


Remembering back to my days as a Regional Manager for China & Hong Kong for another large Australian university, even when the product itself was Australia and education in the English language, we could not have been effective without a network of partnerships with China based agent partners, staff representatives, Mandarin language marketing materials (and channels) not to mention the “head nod” from relevant government bodies.

This is one of the reasons why a relationship with a government organisation from such a strategically important city in China is an exciting thing for Australian start-ups.

Co-founder of WattBlock, Brent Clark, who delivered the winning pitch on the night commented, “The old school model was for talent to leave Australia and move to Silicon Valley. The new model is to build global businesses from day one from Australia, particularly with countries in similar time zones in Asia. Building global businesses means venturing into markets with greater opportunity than those presented on our home shore and this type of event provides the platform for Australian companies, with limited funding, to reduce the risk of entry into new markets.”

The other reason these events and other entrepreneur development services like this are unlikely to contribute to brain drain from Australia is that they actually work to attract entrepreneurial students to come and study at our universities. A big differentiator for UNSW, for example, is that it produces more CEO’s and start-ups than any other university in Australia. With more support services and unique events like these associated with Australian universities, talented and entrepreneurial students are more attracted to Australia as a study destination and as I have seen firsthand, the number of ‘international student turned Australian start-up co-founder’ category will grow and grow.

Pitch Competiton

Over and above this, another of the participating teams that pitched on the night,Meetisan, worked with the UNSW Student Entrepreneur Development team and NSW Trade & Investment to secure a grant based on the value the company is bringing to the local NSW economy.

Hua Fan, its co-founder, just happens to be a native of Shanghai who has moved to Australia to pursue both a PhD inPhotovoltaics and his entrepreneurial dream. I challenge you to find a better example of brain drain in reverse.

Theresa Lim, who completed both a Commerce degree and later an MBA at UNSW Business School, is the co-founder of PLAY2LEAD felt that “the reality is that the Australian market is simply not big enough for startups. The startup ecosystem works when Australian startups like Atlassian and Big Commerce make it big by truly being global, and like them, can have presence globally including their founding home base (Australia).

These startups that make it big will always be Australian at heart, and their founders give back to the ecosystem by being angel investors themselves here, and mentors to other Australian startups.”

Different from most pitching events these days, not all teams pitching were what would be classified as a classic “tech start-up”. Project Bubba, founded by UNSW alumni David Cheng and Ivan Cheung together with current Masters of Financial Analysis student Tao Zhou is more of a small business than a start-up.

The team is taking on a massive problem relating to a depleting supply of shrimp in the China and is implementing a new technology related to more efficient and effective shrimp farming methods.

AGSM MBA student Eleanor Kollosovski pitched WL Diagnostics, with the support of UNSW Innovations SED service acquired a license to a technology available under the Easy Access IP license program and built a start-up that provides a non-invasive technology solution to enable early detection of inflammatory bowel disease – a life-long autoimmune condition of the gastrointestinal tract.

John Ng, who joined WL Diagnostics as Operations Director after being introduced to Eleanor via the UNSW SED services, found the event somewhat eye opening and sighted a valuable takeaway as, “information from the presenters about the scale, size and potential of doing business in Shenzhen, they are clearly larger, more productive and faster in their commercialisation abilities than Sydney. I previously thought that no Mandarin language skills means, no business dealings in China.”

Tripalocal was one of two teams currently part of the Muru-D accelerator program that made it to the final group of 6 to pitch on the night (the other being competition winners, WattBlock). Led by co-founder Jemma Xu, the team contained possibly the youngest entrepreneur competition wide, Backend Developer Joseph Hilsberg who completed part of his UNSW studies whilst still a high school student via the Open Learning platform.

Our judging panel was diverse too with Sarah Tritsch (China cleantech consultant), Benjamin Chong (Partner at Sydney Seed Fund and Right Click Capital) and Victor Wang (Director, SETRO) bringing startup, localisation and Australia-China business expertise in their advice to each team. The night was powered by UNSW Innovations Student Entrepreneur Associate, Melissa Ran, who fittingly is also a China born entrepreneur turned Sydney start-up mentor.

Congratulations again to the winners, WattBlock, who will be flying to Shenzhen in April next year to connect with local government officials, potential partners and future customers – a fine example of Aussie businesses thinking globally. Watch this space!