Asia

Reversing Startup Brain Drain: Student recruiters are the new global Startup talent scouts

1ce03bfGuest post by Josh Flannery,  Manager, Student Entrepreneur Development , University of NSW. Josh has a Master of Business & Technology (AGSM), a degree in Communications and has worked across Asia in both Startups and Commercialisation roles including 6 years in Japan, and 2 years in China & Hong Kong as Senior Regional Manager, China for Macquarie University. In 2005 Joshua Co-founded edtech company StudyLink株式会社, the Asia based sister company to Learning Information Systems Pty Ltd and also ran a boutique education consultancy in Japan, InterCreations, with fellow Japan guru Jeremy Breaden.

Josh has developed and launched the student enterprise program at UNSW which has helped launch early-stage start-up ventures for ~200 student entrepreneurs. If you want to get involved as a mentor, industry partner or a sponsor you can connect with Josh on Linkedin

I have two really strong passions in my work life. One is student entrepreneurship and the other is international education. When these two worlds cross, I get excited.

There has been endless talk of the problems and issues related to young Australian entrepreneurs leaving Australia – usually the most exciting startups as they have, to some degree, proved their business model is able to scale beyond our shores. Two startups I have worked closely with in the last 18 months, Conscious Step and Couchelo have done just this – to New York and Singapore respectively. (Ed: I saw Hassan from Conscious Step pitch at one of his first UNSW startup competitions and I think this guy could sell ice to eskimos, he is one of the best pitch competition competitors I have ever seen)

Conscious Step - UNSW Startup

Conscious Step – UNSW Startup

But what can Australia do to attract talent back to its startup ecosystem? And how?

With recent government cuts to funding programs, it may be a stretch to rely on financial incentives. Our accelerator and incubator scene is stronger and stronger with time, but this is happening across the globe simultaneously too so there is limited scope for building new, uniquely Australian, competitive advantages with new programs. We do have a reputation for nice weather working in our favour but are sun, surf and sand alone enough to attract seriously talented entrepreneurs or startups over to Australia. Probably not.

So if the money is not here, the support programs are yelling “me too” and our beautiful beaches are not enough to attract top notch startups then perhaps we looking for solutions too late in the cycle. Perhaps we should take a step back and look at who IS actually coming to Australia and why. This is where my two worlds cross over because I can see potential opportunity for our Australian startup ecosystem in tapping into an incredibly successful machine that exports Australian education programs by recruiting international students to study at our tertiary education institutions. That machine is lives in the international marketing and recruitment efforts of our universities, TAFE’s and other private tertiary education providers.

We have an opportunity to translate international student recruitment into “global startup talent scouting for startups”. The best thing about this concept for me is that we are already trialing it – and it works.

unsw photoPhoto by unsw.flickr Earlier this month, UNSW ran a roadshow of events across several cities in China. One of the key themes being marketed leading up to and during the events was the opportunity to tap into a deep and sincere support service, programs and events aimed at giving students who move to Sydney for their study the best possible chance of succeeding as an entrepreneur (or failing fast) and most importantly “learning by doing”. We ran a competition for potential students who were given an opportunity to pitch a startup idea and the winner was awarded with thousands of dollars in services available for use once the startup is up and running on campus.

The competition encouraged students, some of whom were already running startups, to consult with us regarding what type of support and what opportunities were available for them if they were to pursue the big move over to Australia. And some of these students were brilliant.

The result of this exercise is two-fold. For the university, services and programs for startups are being leveraged as a carrot to attract more students, more entrepreneurial students and to help solidify UNSW’s position in the market as “the place to go for entrepreneurial students, regardless of study focus area”.

Secondly, for the local startup ecosystem we are, in effect, scouting for global talent that will enhance the ecosystem in which the university is so entrenched. A live example of this is the young man I presented a prize to in Shanghai last week for his startup idea which is based on a successful business he is working on in China for several years to date. I look forward to being a part of a process that plugs him, and many others into our startup ecosystem over the coming years.

Does this model counter the many Australian startups we have lost to Silicon Valley? Not yet, but we’re just getting started.

Photo by unsw.flickr

Photo by robb3d

From 0 to 200 start-ups in 24 months at UNSW

 Guest post by Josh Flannery,  Manager, Student Entrepreneur Development , University of NSW. Josh has a Master of Business & Technology (AGSM), a degree in Communications and has worked across Asia in both Startups and Commercialisation roles including 6 years in Japan, and 2 years in China & Hong Kong as Senior Regional Manager, China for Macquarie University. In 2005 Joshua Co-founded edtech company StudyLink株式会社, the Asia based sister company to Learning Information Systems Pty Ltd and also ran a boutique education consultancy in Japan, InterCreations, with fellow Japan guru Jeremy Breaden.

Josh has developed and launched the student enterprise program at UNSW which has helped launch early-stage start-up ventures for ~200 student entrepreneurs. If you want to get involved as a mentor, industry partner or a sponsor you can connect with Josh on Linkedin.

Introduction

The title of this article is a little misleading as start-ups have been coming out of UNSW for many years prior, however, in the last 2 years something different has been going on at UNSW to encourage, support and champion over 200 new start-up projects led by students or recent alumni.

There is no solid data to know for sure, but we have a hunch that this is the highest number of start-ups from any university during a 2 year period nation wide. It’s almost certainly more than any other 2 year period in the history of UNSW.

So what are we doing differently?

UNSW Startup - Smart Sparrow

UNSW Startup – Smart Sparrow

Know the role of the university within the start-up ecosystem

There is a trend in Australia to take a proven or traditional accelerator program model and replicate it on a university campus. Now this model certainly has merit and has its place in the ecosystem. In our case, we saw an abundance of excellent accelerator programs within 15 minutes drive of our campus so recreating the same model on campus would not be creating a new value proposition for our student entrepreneurs. More likely it would attract the start-ups who did not get into the city based brand name programs and the mentors that did not get chosen by the well established programs using the same model.

We see the role of the university in this ecosystem as primarily for providing cross-faculty (read complimentary skill sets), “learning by doing” experiences for self-selected students with a real interest in entrepreneurship. It is to fill the gap between first time entrepreneurs still studying (or recently graduated) and teams with validated ideas who are at the point where they are finally ready to pitch for entry into an accelerator program.

No one is knocking an on campus accelerator, but if a university doesn’t have resources and programs in the “pre-accelerator” space I describe above then the university is trying to pick winners and focus on the 6 or 12 start-ups that win entry into the accelerator model program each year whilst excluding the hundreds – or thousands – of other students from much more than an invitation to Demo Day.

First time student entrepreneurs need a few basic but solid things to work towards their first failure aka real learning:

(a) A sounding board (not consultant) with a network to introduce mentors, service providers or other useful people and organisations

Bart Jellema runs the Startup Games at UNSW

Bart Jellema runs the Startup Games at UNSW

(b) To feel part of a larger community, a micro-ecosystem that is full of students at the very same stage, facing similar challenges along the entrepreneur journey but also some a little behind or further ahead in this journey for casual communication of real value to take place.

Student entrepreneur wins and challenges need to be celebrated as a group

One of the best things we ever did was create a closed social media group exclusively for student entrepreneurs currently working on live projects. We are participants more than administrators and with a few hundred members the group is now a go to place for help requests, co-founder hunting, mentor requests and other exchanges that may not be as appropriate in more public forums. It took some encouragement but now the group has a life of its own.

This list is just touching the surface, but it’s where we started. It’s an experiment for us that is working well and it feels like we are just warming up.

Watch this space!

Josh

 

Q & A with Pei-Han Chuang – Founder of Qiito.com one of Asia’s fastest growing travel sites

Pei-Han-Chuang - Founder Qiito

Pei-Han-Chuang – Founder Qiito

Pei-Han Chuang is the founder of Qiito.com (pronounced key-tow) one of the most successful Asian founded Community Travel sites. Qiito raised $SGD 2 million in 2011, formed partnerships with the Japanese and Taiwan Tourism Boards as well as many other companies and is growing extremely quickly with over 21,000 locations shared with 50,000 photos (this is has risen more than a 1000 in the last 24 hours) 

Editor: Hi Pei-Han, you are getting great traction now, users are sharing 1000s of locations a week, but tell us about the early times, the struggles and difficulties you had to overcome to get to this point.

Pei-Han: Let’s set aside difficulty on funding, staffs, cash flow and more, because anything can be solved by money is not really a problem.

The real difficulty to launch a Start-up is to have a strong mind and be passionate in what you are doing. If your motive to launch a startup is to break free from office, to have freedom, be your own boss and be in control, then I will advise you to stay put and do not quit your job.

Because it is exactly opposite, you will not have enough time for your family, enough sleep, enough money and things will not be within your control (until you start to gain traction)

You will have to get used to it and embrace it. Most of time, you feel like you have a split personality and lack of persistence is your worst enemy.You are continuously doubting if what you have done is correct and should you persist with it because expected result has not come in or should you just give up?

Qiito Logo

Finally, you pull through and have surprising good result. But soon next the bottleneck comes and the mental tug war repeats again.

Trust me, it is mentally abnormal but a fun process.

 

Qiito Credit: Qiito.com

Qiito Credit: Qiito.com

Editor: What have been your big wins and what did you have to do to achieve them?

Pei-Han: Our biggest wins have been getting Government Tourism Boards and major brands to partner with us : http://qiito.com/about/investors_partners

One of our other wins has being one of first movers in Asia Community Travel and the significant growth in users and solving some of pain points in travel industry, this combination has helped us get attention from our existing and coming partners.

In fact, many of our partners found us because either someone in their team was one of our users or someone close to them is sharing our user updates on Facebook.

Many of our users are heroes who help all our users a lot by tagging photos to exact location to make these information usable for all users. Hence we would like to say a big thanks you to all of them in helping all travel lovers to easily find out where & how to go places that they had been to.

Another encouraging thing that we see is our growth in users who shares information and our bloggers base aka Qiito community.

What did we do to achieve this? We stay close to users and be sincere in helping to solve their problems.
to know more what is difference between Qiito and other sites, and how we help http://qiito.com/about/testimonials

Editor: Pei-Han was kind enough to share screenshots of his early qiito beta versions

Prototype Beta Screenshot of Qiito.com

Prototype Beta Screenshot of Qiito.com

Editor: What are some of the mistakes and lessons you learnt?

Pei-Han: Lessons I learned:

1. To stay ahead in the game is to stay closer to users, so you know what they want and enable you to develop the tools they really need. Many start-ups do not last more than a year, mainly because they do not stay close with users and end up losing confidence in what they are building when they don’t get the user response they want and end up giving up.
2. A strong-minded team that stay with you through thick and thin.
Be sure when forming a team, look into not only their belief in the product but also that will believe in the startup life. Because there is no point hiring someone that never reply to message after office hours and never wants to work extra. I am really fortunate to have many good people who are still staying with me and I need to say a big thanks to them.

Qiito.com Screenshot Credit: Qiito.com

Qiito.com Screenshot
Credit: Qiito.com

Editor: What is the next big strategic goal for you and the team?

Pei-Han: We have received many complements from our users that they love how Qiito can do for them. Hence our team’s goal is to introduce Qiito to more people and keep surveying our users on what they want, so to keep improving ourselves to better.

Editor: Can you see an IPO
Pei-Han: Currently we are only focusing on building a best & most useful platform for all travelers and people loves to share, hence issue related to IPO has not occurred in our mind yet, after all we only launched for slightly over a year. So it is still a long road for us.
Editor: Any numbers on growth you can share?
Pei-Han: Since we launched June 2012, we had seen our users increased more than 100X and we are seeing steady monthly growth since our new version out in May 2013.
As a platform that encourages social sharing of contents, we are more focused on growth of content that are been shared among users and to facilitate these to be helpful to every users.
We are seeing average of more than a thousand photos/places are been shared each week by our users, and this is definitely great to all users in helping to find new & interesting places to go both locally and overseas,
You can connect with Pei-Han on Linkedin sg.linkedin.com/in/chuangpeihan/