University of New South Wales

Hackathon? Startup Weekend? Pop-up Accelerator??

Wikipedia tells us “A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects”.

On the model of Startup Weekend, Wikipedia explains these are “54-hour weekend events during which groups of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more pitch ideas for new startup companies, form teams around those ideas, and work to develop a working prototype, demo, or presentation by Sunday evening”.

Both are phenomenal approaches to giving structure to teams of young, innovative teams in producing high quality projects in short time periods.

As for outputs of these two categories, a hackathon generates working prototypes of new technologies that solve a problem, whereas a Startup Weekend (according to a contact on the inside) generally lacks the time required for strong execution of prototype but does amazingly at validating a problem, solution, business model and performing a pitch at the end of the program.

So what if we could bring the two models together, over a slightly longer period, and judge teams on both work done on external validation of problem, solution and business model but during their final pitch ask not only for slides to be presented but also the working prototypes they have coded up?

What if mentors from accelerator programs like AWI Ventures (main program partner), SlingShot Accelerator and Venturetec Accelerator were collaborating in providing world class mentoring and support to these teams?

What if investment groups like Optus Innov8 Seed and Tank Stream Ventureswere side by side giving mentoring to teams from an investor point of view?

What if the likes high-end tech development agency First Order founder, Alex North, was a key mentor into the program?

What if a passionate group of entrepreneurial UNSW alumni, led by Jonathan Barouch (who has already built a killer app for the same CBA platform the program is targeting with his startup Local Measure) gave up their time, expertise and skills to support each team as a means of “giving back” to their university?

What if the participants were both local and international students and alumni from a variety of faculty, schools and backgrounds – from the obvious Computer Science majors but also across many other Engineering disciplines, and of course the UNSW Business School (who hosted the event in their new flexible, flipped classrooms on campus)?

Then imagine 15 Commonwealth Bank staff divided themselves into hipster, hacker and hustlers categories and provided another layer of mentoring for the students competing. With my colleague Melissa Ran and her team of 20 volunteers making things go smoothly in the background, it would be difficult to think of a way to improve “people power” for a single program.

This is what happened with the UNSW CBA Hackathon we ran September 27 – October 2 this year and the results were very interesting. One of the exciting results was that we have ended up with at least three startups with real solutions to real problems and the support of a major corporate who cares: Commonwealth Bank Australia. Some of the teams are already making use of the mentoring from CBA domain experts and access to the brand new CBA Innovation Lab. In addition, the teams are making use of the free incubation services provided by the Student Entrepreneur Development team at NewSouth Innovations.

$7,500 was up for grabs for the 9 teams who were competing with a focus on the retail transaction space and leveraging the Commonwealth Bank platforms Albert,Leo and Pi.

Some of the concepts teams developed during the program included:

  • tyca (customisable receipts)
  • Easy Dining (an entertaining self-service dining application)
  • Go Get Goods (an app for buying regular grocery items cheaper and easier)
  • Gift (a location gift recommendation app for merchants and shoppers)
  • Notify (a queuing systems specifically for the merchants Albert device)
  • PayRun (an app that allows you to pay faster and save time on waiting)

The icing on the cake was the quality and diversity of the judging panel.

A heavy hitter and such an amazing fit for this program, Brian Long is both the Chairman for the UNSW Audit Committee in addition to being a Board Director at CBA. UNSW alumni entrepreneurs were represented by Jonathan Barouch and CBA by Dilan Rajasingham, Executive Manager Technology Innovation and Senior Solution Architect Jason Chisholm who was able to judge on technical viability regarding how the concepts would work in practice with the CBA platforms at hand.

So who were the winning teams?

In 3rd place, and perhaps the most entertaining pitch, was Cabert – an app that allows one device to replace all others in a taxi. Given the controversy of Uber in terms of disrupting the taxi industry it will be very interesting to see how far Cabert can go and what attention they pick up along the way.

2nd place was taken out by ShopLink, a communal network for merchants. It allows merchants using the CBA Albert and Pi platforms to give each other competitive advantage over similar vendors outside of the network.

The winning team was CrowdSauce, a simple yet effective solution that combines self-payment with user ratings. The judges were impressed by the depth of validation the team had achieved in such a short time – particularly the way the team engaged potential customers (who they are still in touch with) and at the same time put together a prototype which was presented to judges during their final pitch.

The lead speaker of the 3 person team CrowdSauce, Ishaan Varshney, is completing a Computer Science degree from the Faculty of Engineering with a minor in Actuaries from UNSW Business School, “To be honest, the event wasn’t what I expected – it wasn’t a typical hackathon. I didn’t realise how much I would learn about pitching my product. As someone from the “hacker” category, I now recognise how important pitching is in getting your idea off the ground. I found it really valuable learning to validate a problem with the real world in real time – then follow up by validating our solution and business model – its really exciting for us to be able to now access ongoing support from CBA in their Innovation Lab too”.

So was the program a success?

We think so. We have brought together our UNSW startup ecosystem around the new batch of potential entrepreneurs out of the university. We’ve generated some great media exposure in The Australian, CIO and ComputerWorld for our sponsor CBA, the winning student team and UNSW itself. For our main sponsor, CBA, as opposed to looking at this program as a way of getting an early view on talent for recruitment purposes, it was more about testing concepts and validating new potential applications for their payment gateway platforms – and feedback has been nothing but positive so far. The biggest success for me though has been the 4 or 5 teams of students who have approached us post-event to continue with their startup ideas beyond the competition.

So, a “hackathon”, a “Startup Weekend” or a “Pop-up accelerator” – whatever you classify this program as, we certainly want to do more of them in 2015!

Get Rich or Save the World Trying: Social Entrepreneurs

There has been a lot of buzz around “social entrepreneurship” and social startups over the last few years and with it a lot of confusion over what a “social startup” actually is. Whilst some camps define social startups as not dissimilar to a charity or NPO, others dismiss them as businesses using a social cause for pure marketing and differentiation purposes.

Among the 215 or so student entrepreneurs and startups coming out of UNSW in the last few years we have had an impressive batch of social entrepreneurs with varying takes on social entrepreneurship, interesting social impact strategies and with impressive degrees of success.

FoodBank Local is a food aid logistics software company run by current UNSW Computer Science student, Brad Lorge.

Foodbank-Local

Foodbank Local

Chuffed is a crowdfunding platform for social causes run by UNSW Biomedical Engineering alumni, Prashan Paramanathan.

 

Chuffed Crowdfunding for Charity & Social Causes

Chuffed Crowdfunding for Charity & Social Causes

 Conscious Step is an e-commerce platform aligned with UN causes headed up by UNSW Medical PhD graduate Hassan Ahmad and UNSW Business School Finance major, Prashant Mehta (on exchange student from the US).

NewSouth Innovations has had the pleasure of working with both Brad and Prashant via the Student Entrepreneur Development program and more recently with Prashan who is looking to pull together a UNSW social entrepreneur community.

To dig deeper into how and why social startups like these work and what makes a social entrepreneur tick, I asked these co-founders 5 questions regarding perceptions, motivations, challenges, success and future plans.

ED: I saw Hassan pitch at the original Startup Games 18 months ago and thought the guy could sell Ice to Eskimos, very talented at getting his message across and convincing people to get involved, I have also worked with Brad and from the early days found him organising events, arranging competitions, getting sponsorships from companies to support the University Clubs he is involved with, it wasn’t a surprise to me to see his team win.

1. What is your definition of “social entrepreneurship / social startups”

Brad LorgeFoodBank Local:

Brad-Lorge-Imagine Cup-77_0

The UNSW Imagine Cup Team – Brad Lorge on the right

I see it as redefining profit to include something important to both the entrepreneurs and other members of the community. I think the best social startups have their impact and core business directly aligned.

Prashan ParamanathanChuffed:

Prashan Paramanathan - Chuffed

Prashan Paramanathan – Chuffed

There seems to be a whole industry of people who spend time trying to come up with a definition for ‘social enterprise’ – I’m hesitant to add to the muddle. Generally what I find is that there are two types of organisations that call themselves social enterprises:

1. Businesses that have a social purpose embedded into their actual trading activity (most commonly commercial businesses that employ some category of disadvantaged people or businesses that service the not-for-profit sector); and

2. Businesses that redistribute (a portion of) their profit to social causes (eg. charity water, who gives a crap, tom’s shoes)

Prashant MehtaConscious Step

Prashant Mehta - Conscious Step

Prashant Mehta – Conscious Step

Social Entrepreneurship allows for a company to have a primary mission or focus on giving back or making the world a better place, while leveraging the advantages of being a for-profit company. Allowing advantages for developing better products, paying for better employees, and having additional funds to test and develop stronger and more unique marketing campaigns.

Concious-Steps-Promo2

2. What motivates you as a social entrepreneur

Brad Lorge, FoodBank Local:

The same things that motivate me as a social entrepreneur motivate me as an engineer – we want to build something that has an impact for others. We want to make a contribution to our profession.

Prashan Paramanathan, Chuffed:

Tech in the non-profit sector is very often done very badly. Much of this is due to non-profits deprioritising tech spending, but it’s also due to a lack of tailoring of products to the sector. Most often people assume that giving non-profits a free version of the software design for commercial customers will lead to a good outcome – it very rarely does. The sector needs products designed for the sector, by people who understand the sector – and understand tech. That’s where I want to play.

Prashant Mehta, Conscious Step:

Motivation comes from delivering a better product than anything available in today’s market, while creating awareness for the changes I’d like to see in the world. In the case of Conscious Step, providing people with fun solutions for the problems that affect our day to day lives.

3. What are some of the challenges and misconceptions for social entrepreneurs?

Brad Lorge, FoodBank Local:

Identity crisis is a challenge, and knowing the difference between good and bad ideas and practice. A misconception is that you need to give up on growth of investment because a social startup has a social objective. Social startups with the right business acumen grow faster, have stronger support and break through barriers better than any other.

Prashan Paramanathan, Chuffed:

The two that I worry about are:

1. Social entrepreneurs not focusing enough attention on whether there’s a commercially-viable business case behind their venture. There’s not enough focus on delivering a great product or service for your customer, which manifests in several ways including: directly copying businesses from the commercial sector and assuming they’ll work for the non-profit sector; focusing too much on servicing a beneficiary, instead of a customer; or assuming that being a ‘social enterprise’ gives them slack in the market on delivering an excellent product.

2. As a social sector, we need to do a better job of attracting smart startup brains from the commercial startup sector. There is a very large bank of knowledge on how to run a startup well which needs to be imported into the social enterprise scene. I think we confound these startup skills with general ‘commercial’ skills and seek them out from experienced corporate types – this isn’t the best place to get them.

Hassan pitching Concious Step at the Startup Games - Credit Startup Games Bart Jelema

Hassan pitching Concious Step at the Startup Games – Credit Startup Games Bart Jelema

Prashant Mehta, Conscious Step:

Some of the challenges as a social entrepreneur include:

a) Financial Constrains – Most startups do not have a lot of financial backing. This forces you to really work to prioritize how money can be best spent to continue growth, but continually improving the back end of any business.

b) Testing- Getting out of your head and getting feedback on whether your idea is viable, learning the best ways to generate profits and revenues, and understanding the main reason people are interested in your product or service.

c) Networking- Networking is so important and can sometimes even be a bit costly. Meeting people in the same industry or working on similar projects can provide advise or knowledge that can save a lot of time, energy, and resources. More importantly, teams can usually accomplish more than individuals. More importantly the skills of meeting people and presenting can take one far in life.

As for misconceptions, one of the biggest misconceptions among social entrepreneurs is that there social mission will be its primary driver. The truth is your product has to be superior to the rest of the market, offer competitive advantages, and a social mission and presence is the cherry on top. Mission driven companies, whether startups or major corporation are becoming more and more common, and almost now an expectation with increased awareness of the many issues around the world.

4. How would you summarise your success so far?

Brad Lorge, FoodBank Local:

We achieved a 70% efficiency increase for food distribution. We have partnerships with some of the biggest brands in the world as well as the biggest charities.

Prashan Paramanathan, Chuffed:

Since launching Chuffed.org in October 2013, we’ve grown by about 30% every month and will soon have raised over $1 million for over 200 social cause organisations in Australia. The biggest of these campaigns was for a sanctuary for rescued farm animals – Edgar’s Mission – which raised over $162,000 from 1,785 donors in 14 countries, making it the largest Australian social cause campaign to run on any major crowdfunding platform. To support this growth, we have raised $460,000 in seed funding from the Telstra Foundation.

Prashant Mehta, Conscious Step:

Some of the press we’ve received early on includes our Indiegogo Campaign/Commercial , United Nations coverage, exposure during the Business for Good Competition, success in the BFG PitchSydney SEED Fund Competition Top 50 Social Entrepreneurs in Australia and finally a feature in the Women’s Wear Daily/ Footwear News .

5. So where to from here?

Brad Lorge, FoodBank Local:

We will keep building momentum behind a movement to push technology forward and end hunger.

Prashan Paramanathan, Chuffed:

We believe there is still a very large amount of room for growth in the Australian market, both in the rapidly growing not-for-profit and social enterprise sector, but also for crowdfunding in the school and university sector as well as for personal cause campaigns. We are also likely to expand internationally as broaden our product line to support more tailored online donation products for the social enterprise and not-for-profit sector.

Prashant Metha, Conscious Step:

Conscious Step intends to continue to raise money spread awareness for additional causes, while growing its presence in the U.S and Australian market. We plan to continue to educate people on the causes that are resulting in the most issues around the world, and simple ways they can get more involved and help create more solutions. More importantly, we intend to use organic materials and promote the values in fair-trade working condition to provide our customers with a superior sock experience.

It’s inspiring to work with and be supported by people like Prashan, Brad and Prashant and exciting to know they are in talks about potential collaboration based on a shared desire to foster a really strong social entrepreneur community around the university and within the broader Australian startup and business community.

I tend to think social startups are neither a fad, marketing ploy nor driven by a simple NPO charity goal but are the tip of the iceberg for what will become a normal part of corporate ethics for most successful companies. At some point, those companies that do not include social related considerations – across the supply chain – will fall behind those that do.

$50k up for grabs for UNSW Student Entrepreneurs 

Trey Zagante

Trey Zagante

UNSW student-led startups will be offered up to $50,000 in seed funding through a partnership struck between Venturetec Accelerator and UNSW’s NewSouth Innovations.

Venturetec Accelerator is on the hunt for enterprise technology startups in the Asia Pacific region. In addition to access to funding, the accelerator also offers to connect startups with Fortune500 executives regionally.

Founder Trey Zagante is a Masters of Business and Technology student and AGSM alumnus.

He is also a beneficiary of the Student Entrepreneur Development program at NewSouth Innovations (NSi), which helps UNSW students bring their startup plans to life.

Venturetec is one of more than 200 startups that NSi is currently assisting.

Now, the relationship between NSi and Venturetec Accelerator has expanded to benefit other UNSW student-led startups.

“This is an important partnership as it supports Trey as a current student and alumni entrepreneur and also enables our wider student entrepreneur community a chance of accessing amazing high-level networks across Asia and up to $50,000 in seed funding if accepted by Venturetec,” NSi’s Student Entrepreneur Development Manager Joshua Flannery says.

Zagante says he has already started meeting UNSW student teams vying for a place on the Venturetec Accelerator program, and invited more to apply.

“Enterprise software can include financial, logistics, operations, HR, telecommunications and media-related applications that aim to solve problems for large businesses – typically targeting Fortune500 companies,” Zagante says.

He sees huge market potential for enterprise – rather than consumer – focused apps.

“The appetite for new technology solutions from industry is now more than double that for applications that service consumers,” Zagante says.

UNSW students interested in the program should send an email to:student.enterprise@nsinnovations.com.au

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

UNSW student team Sunswift smashes world speed record

Curated from newsroom.unsw.edu.au

A team of UNSW students has broken a 26-year-old world speed record, potentially establishing their Sunswift car as the fastest electric vehicle over a distance of 500 kilometres, on a single battery charge.

The world record was broken last week by the team at a racetrack in Geelong, Victoria.

The car achieved an average speed of more than 100 km/h during the attempt, bettering the previous world record of 73km/h.

However, no definitive numbers can be issued until the record is officially approved by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), world motorsport’s governing body.

“This record was about establishing a whole new level of single-charge travel for high-speed electric vehicles, which we hope will revolutionise the electric car industry,” said jubilant project director and third-year engineering student Hayden Smith.

One of the professional drivers involved in the world record attempt, Garth Walden, said: “As a racing driver you always want to be on the podium and it’s not everyday you get to break a world record. I really enjoyed hanging out with the team and being part of history.”

The students are from UNSW’s Sunswift, Australia’s top solar car racing team. Their vehicle eVe is the fifth to be built and raced since the team was founded in 1996.

Sunswift-Eve-Top

Sunswift-Eve-Unveiling - Credit Sunswift

Sunswift Eve Unveiling – Credit Sunswift

Earlier versions of the Sunswift car have been used to set a world record for the fastest solar powered road trip from Perth to Sydney, and a Guinness World Record for the fastest solar car.

The team hopes the car’s performance today proves it is ready for day-to-day practical use.

“Five hundred kilometres is pretty much as far as a normal person would want to drive in a single day,” Smith said. “It’s another demonstration that one day you could be driving our car.”

No secret has been made of Sunswift’s long-term goals for the car. They expect it to meet Australian road registration requirements within as little as one year, and have previously said its zero-emission solar and battery storage systems make it “a symbol for a new era of sustainable driving”.

The current car uses solar panels on the roof and hood to charge a 60kg battery. However, the panels were switched off during today’s world-record attempt, leaving the car to run solely on the battery charge.

The vehicle was put to the test on a 4.2 kilometre circular track at the Australian Automotive Research Centre, located about 50 kilometres outside Geelong, Victoria.

Almost a quarter of the Sunswift team – which comprises 60 undergraduate students – made the trip to Victoria to support the world-record attempt.

Students are drawn from across all engineering disciplines. The team has also enlisted industrial designers from UNSW Built Environment to rework the car’s interiors in preparation for the application for road-legal status.

Sunswift-Eve-Rear-Quarter

Sunswift Eve Side-Credit Sunswift

Sunswift Eve Side-Credit Sunswift

Sunswift-Eve-Rear

Sunswift Eve Front Top - Credit Sunswift

Sunswift Eve Front Top – Credit Sunswift

Sunswift eVe Front Quarter - Credit Sunswift

Sunswift eVe Front Quarter – Credit Sunswift

Sunswift-Eve-Front

Entrepreneur Support at University: Risk & Reward

1ce03bf

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. The companies shown below are some of the startups launched in the last two years.

Too Early to tell

In 2014 one thing is certain when looking at the way universities in Australia are beginning to support their students in the area of entrepreneurship: no one REALLY knows if they are doing the right thing.

consciousstep

Conscious Step

One of the reasons is that we are still too early in the game. No university in Australia has formally dedicated resources to supporting student owned start-ups (i.e. start-ups where the uni holds no equity stake) for long enough to know.

If the university is not asserting ownership over students Intellectual Property nor taking a percentage of equity in their start-ups, then how can the investment in providing people, services and other resources really be sustained or justified?

Here are three medium to long term reasons why this investment by universities makes sense.

Student recruitment and differentiating the student experience

International student recruitment has been the key source of revenue generation for universities in Australia for a long time. Having served on the front line of international student recruitment for both an Australian university and as a service provider to many Australian universities, I have worked closely with student recruitment agent partners, schools and foreign universities in marketing to and recruiting international students. It has been the case for at least the 14 years I’ve been around that beyond the various groups, alliances and unreliable rankings, Australian universities have a tough time differentiating from each other – let alone strong competition from other traditional destination countries (US, Canada, UK) not to mention increasing competition from Asian countries too.

couchelo

couchelo

“What kind of job and salary can my daughter get if we pay for her to study at your university?” or, “What internship and work experience options does your university offer?” were two of the most common questions asked by parents of students ready to hand over their savings to invest in their child’s education. The only more common questions were regarding scholarships. In 2014, a good internship and promise of starting salary is not enough to stay competitive. There is an opportunity now, leveraging student entrepreneur and start-up support, to offer something more to these potential students and their parents. Whether or not a student continues an entire career of entrepreneurship or tries, fails and learns from a start-up journey before going for a safer graduate job think about this: If you were the person hiring new graduates for a role in your company, would you choose the student who has experienced running his or her own business or a student that has not?

Engaging industry and alumni for the one cause: student entrepreneur success

Universities in Australia are struggling to engage both alumni and industry to the same extent it happens in the US. Whilst alumni and industry are very different challenges, for different reasons working with innovative students brings real benefits to all involved. Whether it be big companies working with universities in running competitions and hackathons, or a university nurturing a network of alumni and then matchmaking alumni mentors and new student entrepreneurs, the results can be win-win-win.

Innovation for big companies, unique experiences for students or pre-backed start-up companies for students, alumni and industry can all be bi-products of these activities.

Foodbank Local

Foodbank Local

Once a university has a track record in this area, could the perception of that university change to mean it has become “a place to collaborate” and “a place where innovation happens”. If yes, then this alone validates an investment in student entrepreneur support both financially and in value of reputation.

Building an army: 10 years = 10 cohorts of students with a reason to give back

Longer term, of course, is the same reason US powerhouses like Stanford and MIT do this.

Supporting hundreds of student start-ups year-on-year can only mean planting seeds for future “good will”. The hypothesis says that when a student entrepreneur “graduates” to become a billionaire global success story, she will remember also the little university back in Australia where it all started. She will naturally want to “give back” a donation to the new batch of budding student entrepreneurs who hope to be like her one day.

Issueby

Issueby

Encouragingly this is already starting to happen, if only anecdotally. For example, the generous Mr. Michael Crouch has recently gifted a large donation which has resulted in the soon to launch Michael Crouch Innovation Centre at UNSW.

The UNSW Centre For Innovation

A Model Of The UNSW Centre For Innovation
Source: http://www.facilities.unsw.edu.au

So with these three examples alone, do the potential benefits in investing in free support for student entrepreneurs outweigh the risks for our universities?

Perhaps the greater risk greater is NOT making that investment. What do you think?

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

 

Want to learn something? Make something cool – UNSW CREATE club prototypes a Quadcopter from scratch

Create-logoUniversity of NSW has a cool student group called CREATE, in their own time they teach each other how to design, fabricate and build hardware and have their own Hackerspace on the University campus.

I spend a lot of time around the Universities and they are one of the most entrepreneurial and creative groups I have met. They run weekly courses on Solidworks, Arduino, electronics, soldering, design, PCB prototyping and have access to workshops and 3d printing and other equipment to make their creations. They also setup market stalls in the University every week to sell electronics parts to help fund their activities and make it cheaper for the participants to get involved.  If you are looking for startup team members I would suggest spending some time around these guys and girls, they get up and make things happen. 

In 2013 they designed, built and sold a quadcopter from scratch, here is their story. 

Creating a Quadcopter from Scratch

Quadcopter Chassis-Create UNSW

Quadcopter Chassis-Create UNSW

Throughout the semester, CREATE has been working on a DIY 3D printable Quadcopter, designed totally in house. What began with just a simple centrepiece, used to hold two cheap cuts of 12mm aluminium tube from Bunnings, has quickly developed into a totally enclosed, stable, quadcopter build.

The original design was based off parts we inherited on loan, which proved to be a good way to get in the air, yet for the quad to be successful, we needed to choose and buy parts specific to our needs.

Component list:

Main Chassis

The current quadcopter model still has the original 12mm diameter aluminium tube, though the centre chassis and motor mounts have evolved through a number of design revisions. The current chassis features 4 separate arms, each 250mm in length, and a hole in the centre which allows all the motor cables to fit through the centre.

Underneath the hole, there is a slot to hold the 4 in 1 esc, a mobile phone for telemetry and video, and a set of rails allowing us to slide on a custom battery clip, or anything else we need to carry. An ideal build would feature 12mm carbon fibre tube, as it has superior strength, weight and vibration dampening characteristics.

One of the original Prototypes - Credit - Sam Cassisi

One of the original Prototypes – Credit – Sam Cassisi

Flight Board Dampening System

Quadcopter FlightBoard

Quadcopter FlightBoard

A key feature of the new design is its flightboard vibration dampening system. The system is based on an elastic band, which holds the flight board down, and a set of foam pads, which dampen. The result of this is very little vibrations being passed to the flight board, providing a stable flight.

Protective Hood + GoPro Mount

In the pursuit of neatness and integration, we added a hinged hood which both covers all the electronics, and provides a high mounting point for the GPS receiver. Furthermore, the hood is extends vertically above the height of the propellers, so in the event of the quad flipping and landing upside down, the re-printable plastic will take the brunt of the damage.

The front of the chassis features a GoPro mount designed into the printed plastic, allowing secure camera mounting.

Quadcopter-Hood

Quadcopter Hood

 

Quad Cover Render - Credit Thingiverse.com

Quad Cover Render – Credit Thingiverse.com

Landing Gear

The landing gear is designed to transfer the landing force into the arms of the quad, taking stress away from the plastic. Furthermore, the whole setup is extremely light, using only 2 tiny cable ties to lock the landing gear onto the arms. A flange on either side of the landing gear meshes around the chassis and prevents the landing gear rotating unfavourably. The modular design allows us to make the legs longer if larger payloads are required, and to weld/reprint pieces as they break, rather than the quad.

Quadcopter-Landing Gear

Quadcopter-Landing Gear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landing Gear - Renders

Landing Gear – Renders

Landing Gear Renders - Credit Thingiverse.com

Landing Gear Renders – Credit Thingiverse.com

Motor Mounts

The motor mounts have matured significantly since the first revision, as the current mounts are strong enough to resist minor crashes, but will break in the event of a serious accident, saving more expensive components like motors. A single nut and bolt secure the motor mount on the end of the aluminium arms.

The mounts feature a hidden cavity designed to hold a LED diode perfectly, the idea being to light up the front motor mounts with green LEDs, and the rear with red LEDs. There is also a slot to allow the motor wires coming from the ESCs to be fed through.

Quadcopter-Motor

Quadcopter Motor

 

 

 

 

Motor Mount Renders

Motor Mount Renders – Credit thingiverse.com

Want to build one?

The CREATE group have kindly uploaded all the files and designs to a Thingiverse page available here http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:172068 and licensed it under Creative Commons – Attribution – Share Alike License.

 

Technical Details:

Multiwii pro 2.0 flight board, running Megapirate 3.0.1 R2, a exact port of Arducopter

U-Blox Neo-6M GPS receiver, 10Hz

Turnigy 9x 8ch transmitter and receiver, running custom er9x firmware

Custom 4 in 1 120A ESC (4x30A)

AX-2810q 750KV motors, running at 3S (~12V), max current draw of ~26Amps

11×4.7 carbon plastic composite propellers

Approx. 1.5kg thrust per rotor at full throttle

3DR 915Mhz telemetry radios for 1.6km radius connection to PC software (Mission Planner)

Bluetooth for smartphone compatibility.

2x2200mAh Turnigy 3S 20-30C lithium polymer batteries, parallel.

Photos from the CREATE Quadcopter for the end of year social

Photos from the CREATE Quadcopter for the end of year social

 

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