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Program combines entrepreneurial skills with financial know-how

26 June 2019
New knowledge tested in pitching competition
As Australia's economy shifts from its resources base to one focused on "clever" industries, the University of Sydney Business School is offering a program that combines entrepreneurial skills with financial and capital management skills.

Numbers of students enrolled in the Entrepreneurial Finance program have doubled over two years and now stand at around 225.

"Our purpose is to merge financial analysis and corporate valuation skills with studies related to the new growth sectors of start-up companies and venture capital," said Joakim Westerholm, an associate professor in the School’s Discipline of Finance.

"By doing this, we have been able to enrol both students that are active in entrepreneurship and students with great financial analysis skills," Dr Westerholm said.

In an effort to stress test the new unit, student teams have been required to develop their own "scalable business models" and present them to a high-powered panel of judges in a pitching competition.

"A central theme in the program is the team assignment in which students from the very first lecture start thinking about a business creation and using the latest qualitative and quantitative methodologies and techniques to develop a sound scalable business model," Dr Westerholm said. 

"We provided students with the tools to forecast sales and make financial projections for these businesses," he said. "In addition, we coach the students in how to pitch or present their business idea in an effective way."

The judging panel was made up of senior entrepreneurship and innovation professionals from Westpac Bank.

The winner of the competition was Shoppoland, a venture that would specialise in buying furniture and appliances from graduating students and selling them on as packages to new students arriving on campus.

Shoppoland was the creation of Johnny Liu, Ping Guo, Shijin Li, Zehua Wang, Zhirou Yang and Yeming Yuan.

Runners-up were Autocollect, a smart phone app for managing invoices and payment reminders directly through MYOB or XERO, and AI Pet, a venture that would manufacture, market and sell a Fitbit-type device for monitoring the health of pets while owners are away.

"The pitching final was a hugely successful event with both students and industry participants enjoying themselves. Networks were also formed that could lead to future businesses opportunities and courses in entrepreneurship," said Dr Westerholm.

"We met some amazing talent," remarked one of the judges, while a student competitor said that enrolling in Entrepreneurial Finance program was "one of the best decisions I've ever made."

The student went on to say that he had "received highly qualified guidance from the brilliant and dedicated Stephen Zhang and Joakim Westerholm and the knowledgeable tutor Josh Della Vedova."