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How student entrepreneurs are getting their startups off the ground

1 April 2016
Students interested in launching a startup have to be prepared to take a few risks

Got a brilliant business idea? You don’t have to wait until you graduate to put your ideas into action because we've got a number of programs to help you get started on your startup.

In March, Incubate, the student startup accelerator program launched by the University of Sydney Union (USU) in 2012, held its annual Demo Day. Student entrepreneurs presented their business ideas to a crowd of almost 300 people, ranging from industry professionals to other students.

The ideas on show at Demo Day crossed a broad spectrum of subject and industry areas. Miriad Technologies and Iridium Dynamics demoed their scientific- and engineering-based products. The creators of Small Change, who found themselves frustrated by the way social media creates awareness of issues but provided little solutions, had an idea to make charitable giving as easy as ‘liking’ a photo. My Taste Guide was created by two foodies who wanted to keep in shape, so they created an app that can help you to watch your weight without having to give up the brownies you love so much.

Many of the students who presented at Demo Day had been working on various products while studying, proving that it’s never too early to start putting innovative ideas into action.

Incubate founder James Alexander said students interested in launching a startup had to be prepared to take a few risks.

“If you want to do something that’s new and is actually going to change and have an impact on people’s lives – but also, importantly, something that’s really risky, and it may or may not even work at all – then that’s the case where you want to get involved with startups. That’s the only place where you’ll get the experience and you’ll also learn a lot more than if you went to work in a traditional grad role.”

Recent PhD graduate Tomonori Hu, who founded Miriad Technologies, said programs like Incubate provided a fresh environment and thinking that allowed participants to be fast moving, but also critical about their ideas.

“Perhaps more important than anything else are the people we meet in the program. Meeting like-minded student entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneur mentors and venture capitalists would be so difficult without a program like Incubate.”

Fifth year Law/Engineering student Joshua Lo Russo agreed the benefits of accelerator porgrams were numerous. "Meeting like-minded people, networking in universities across Sydney, training from top-tier management consulting firms, developing communication and leadership skills, and contributing to a real problem that can have a real impact."

If you’re already thinking about launching a startup, the University provides a range of co-curricular programs for students such as Incubate.

Sydney Genesis have provided support for more than 700 students and alumni to start their own business ideas since their inauguration in 2008. Applications for the Semester 1, 2016 program close on 5 April, so if you have a business idea you’d like to get off the ground, be sure to apply.

The Sydney Accelerator Network foster innovative new ideas in ICT, and they help ICT-related startups put their ideas into action. They usually work with around four startup businesses at a time, helping these companies give life to their ideas.

The USU also support societies that connect entrepreneurial students with business opportunities while they are studying. 180 Degrees: Social Innovation Group, Inside Enterprise and the Network of Women (NOW), are just a few of the societies on offer that aim to get young businesspeople inspired and involved.