University of Sydney students are emerging as leaders in Australia’s burgeoning start-up industry, aided by on-campus start-up programs like INCUBATE, Sydney Genesis and Sydney Social Innovation Hub.
More and more University of Sydney students are embracing entrepreneurial spirit and developing creative and bold ideas to drive successful starts-up businesses. With help from various accelerator programs on campus, student innovation is leading the charge to solve society’s problems, whether it’s big issues such as global food security, or everyday problems such as finding that perfect outfit with just the push of a button. We caught up with three new student-led start-ups shaking up the status quo.
Just a year after completing Sydney Uni’s INCUBATE’s start-up accelerator, PhD student Farid Mirmohseni and partner Reza Keshavarzi are already making a big splash with their waterless carwash service, WipeHero. The pair are out to disrupt the ’chaotic’ fleet car washing industry, using waterless and environmentally sustainable technology.
WipeHero booked $200,000 in sales during their time in INCUBATE’s program, and have since tripled their revenue. Clients include GoGet, Hertz and Stratton, and they have also recently received $100,000 in grant funding from the NSW Government.
“We want to grow our business to create an impact in Australia and globally,” says Farid. “We are operating in Sydney and Melbourne at the moment and are looking at expanding into the US soon.”
“Running a start-up means that you face challenges on a day-to-day basis,” he says. “Every day we’re solving a new problem, whether that’s to improve our products, or to better our customer experience in scale.”
“Every day we’re solving a new problem, whether that’s to improve our products, or to better our customer experience in scale.”
Master of Commerce student Antonia Bolla wants to change the way people shop for clothes as time becomes more precious. Inspired by Spotify’s ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist, Antonia concocted a virtual shopping assistant to combat those frustrating ’nothing-to-wear moments’ that always seem to occur right before a big outing. Her Jamie & I app prompts users to take a simple online quiz, which is then used to generate tailored outfit recommendations based on their taste and budget.
The idea won the Sydney Social Innovation Hub Hatch prize in 2016, providing Antonia with an intensive workshop, mentoring and business advice support, working space and $10,000 in seed funding. Last month, Antonia and her sister Lidia launched Jamie & I into the market and gained 500 subscriptions within the first three days.
“We’re now focusing on creating the best service possible for our customers, gathering and incorporating as much feedback as possible,” says Antonia. “At the same time, we’re working on building traction and getting the brands we’d like to showcase on board. We’ve also applied for the HatchLab Incubator of the Sydney Social Innovation Hub.”
Antonia says the experience is like a rollercoaster. “It’s super turbulent, with new challenges arising each day that you don’t see coming, but new opportunities show themselves everyday too. The highs are definitely worth it; it’s such an exciting time and it just never gets boring, plus you learn so much.”
Nanosatellites and drones are the key to increasing farmers’ profits according to Malcom Ramsay and Anastasia Volkova, both research students at the University of Sydney. Their data-driven crop management tool, FluroSat, uses hyperspectral cameras to identify early signs of stress in crops, saving famers big on water, fertiliser and pesticides.
FluroSat won the University’s inaugural Inventing the Future program last year, and has since joined Telstra’s Muru-D start-up accelerator.
“Our proudest achievements so far have been receiving a finalists’ award in the World Bank #BigDataInnovate Challenge, winning the Cicada Innovations Collaboration Award, and having the opportunity to present a keynote address at StartCon Collaborations with industry bodies,” says Anastasia.
They’re now monitoring crops in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. “We’re also in continuous discussions with an ever-growing network of partners, including the world’s best sensor manufacturer,” explains Anastasia.
For students interested in start-ups, Antonia, Anastasia and Farid all agree that the best thing to do is to dive in and let the ideas evolve.
“My advice would be to get away from the drawing board and try it first-hand,” says Farid. “The key is to keep failing fast and learning what does and doesn’t work. You will always have the tendency to over-prepare and that won’t work in a start-up.”
On Tuesday 11 April, the University’s first ever Start-Up Careers Fair will give interested students a chance to speak with leaders in the industry to find out about start-up career opportunities. As start-ups continue to transform the Australian economy, Career Development Officer Donna Denyer stresses that the Fair is invaluable not only for entrepreneurial students – but anyone looking to find employment in the start-up space. Start-ups are now the largest contributor to job creation in Australia, according to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.
“Whether you work for or become the founder of a start-up, the experience can present an opportunity to be part of a small, fast-moving team where on a daily basis you are seeing the direct impact of your work,” says Donna. “It will be a challenging opportunity to work outside your comfort zone to expand your range of skills.”
The Start-up Careers Fair is on Tuesday 11 April. Register now.