Ideas become careers

7 August 2017
UQ Business Management student Dave Cole
UQ Business Management student Dave Cole in Shanghai. Image: Nimrod Klayman

Shanghai has become a start-up magnet.

More than 70,000 start-ups have reportedly set up in the city since mid-2016. In particular, Shanghai is attracting international talent, fuelled by the central government’s investment in technology parks as part of its innovation agenda.

UQ Business Management student Dave Cole was thrilled to be one of the students gaining experience in this space through the China Mobility Program in 2016.

The China Mobility Program is an initiative of the UQ Idea Hub in which 10 students were selected to spend four weeks at some of Shanghai’s best technology start-ups.

UQ Idea Hub teamed with business accelerators Caohejing Hi-Tech Park (CHJ), Fishburners Shanghai and Chinaccelerator to match the students with mature and sophisticated start-ups. The students undertook technical or marketing work, shadowed start-up founders and teams, and acted as ambassadors for UQ at events.

Students must be able to operate in an evolving workforce. Many of the jobs they will be applying for don’t exist yet; some of those jobs they will create for themselves and others.

Mr Cole said a highlight was spending time with UQ computer science alumnus Peter Davison, who established Fishburners – Australia’s largest start-up incubator – in 2011.

“He was a seed investor in PayPal and his insights and experience are brilliant,” he said.

Mr Cole was paired with Artable, a start-up with a focus on providing the Chinese community access to a creative education through an online platform.

“During the internship, I was able to gain a birds-eye view of the components of the business and interact with the owners and software developers to add value in a meaningful way,” Mr Cole said.

“I learnt what environmental factors the company faced within China, and how the business positioned itself with its suppliers, customers and competitors.”

Mr Cole’s own start-up idea is a digital remittance system that does away with paper-based receipts and tax invoices.

UQ Idea Hub Director Nimrod Klayman said the China Mobility Program was designed to give students the confidence to think more broadly than local markets when developing their projects.

“The program teaches resourcefulness, cultural sensitivity and commercial acumen, which are all required in large, complex markets such as China,” he said.

“The Idea Hub is looking at expanding the program to other major cities, such as Tel Aviv in Israel and San Francisco in the US.”

A major goal of UQ’s Student Strategy is to produce graduates with intellectual capital, leadership skills and an innovative mindset to build meaningful networks, agile careers and creative solutions. Students must be able to operate in an evolving workforce. Many of the jobs they will be applying for don’t exist yet; some of those jobs they will create for themselves and others.

Campus-based idea incubators and accelerators, like UQ Idea Hub, foster the entrepreneurial capability of students, staff and alumni through well-connected networks.

Run over a period of six weeks, teams of students, alumni and successful entrepreneurs form around ideas through a process of pitching and critique. They attend workshops covering topics such as research, pitching and storytelling, prototyping, market validation and business models.

Mr Klayman said the Idea Hub received a major boost with the opening of its new dedicated learning space on the St Lucia campus in March this year.

“There has been a growing number of budding entrepreneurs on campus in recent years, but these students had nowhere to get together. They didn’t have a home,” he said.

“Once students are enrolled in the program, they have access to the dedicated space 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Economics student Ben Coughlin studies part-time and works on his start-up business, Backyard Coach, from the UQ Idea Hub space. Backyard Coach is a marketplace connecting coaches to athletes seeking private training.

“Idea Hub is a fantastic program that allowed me to turn my idea into a business,” Mr Coughlin said.

“It was also a fantastic preparation to help be selected for the Germinate program at ilab, UQ’s start-up accelerator and incubator based at St Lucia.

“Aside from the seminars and connections to industry professionals, I found most value in Idea Hub’s shared working space. Having a space to build my business in with the support of a community has been invaluable. And being on campus, it couldn’t be any easier.”

Mr Klayman said the UQ Idea Hub is also working to create partnerships with the Brisbane business community. UQ has already established partnerships with KPMG and Aon to sponsor activities, mentor students and be part of competitions run through UQ Idea Hub.

To learn more about the UQ Idea Hub, visit ideahub.uq.edu.au

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Article originally published in UQ ChangeMakers magazine (Issue 3)

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