By Gabriel Katzeff, Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Are you drawn to innovation, passionate about making a difference, and are eager to gain valuable skills and experience? University is the perfect setting to explore career options. In this post, I’ll share a few of the ways I’ve explored entrepreneurship as a student at Macquarie and my key learnings. Whether you want to build your own business or are just seeking to gain in-demand skills, I hope this post provides valuable insight!
Note: all of the activities I’ve listed here are available to all Macquarie University students, and are applicable for GLP credit! Skip to the bottom for more related resources.
1. The Macquarie University Incubator
Ever seen that wooden building next to the media and communications department on Hadenfield Ave that looks like it belongs on the front cover of Sustainable Architecture magazine? That’s the Macquarie University incubator, which operates as a shared workspace for startups and also facilitates programs year-round for Macquarie Uni students seeking to delve into the startup world. In the mid-semester break of session 1 2022, I participated in the incubator’s START program. We developed a startup idea into a prototype by applying design-thinking, a modern approach to product development with a strong focus on empathising with the needs of the consumer.
Most startups fail. The most common reason being that there was not enough demand for the product. A good solution is to perform significant demand verification before investing too much of your capital. This can be achieved by developing the minimum viable product (MVP), the product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, gathering feedback, improving, and repeating that process until you achieve a good product-market fit.
Startups succeed when they are customer or problem-obsessed, it is important for entrepreneurs to not become overly attached to any given solution.
Startups are more likely to succeed when: the founders are more experienced, there are more than one co-founder, the startup is backed by a large venture capital.
I really enjoyed this program, it was hands-on, practical, and fun, and was a great way to meet like-minded Macquarie Uni students. We were also invited to attend networking events hosted at the incubator to meet founders and startup employees. To find out what’s happening at the incubator check out the website, I highly recommend signing up to the newsletter to keep up to date with program application date deadlines. Also, it’s through this newsletter that I first heard about…
2. The Startmate Student Fellowship
To me, this fellowship surpassed all expectations. This is a completely free fellowship that facilitates online and in-person workshops and networking events designed to immerse students in the Australian and New Zealand startup ecosystem. If you’re interested in start-ups at all, this program has something for you. As part of the Winter cohort of 2022, I received one-on-one career coaching from a range of founders and senior executives in industries that interest me. Startmate is backed by the largest venture capital firm in Australia, Blackbird, and has the connections to match. We had interactive lectures from industry leaders, including the current chair of Tesla, Robyn Denholm. Startmate also facilitated three case competitions based on real start-up and venture capital firm challenges. The three-week program ended with an ‘interview night’, where ambitious students could apply for jobs at several startups and possibly get an internship or grad offer. All Startmate fellows are added to the Startmate Talent Engine, a talent pool with exclusive job offers from some of the fastest growing startups across Australia and New Zealand. The student fellowship runs several times a year, and Starmate facilitates several other fellowships, including the engineering, women, media, and founder’s fellowships.
Increase your surface area for luck to strike. “Every-life changing event involves luck… we stumble into our jobs… Luck is a process. You have to expose yourself to luck in order to be lucky.” - Michael Batko, Starmate CEO.
“If you want to set up your own thing, have a bias-to-action. There won’t always be someone telling you to do something, you have to be like okay, this is my idea, and you need to have the motivation to action it” - Jess Barker, former lawyer, strategy consultant, founder, and current Head of Business Operations at The Mintable.
Product management is a science. “Everything is data, starting with a hypothesis, if you don’t have data then generate the data with user or A/B testing. Use that to approve or reject your hypothesis, iterate from there” - Robert Utama, Head of Product at Inventia Life Sciences.
Early in your career you should optimise for the rate of learning, and that rate is highest in startups. - Niki Scevak, Blackbird Partner.
Overall this fellowship is an ideal way to explore startups as a career option as a student. The community is inclusive and driven, we’ve all been added to the Startmate slack channel which includes several thousands of contacts across the ecosystem, and we’re still being invited to Startmate’s social events. I claimed this program for 40 points as a GLP Credit Petition.
3. Study an entrepreneurship unit in your flexible zone
Would you prefer a more formal entrepreneurship education? Macquarie has plenty of units you can take in your flexible zone. If you’re interested, check out MGMT1020 Entrepreneurship and New Venture Management, MMCC3025 Creative Entrepreneurship, and MGMT2025 Social Entrepreneurship. I took MGMT1020 and it’s easily been one of my favourite units so far. The projects encouraged you to explore entrepreneurs and startups that interest you, and the classes took a multi-disciplinary and in-depth look at the process of actually starting a new business.
A good startup/product idea should be vetted for feasibility (is it possible?), viability (can we afford it?) and desirability (will enough people want it?).
It is common for new startups to have a dynamic business model canvas, as opposed to a traditional static business model.
There are several sources of funding for new startups, but most people invest their own money or borrow from friends and family to begin with.
These units are all eligible for GLX21 worth 20 credit points. Many job searchers seek interns with entrepreneurial qualities, these units are a great way to enhance your employability!
5 more things I wish I did earlier in my degree
Go on a Hex program. Hex is a local EdTech that facilitates domestic and international programs for students seeking to get hands-on entrepreneurial experience. Hex is connected to Google, Atlassian, AWS, and others, and offers international programs to Singapore and Bali. The best part is, it’s all university-credit aligned. Applications are open now!
Join Enactus MQ. Enactus is a global organisation seeking to empower students to take entrepreneurial action and create a better world. The organisation helps to facilitate student-led programs to tackle SDG-aligned initiatives. Macquarie were the 2020 Australian national champions so rest assured you’d be joining a solid team!
Start my company via the Founder Institute’s pre-seed startup accelerator. The founder institute offers a one-of-a-kind startup accelerator program specifically catered to the availability of students and 9-5 workers, so that you can start your dream business without compromising on your education or job. This is the perfect way to meet co-founders, raise funding, and get your business up and running while moderating your personal time-commitment.
Meet my co-founder at Antler. Antler is one of the most active early-stage investors globally and has a massive online community. Similar to the Founder Institute, Antler provides funding to pre-seed startups and experts to help you develop and test your idea.
Join Earlywork Village. Earlywork is all about connecting young talent and facilitating opportunities in tech and startups. They even have a program with a money-back guarantee if you don’t land a tech job offer within 6 months of graduating (this one is fairly pricey but essentially guarantees you a job for a similar price to one unit of study at uni).
Best of luck for 2023!