UNSW fosters entrepreneurial mindset

Teams from the program’s first cohort of entrepreneurs willpitch their businesses to potential investors as part of the launch of the FoundersProgram, the flagship initiative of the UNSW Entrepreneurship team, at the MCAon Wednesday 21 February.

TheAccelerator program identifies 10 high-impact UNSW student or alumni startupsto participate in an intensive 10-week program, offering world-classmentoring and networking opportunities, business development services andfinancial support. The programincludes masterclasses hosted by Silicon Valley-based startups, access toUNSW’s network of founders, alumni and mentors, and $20,000 in seed-funding.

The program is part of a suite of new initiatives launchedthrough the Founders Program, which includes programs such as Founders Global,helping student entrepreneurs understand and access the rapidly growing global innovationand venture capital ecosystems, and New Wave Founders, addressing the gendergap in entrepreneurship through support programs for women in the startupspace.

Its uniquemodel for entrepreneurial confidence sets the Founders Program apart. Through its ‘Founders First’ ethos, the program offers Founders adifferent perspective on what success and excellence looks like; a mindsetdriven by a desire to succeed, a commitment to sustainability and a focus ongiving back.

The startups pitching for investor funds at Wednesday’s launchoffer innovative solutions to a diverse range of problems. Heba Shaheed, onehalf of the husband-and-wife team behind the Pelvic Expert, has made it hermission to give women’s health a voice through the e-learning site.

The Pelvic Expert combines holistic and research-basedwomen’s health solutions to help with pregnancy, birth recovery, chronic painand related issues.

“There is little accurate, reliable and accessibleinformation on women’s health and pelvic issues,” Heba says, the mother of a10-month-old. “We offer e-health on a gamified platform that you can accessanywhere in the world.”

Other startups pitching for investor funds include a digitalcredit card addressing online fraud, a portal to virtual internships to advanceyour career, and a cloud-based engineering software company allowing you tomodel, analyse and design structures through simulation.

UNSW’s Director of Entrepreneurship Dr Elizabeth Eastlandsaid: “The Founders Program amplifies UNSW Sydney’s outstanding reputation forfostering entrepreneurial talent. This ambitiousinitiative aims to make entrepreneurial confidence a part of every UNSWstudent’s experience, equipping them with the skills and resilience they needto thrive in the 21st century marketplace.”

This emphasis on resilience haspersonal significance to Malaysian Australian businessman, Maha Sinnathamby,who has donated $5 million to UNSW, half of which will be used to fund theAccelerator program.

Maha is theentrepreneur behind the Greater Springfield city building project in Queensland– Australia’s largest master planned community and the tenth largest globally.He credits his success and sizeable personal fortune to simple hard work, andnot ever giving up in the face of adversity – something Maha is no stranger to.

At five, he watchedas his father, a British informant was taken as a prisoner of war during theJapanese occupation of Malaysia. His father was one of only two survivors of142 imprisoned.

With persistenceand a good education, Maha believes it is possible to overcome any challenge.It was this mindset that helped him to overcome his impoverished childhood on asmall farming village outside Kuala Lumpur with no electricity, little runningwater and a kerosene lamp to study under at night.

As a young man,Maha moved to Australia to study civil engineering. Though he struggled tosupport himself, he succeeded against the odds. A variety of smallbusiness ventures and driving a cab at night kept him going and taught him thatanything is possible in Australia if you want it badly enough. Accordingto Maha, failures in life are as important as successes.

“You have to have adeaf ear to negativity and just keep going,” Mr Sinnathamby said, “and a strongsense of self-belief.”

The second cohort of the Founder10x Accelerator will beginin mid 2018. To date, 400 startups and 600 founders have been supported byUNSW’s existing entrepreneurship programs and over 25,000 people have participatedin events and workshops at the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre. More than 100startups per year graduate from UNSW’s coordinated programs.

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