We’ve all wished that university had more focus on real-world application, that every once in a while it would move away from the textbooks and push us to apply our knowledge in a real way.
On 13th October, fifteen Andrew’s students came together for Australia’s first College-hosted startup hackathon, Androvation, and had the opportunity to do exactly that. Three small teams competed to tackle real world challenges and develop business solutions over a fifty-hour period for the grand prize of $2,000, turning St Andrew’s from a typical residential college within the University of Sydney to a pioneer in fostering entrepreneurial talent and business education.
The weekend began on the Friday night with each competitor meeting at Fishburners in Ultimo, Australia’s largest startup co-working space. There, Will McNamara, Dean of Students, gave a quick talk about the lean startup model and gave competitors access to the tools they may need to build a minimum viable product (MVP) over the weekend period.
Competitors then spent the evening defining problem statements and formulating teams to address some of the world’s most pressing issues. These problem statements ranged from, “The world is on the precipice of life-ending superbugs” to, “It’s too hard to know what beer you’re drinking at the pub”.
Saturday morning saw Jonno Katahanas, product manager at Atlassian, come to speak with the competitors about customer discovery, and gave everyone hard-hitting feedback on their idea generation. Jonno encouraged all competitors to get out of the Fishburners space and start talking to their potential customers, calling, emailing, surveying or approaching anyone and everyone. Sam Mischewski walked across Sydney, gathering customer feedback for his product, Project Fulbright, while Jacob Flanagan, Sam Clarke and Tom Avery resolved to pestering relatives young and old for their solution to a lack of practical learning in schools, Prime.
Competitors were then introduced to their mentors, Ben Lindsay, Rosa Miller and Anna Cicognani, who guided them through the more intricate process of establishing a business presence. Mentors were a point of call for competitors, and a fountain of knowledge for all things resourcing, defining and refining.
Saturday evening approached and St Andrew’s Councilwoman, Margaret Mackenzie, delivered a masterful talk on resourcing and product development and competitors were inspired to review, again, their ideas in search for more sustainable solutions to their self-defined problems.
Competitors weren’t given a second’s break, and everyone stayed at Fishburners that night until midnight, building and wireframing their minimum viable products for presentation the next day.
On Sunday morning, Councilmember Craig Blair made a surprise appearance and helped competitors with their pitch decks. Shredding each team member down to the core of their problem statements, Craig advised each team to reconsider the scope of their idea with regards to how we define our customers and their experience as users. Frantic to put the finishing touches on their presentations, teams reveled in Craig’s advice and put their heads down for the final stretch.
At 11am, Justin, from Suncayr (a small startup which has developed an adhesive patch that tells parents when it’s time to reapply sunscreen to their kids) gave teams exactly the advice that they needed and prepared them for their pitches in a pitch development workshop. Justin, who had won the Fishburners pitch competition two nights earlier, gave away many of his secrets to delivering a winning pitch, from hammering the intro and conclusion, to keeping a high chin, memorising the numbers and slide order and building a narrative.
Our mentors made a second appearance after Justin’s workshop to help teams with the finishing touches.
At 6:45pm, judges Charlie Taylor (Chair of Council) and alumni Nick Harrington and Edward Hawthorne, arrived. Teams were briefly introduced to each of them before each being invited to speak for five minutes then questioned for ten minutes on each of their products.
Team 1 presented Prime, a primary school replacement for vocational teaching. their product aimed to give young kids essential ‘living’ skills within the curriculum, like what a tax return actually means.
Team 2 was all about self-improvement with Project Fulbright, an app which guides regular people from zero to the Fulbright scholarship, with reading lists, exercise regimes, meditation techniques and motivation manuals.
Team 3 built Study Canvas, an innovative way to select subjects and courses based on degree, study stage and major in a web app designed for students to be sold to universities around the world.
After a tense fifteen minute judging period, the judges delivered their feedback to each team. Charlie Taylor then awarded Team Three, Study Canvas, the $2,000 grand prize for the event. The team, consisting of Freshers Xavier Eales, Katie Hodder and Hogan Wang, will now work closely with an array of Andrew’s alumni to see their idea manifest into a full, viable product.
All in all, Androvation was a very successful first iteration of what will no doubt become a staple of St Andrew’s culture. We were blown away by the quality of the competition and we’re all very excited to see where Androvation may go in the future as an intercollege or even a university-wide competition. St Andrew’s joins the ranks of Ormond College in Melbourne for fostering a culture of entrepreneurialism within the residential college walls and, if the Androvian attitude to sport and creative arts is anything to go by, its success is guaranteed.
- Celso Milne (fr 2016)
Photos courtesy of Matthew Duschesne and Minami Takahashi