Five ANU student startup teams were awarded a total $50,000 worth of grants, and other startup support prizes, at the recent awards ceremony of the InnovationACT entrepreneurship program.
The grants were the culmination of the teams' participation in the competitive two-month program, which included a public pitch to a judging panel representing Canberra's startup community and mentorship from local entrepreneurs, and will enable the teams to continue developing their ventures.
One of the awarded teams, Stream, is developing an app-based aircraft boarding system for airlines and their passengers.
Marcus Simmonds, co-founder of Stream and studying law and science at ANU, believes that the current pandemic is the optimal time to be developing this venture and to be speaking with key players in the aviation industry.
"We want to streamline the airline boarding process, and we feel that our solution can help kick-start the aviation industry after COVID-19," Mr Simmonds said.
Another startup to receive funding was Sweet and Sour, a team developing a print and online publication about being Asian in Australia.
Sweet and Sour co-founder, Eleanor Hsu, who is studying law and Asian studies at ANU, hopes that their publication will enable Asian-Australians to feel more represented in the community.
"Until we started reading the comments from our readers, I didn't realise just how great it was to have someone tell my story and be aware of other people who have shared the same experience as me. And it feels like we're doing something very meaningful by telling these stories," Ms Hsu said.
For Sydney Farey, fellow co-founder of Sweet and Sour and an ANU visual arts student, the grant funding provided validation for the team's efforts to date, and provides encouragement for them to continue building their startup.
"The grant really affirms that we're doing something important and that there's value in", said Ms Farey.
"Even though I came up with the idea of Sweet and Sour, I never, not once, thought it could be something that could become a full-time gig or something I could work on every single day. The [InnovationACT] program has made me realise that this could be something that I can dedicate the rest of my life to, and I'd love to do that," said Ms Farey.
InnovationACT, a flagship entrepreneurship program from ANU, has supported over 1000 student entrepreneurs since its establishment in 2008. The program contributes to the entrepreneurial culture both at ANU and the wider innovation community, and works closely with key organisations in the Canberra startup ecosystem, including the Canberra Innovation Network.
ANU Pro Vice-Chancellor of Innovation & Enterprise, Professor Michael Cardew-Hall, commended the students for their dedication to the program and to their ventures.
"I would like to congratulate not only the grant recipients, but all the student teams who took part in the InnovationACT program this year. I am continually inspired and impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit from ANU students and to see the enthusiasm and energy they have each put into the program, particularly in a year where everyone has had to adapt to lots of new 'norms', including the hybrid model of InnovationACT. I wish you luck with your ventures and journeys ahead," Professor Cardew-Hall said.
Reflecting on his own experience in the InnovationACT program, Mr Simmonds encouraged other aspiring entrepreneurs to challenge themselves.
"InnovationACT helped spark our ambition of entrepreneurship. It was the perfect test bed to talk to people about our idea, around a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and mentors, and figure out if idea was an actually an idea or not," he said.
"Don't let your idea be a regret. Take a leap of faith and you never know how far you'll get."
Five ANU startup teams received InnovationACT grants, three of which featured students from the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
- Explorer (Bowen Wang), developing smart monitoring services to railway companies.
- Pet Pawfect (Michelle Lee), creating reliable, affordable, and flexible pet-training and health services for pet parents.
- Stream (Adi Vemireddy), developing an app-based aircraft boarding system for airlines and their passengers.
- Sway Aquaculture, farming methane-reducing seaweed for dairy cattle.
- Sweet and Sour, developing a creative publication about being Asian in Australia.
For more information about the grant recipients and the InnovationACT program, visit innovationact.org.
Image: Prachi Arya, Bernice Choi, and Michelle Lee from Pet Pawfect