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Fostering student ideas with Incubate

Students are hatching entrepreneurial plans, writes Erin Rooney

Incubate Directors Mina Nada and James Alexander

The term ‘entrepreneur’ can certainly be intimidating to students. Turning an idea into something tangible, workable and perhaps profitable can seem like an overwhelming task.

University of Sydney students James Alexander and Mina Nada identified this problem and recognised the potential for change. The pair has founded a new program, Incubate, with the help of the University of Sydney Union. The initiative is the first ever entrepreneur startup program at the University of Sydney and the first of its kind in Australia, and indeed, Asia.

Incubate aims to encourage teams of talented students to pursue their business ideas by providing them with a startup grant of $5000, working space over the summer and access to a mentoring network. A demonstration day at the end of the program, during O-week, will provide a platform to exhibit their ideas.

Mr Nada and Mr Alexander noticed that while Kickstart grants currently provide financial backing for the cultural ideas of students, there was a noticeable lack of support for other, more business centred ideas from the University.

“We realised there was almost no support for entrepreneurial-minded students and alumni to get funding for their startup businesses on campus,”
Mr Alexander said. “We’ve had a great response from the university community with alumni saying things like, ‘I wish this existed when I was at university!’”

The launch night for Incubate, held on Thursday September 20, welcomed entrepreneurs Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer, Nikki Durkin, CEO of 99dresses, and Matt Byrne, CEO of Curicon to the university. Hosted by Head of Commercialisation at Sydnovate, Randal Leeb-du-Toit, the panelists answered questions and gave advice about issues they encountered when starting up their respective companies.

Panelist Matt Barrie suggested the internet has provided an enormous amount of opportunities for business ideas and innovation in the world, lowering the costs of ‘starting-up’. “Five grand can go a long way,” he said. “It’s a pretty amazing time to start a company, it’s never been cheaper.” Mr Barrie generously pledged an extra $20000 to the program on the night.

Incubate will provide students with the resources, motivation and inspiration to pursue their ideas. Starting something has never been more exciting, and witnessing where this program can take people is only the first step.

Incubate Directors Mina Nada and James Alexander