How to grow a thriving entrepreneurial hub

14th December 2016

Written by our General Manager, Georgia McDonald.

Two years ago, Ormond College had an underused corner of their campus, $10 million from an Ormond Alumnus, and a powerful mission to create the next generation of highly-skilled entrepreneurs.

We used those ingredients to support the delivery of The University of Melbourne’s Master of Entrepreneurship. A dynamic one-year degree to give aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs a place to gain rigorous academic learning with hands-on experience building a business from day one.

Throughout the journey, we’ve learnt a lot about what it takes to grow a thriving community of curious and ambitious people who want to make a disproportionate difference on the world.

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Tap into experienced and diverse communities

Building the Wade Institute on Ormond College grounds allowed the Master of Entrepreneurship students to tap into the incredible network of Ormond students and alumni. From the Wade Institute benefactor, Peter Wade (1971), to the ‘Best Startup Pitch’ prize sponsor CMB Capital founder, Jamie Olsen (1997 Ormond alumnus). As well as the numerous speakers who shared their insights and experiences, like Emma & Toms founder, Tom Griffith (1983 Ormond alumnus), and Cockram Constructions Chairman, Robert Milne (1963 Ormond alumnus).

Even one of the winning Master of Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition startups included two current Ormond students – Michael Thorpe, an Architecture student, and David Barrell, an Engineering student and Chair of the Middle Common Room 2017. Both met the founder and Master of Entrepreneurship student, Bindi Raja, and after sharing many meals in the Ormond College Dining Hall, they co-founded Teenyco. They’re now in talks with a radiology clinic to pilot their HealthTech startup, which will revolutionise pregnancy ultrasounds using 3D printing and artificial intelligence.

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Business can be a force for good

One of the threads I’ve seen in the inaugural cohort has been a desire to create a commercial business that will be profitable while being conscious of its impact on our broader community. By hearing inspiring speakers and being mentored by experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts, the students learnt that doing good doesn’t have to be evangelised and be limited to charities; you can embed it into the DNA of your business.

Sarah Last, a Master of Entrepreneurship student and Ormond resident, is doing just that. She joined the Masters without a specific business idea but is now building an AgTech startup, MimicTec, to decrease the stress in chickens in poultry farming to improve animal welfare and increase production. It’s not a social enterprise, but it has a strong social outcome. Then there’s Rosh Ghadamian, who wants to utilise a growing number of redundant manufacturing resources to make his modular baby prams in Australia, rather that outsourcing overseas.

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Enable and empower underrepresented groups

While on the surface the Wade Institute and Ormond College may serve different purposes, they’re both grounded in a core value to enable anyone who has a passion for positively impacting the world to do so. This mindset helped us secure one of the most diverse cohort of students in any startup community.

The inaugural cohort was made up of 60% women, 40% with a STEMM background, 3 PhD’s, and no two students studied in the same discipline. This diversity was a key success factor in giving the students a robust learning experience where they were challenged to think bigger and be better. The graduating entrepreneurs are building startups that range from AgTech to platform technology to manufacturing to the Arts.

As the year ends and we look to 2017, I’m excited to find the next generation of entrepreneurs. If you think that’s you, I’d love to chat about it – gmcdonald@wadeinstitute.org.au

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