The Australian tech startup sector could add A$109billion and 540,000 jobs by 2033 according to the Google/PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2013 report The Startup Economy.
No thanks, perhaps, to A$360million tech sector funding cuts announced in the 2014 Federal Budget. Or indeed, even the Australian secondary education system itself.
According to StartupAUS’ 2014 report Crossroads, the latter only prepares students for the workforce and not for starting their own businesses, notably high-pressure, high-growth startups.
Compared to say, Norway, where research indicates that secondary school students who participate in entrepreneurship programs are 50percent more likely to start their own companies.
Enter Gold Coast-based entrepreneurs Sam Winter and Sharon Hunneybell (R to L, below), who are launching what they believe to be the first formal entrepreneurship program designed for Australian high schools – an eight-week program called Startup Apprentice.
In October, the duo will release the program free of charge under a Creative Commons license to schools, community groups and co-working spaces.
Based on the Lean Startup methodology pioneered by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Eric Ries, Startup Apprentice aims to equip students with problem solving skills and resilience and includes the principles for pitching and validating an idea; building a revenue model; finding customers and delivering an MVP (minimum viable product) concept. The program also facilitates access to role models and business mentors.
A PowerPoint presentation is included in the pack and Winter and Hunneybell recommend the school or community group facilitator present a one and a half-hour weekly session, dividing groups into teams of five students, with an assignment due at the end of the program via which the groups present their products.
Earlier this year, the duo conducted a pilot program with Varsity College on the Gold Coast, with angel investors brought in on the final day for presentations.
Ideas borne from the sessions included an object-locating beacon called TrakKing, an app called Background Reminders that changes the wallpaper on your smartphone based on calendar keywords and a device called Booster Box that’s designed to increase memory and processing speed in old computers.
The program was such a success three of the program’s seven teams have been named finalists in the Gold Coast City Council Mayor’s 2014 inaugural Technology Awards, with a final presentation due at Bond University on September 15.
The duo have ambitious hopes for Startup Apprentice – which is self-funded for the time being.
In 2013 there were 3,645,519 school students in Australia.
Winter and Hunneybell want to reach a million of them.
“It’s a big milestone, but it’s a huge achievement if we can do it” said Hunneybell, a former chief operating officer of Gold Coast incubator Silicon Lakes, who started her first company at age 23 and whose second business, a supply chain and inventory management marketplace called Splitpak, is about to launch.
Winter is a media and marketing consultant, whose clients have included Westfield, Sydney Airport and American Express. In 2005, she launched the popular SassiSam e-Commerce site and fashion news blog.
All budding entrepreneurs can learn something from the program according to Hunneybell.
“There’s all sorts of businesses – from fashion to food - that you can grow and scale" she said. "I’ve seen some pretty amazing kids in the time that we’ve been doing the pilot. There is definitely potential here for students to be anything they want to be. Absolutely. The world is changing and we are now part of a global marketplace. So where you’re positioned in the world isn’t quite as important as the product you are building and how you are delivering it”.
The packs will be available in the first week of October. You can pre-register interest via the Startup Apprentice website.