Budding founders take to UTS for Women's Startup Weekend
Promoting healthier eating and lifestyle choices in adolescents. Creating a more sustainable future by reducing textile waste. Empowering domestic violence victims through technology.
These are just some examples of the innovative business ideas that came out of Sydney’s first Women’s Startup Weekend, hosted by UTS on February 16 to 18.
Over an intense 54 hours, around 75 women aged from 15 to 57 - with backgrounds as diverse as pig farmer to architect - pitched 29 business ideas, with 15 going ahead into development. The event was open to both UTS students and the wider community.
Teams were supported by 26 industry mentors and pitched to judges Monica Wulff of Startup Muster, Nicola Hazell of SheStarts and Catherine Raffaele of EnergyLab. They deliberated for over an hour before selecting the following winning teams, with UTS well-represented:
1st place - Glue & You, empowering and supporting women to rebuild their lives following domestic violence
2nd place - Powershared, informing shareholders to make more ethical investments
3rd place - Rekindly, an app to optimise post-event engagement
4th place - Style911, a one-stop-shop for personalised styling and shopping
EnergyLab’s Women in CleanTech Fellowship special prize - CycleIT, reducing the impact of textile waste on the environment through better utilisation of recycling processes
Sydney Women’s Startup Weekend winning team, Glue & You. Photo by Lourdes Millare.
Glue & You, run by Megan Gardiner, Marley Palin and Prue Gorman, will now pitch at the Global Startup Weekend Women’s Grand Finale in Paris on March 7, 2018. They plan to launch their service in the coming weeks.
UTS students featured in the teams Powershared and Style911. Powershared included Rachel Shepherd (Masters of Science), Rosie Dawson (Law/Business) and Business alumna Emily Martin. Style911 featured Robyn Liu, a UTS Bachelor of Computing Science student.
The overall prize pool included:
Legal services and IP package from Allens
Scholarships to Coder Academy's coding and app development courses
All participants received a free .CO domain, $300 Google Cloud credit and free access to BlueChilli’s StartupU online course to help founders develop ideas and pitch their venture.
Mentors and judges alike commended the teams for their commitment to social impact, not to mention their strong conviction in their ideas. With the majority of participants being first timers to Startup Weekend, judges and mentors praised them for embarking on a path to create positive change.
Held as part of the TechStars Startup Weekend movement, Sydney Women's Startup Weekend was held in parallel with a series of global events. These highlighted the impact of women in entrepreneurship, providing access to the resources, networks and knowledge required to start a company.
Style911 team member and UTS student Robyn Liu, commented that the event was “life changing and inspiring”, with her team already planning to release a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) soon.
“I now have the resources available and this startup is what makes me excited to wake up everyday,” she said. “UTS is filled with bright minds who are all so positive and encouraging and the people around me make me feel as if I really can make it.”
Mentor Imogen Baxter, Head of Community at Square Peg Capital, said it was important for young women to cultivate curiosity and explore their entrepreneurial mindset sooner rather than later.
“As the reality of work shifts away from one characterised by stable, secure roles, to one involving portfolio jobs and multiple career ‘changes'; developing transferable skills, with a focus on EQ, problem-solving and self-awareness, will be super important,” said Imogen.
“There has never been a greater focus on diversity and inclusion and we need to engage women across all sectors of industry to ensure an equitable future for all. There is no reason that the companies of the future shouldn’t be led by women.”
UTS Executive Director for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Margaret Petty, added that entrepreneurship is breaking down the gender gap in business and society by allowing women to create their own opportunities and pathways.
“Universities have an important role to play in supporting these opportunities and helping open up these pathways. I’m proud to be championing such efforts at UTS and hope to be able to bring more opportunities like Sydney Women Startup Weekend to our community,” she said.
“I’m also grateful to be able to call on a strong network of leaders, both male and female, to help all of us succeed in this mission. I’d like to thank WiseTechGlobal along with all our sponsors and partners, plus the invaluable mentors, for their time and generosity in helping build the next generation of female business leaders.”
By Aura Lee
UTS Innovation and Entrepreneurship