There are many innovative ideas that come from students studying at the University of Wollongong (UOW), but most don’t have the finances or support to turn those ideas into profitable businesses.
UOW graduate and CEO of Spinify, Matt Bullock, wanted to support current students at UOW by helping foster entrepreneurship and innovation in the technology industry.
“I wanted to address the gap for students at university who have great ideas for a start-up but don’t know what to do next,” says Matt.
Addressing this gap for students was how the 10k Club competition was born.
Since 2020, UOW’s 10k Club – a partnership with Spinify Foundation and the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences – has given students the chance to secure $10,000 in funding along with mentoring support and guidance to help turn their vision into a tangible product.
“I’ve been very fortunate with my background in business so what I’m looking to do is help the right students take their idea and create a start-up business with it from using my mentoring plus 10k. That’s how I came up with the name 10k Club.
“For me, the 10k Club is really exciting – it’s about helping students go from an idea to actually building a start-up and working with someone who can mentor them and help turn that idea into actually creating something.”
Each year, students submit a video application outlining their commitment to an idea, product or concept and the key reasons for seeking financial and mentoring support.
Eric Hills, a student from the 2022 award-winning team, says that his team met in the UOW Engineering Design and Management course.
“Our team is studying different degrees within the Faculty of Engineering and we’re all in different years, but we came together when we were placed in a group project,” explains Eric.
It was within this course that Eric and his team learned about the 10k Club.
“The course gave us an introduction to prototyping and design from start to finish. We also listened to presentations from people working in the industry which gave us great insights for our 10k Club product.”
Eric and his team’s winning product is called the flow module – a fully operational device that displays water usage trends. They designed a prototype that operates with low power requirements, allowing regional areas to track the usage of their water filling stations.
Eric says that developing a product for the 10k Club competition gave him practical experience in leadership and teamwork.
“Everyone in the team had a separate role to play based on their skills. It took a while to figure out who needed to do what, but once we got there, we had a great system working.”
Eric was hired for a summer job at an Engineering firm and says that the competition helped him get the job.
“In my job interview, I could demonstrate the issues that I had to overcome in terms of team management and technical issues thanks to my experience working on the 10k Club project.”
Eric says that winning the 10k Club competition gave him and the team a great sense of recognition for their hard work.
“The reason most people pick Engineering is to become an inventor. That’s the dream as a child – and this is the closest thing to it.
“Coming up with something that you and your friends have designed together is quite special. If it could be successful, that would make my team and me feel great. I think if we can get to a point where we can sell it as a product – even if it’s small scale, that would be a real achievement.”
The 10k Club competition is unique because it is focused on ideas instead of high grades.
“I wasn’t a top student in university,” Matt admits. “That’s why I wanted to set up an opportunity for students that wasn’t about their marks.”
The mentoring aspect of the 10k Club is arguably more important than the financial component. Matt explains, “I think my time is worth more than the money. I’ll ask the students questions that will solve the problem of taking their idea or product and getting to the commercialisation stage. This can be extremely hard, and a lot of products don’t make it. But the things they learn from talking to me and going through the process they can carry for life.”
Matt hopes the 10k Club’s success will inspire other businesses to support students in a similar way.
“When I set up the 10K Club with the University, the competition was written in a way that other businesses could easily replicate – providing both financial and mentoring support to students within their area of expertise.”
If you are interested in setting up a 10k Club with your business, please email email@example.com or call (02) 4221 5757.