A man pitching business idea.

New year, new career

New year, new career

iAccelerate, UOW's unique business accelerator and incubator, is open for fresh ideas from local Illawarra entrepreneurs

While 2021 was another tough year for start-ups, many surviving rather than thriving, there was a silver lining too. As a recent McKinsey Global Survey of executives reveals, in 2021, companies digitised many of their activities 20 to 25 times faster than before the COVID-19 pandemic. For young businesses, this has opened many ways to disrupt their industries.

"As we're starting fresh in 2022, there's a lot of optimism for the coming months. There may still be challenges, but they'll make companies stronger," said Dr Tamantha Stutchbury, Director of Research at iAccelerate, a business accelerator and incubator program run by the University of Wollongong (UOW) on the Innovation Campus.

For the past decade, iAccelerate has been creating a vibrant ecosystem that prompts the cleverest ideas to not only take shape but grow and thrive — all for the benefit of entrepreneurs and the local community.

"As an educational platform, we were founded with an ultimate goal: to create jobs for the Illawarra region. And we've been successful in doing so. We've had about 250 start-ups come through our incubator program that is run twice per year. And with these companies growing, there were over 750 new jobs created," John Kerr, iAccelerate's Program Manager, explained.

One of the recent graduates of their program is allcare, a provider of in-home care for the elderly.

The company was founded in 2018 by Christopher Murphy, UOW commerce graduate and Deanna Maunsell, an expert in aged care and disability services. Initially, they wanted to build a next-gen technology platform that accredited providers of aged care services could use to coordinate the in-home care for the elderly. But since they couldn't find a viable care service, they decided to build one instead.

Today, allcare is a local powerhouse. In just over three years, the company has scaled incredibly quickly to become a stable job provider for the region. It employs over 220 people from the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, delivering over 5000 unique health appointments monthly.

"Our company, and its subsequent success, are by-products of the iAccelerate program. iAccelerate has been phenomenal because it enabled us to access a supportive community. At the time of our business pitch in 2018, we only had our brilliant idea but no customers, no revenue and no accreditation from the Department of Health," Murphy explained.

"We started upstairs at the UOW Innovation Campus, and it all grew from there. We could access iAccelerate's investor network for capital, but I also found informal support from other founders incredibly important in scaling the business."

Part of iAccelerate's uniqueness is easy access to the University of Wollongong's immense resources, both educational and human. Stu Tyrrell, the founder of Catalyze Software, has benefitted greatly from this convenience.

"Three years ago, I came to iAccelerate at stage zero of my company's growth, with just an idea and a pitch deck. I started with a particular insurance-focussed vision but then pivoted and reinvented the company's goals, moving towards a broader identity and asset protection framework. Because Catalyze is still at a developmental stage, everything fluctuates. I used to have 25 people working for me. Now, it's down to five UOW IT students doing an excellent job," Tyrrell said.

For any business start-up, iAccelerate's incubator program is an ideal place to start and grow.

"Without the support I got, I probably would have given up already. Having access to all the business advice and an office has made a real difference, giving me motivation and credibility. When you're just starting up, it's great to be part of something larger than you," Stu Tyrrell added.

Christopher Murphy from allcare has a piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs mulling over their business ideas.

"The only way you're ever going to know if your idea is worth pursuing further is by getting to work. Try, test, fail and see what sticks. And there's no safer place to do it than with iAccelerate."

Dr Paul di Pietro, Dean of Research Knowledge Exchange and Translation, who works on promoting the ecosystem of entrepreneurship at UOW, invited all industrious people willing to make a difference to consider applying to the 2022 iAccelerate program.

“We will provide you with the knowledge, mentoring, advice and access to a world-class research university so that you can succeed, scale up and make a real impact locally, regionally and globally,” Dr di Pietro said.

If you are interested in joining the iAccelerate Program, visit https://www.iaccelerate.com.au/join/apply/. The deadline for the 2022 intake is on the 26th January.