In late 2013 a former student (Leon Worsley) gave me a call and said “USyd is running a student accelerator program… why isn’t Bond?” My response was something like “why indeed?!” and I went on a search for this early innovator in entrepreneurship education. It turns out a couple of students had convinced the University of Sydney Union to back an accelerator supported by local entrepreneurs, and I got on the phone to co-founder James Alexander to learn more. Long story short, we partnered with Incubate and Google for Entrepreneurs (now Google for Startups) to run our first accelerator in January 2014 and, fast forward to today, we are about to graduate our 7th cohort of Bond Business Accelerator founders.
The past five years has seen extraordinary growth in both the popularity and professionalism of entrepreneurship education at universities. I thought it timely to look back on the key developments at Bond University over this period.
The Bond Business Accelerator is born. Starting as a partnership with Incubate, I went to Stanford University in May to take Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad Educator’s Course and we launched the Bond Business Accelerator in September, joining forces with the Start Up Really Fast accelerator run by Aaron Birkby and supported by the Gold Coast City Council. The program became a subject in 2015 and next week we will graduate our 108th founder, with notable outcomes including Service.com.au, SiteSee, and Unforgettable Proposals.
Gold Coast Demo Day showcases our region’s best and brightest. Designed to celebrate and connect the Gold Coast’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, more than 1,000 people have attended #GCDemoDay over the past five years to see primary school, secondary school, university, and Gold Coast community startups pitch their vision and traction. Hosted under a stylish tent on our ornamental lawns, the event is one of the annual highlights of the GC startup scene.
We partner with Telstra, Startup Apprentice and the City of Gold Coast to launch the Mayor’s Telstra Technology Awards. Now spreading to multiple regions around Australia the awards enable high school students to explore the startup journey and pitch in a series of rounds to be named the regional winner, receiving prizes and accolades for themselves and their schools.
The first ever Silicon Valley Study Tour takes off. Seven brave students embark on our first ever Innovation Immersion Mission, exploring the cultural and systemic enablers of innovation in organisations. It would prove to be such a transformational experience that the 2016 tour attracted 27 students! We now limit it to 12–15.
Ideas Camp starts to engage with local secondary schools. We begin to formally connect with regional secondary schools to support the adoption of entrepreneurship education. The first year sees Lisa Messenger from Collective Hub and Nick Pearce from Blackboard Coffee share “Campfire Tails” of their entrepreneurial stories, while this year’s event (next week) will see the 350th student listen to global adventurer Ben Southall and Pegasus founder Rosanna Relton.
The Commercialisation Centre aims to build tomorrow’s innovative thought leaders, one by one. Operating out of a flexible learning space drawing its inspiration from Stanford’s d.school, the Centre brings all entrepreneurship activities under one umbrella and builds a cohesive brand of Entrepreneurship at Bond.
Techstars Startup Weekend makes its way onto campus. We have facilitated five Startup Weekends since 2015, but 2016 saw the first event hosted on campus. With support from Study Gold Coast, we had a record number of secondary school students participate. Many connections were made and enhanced, especially among the volunteer organising crew who band together each year to deliver these grassroots events.
Business models rule the roost. By far the biggest news for entrepreneurship at Bond in 2016 was the launch of two highly innovative subjects: Business Model Generation and Business Model Execution. Comprising two of the nine required subjects for the Bachelor of Business, every student now proceeds through the full life cycle of an organisation. From the creative spark that forms an idea, through validation and prototyping, to company building and growth, and finally to closing, students start in small teams of three and progressively iterate through the first subject to pitch a validated business model. We then fund the fledgling ventures up to $3,000 to capitalise their business and they proceed to execute on the business model during the following semester, closing down at the end with repayment of the loan and any surplus donated to a nominated charitable organisation.
Since May 2016 the student ventures have generated total revenue of $87,743 and donated $49,725 to charity.
The Creativity and Ideation subject is launched. Taking the entrepreneurial journey all the way to its roots, lead educator Audun Fiskerud developed what has become one of the most popular subjects in our discipline. Students learn primarily through doing, experiencing activities like Idea Bumper Cars and the Cartoon Caption Competition while absorbing material from Sir Ken Robinson and Tina Seelig to name two of many.
“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” — Sir Ken Robinson
The Transformer program accepts its first intake. Drawing inspiration from international exemplars like the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative and Northeastern University’s IDEA program, the Bond Transformer brings students from across campus together to work on cross-disciplinary projects and build their entrepreneurial capability. Former CEO of ASX-listed Superloop Daniel Abrahams is appointed the inaugural Transformer Director and the program continues to build strength in reach and student outcomes.
We commit to the Queensland Venturer Program. Run out of Queensland’s Office of the Chief Entrepreneur, Venturer builds the grit that is a hallmark of successful entrepreneurs. We sponsor a student every program to join this exhaustively empowering program, and scholarships are hotly contested!
Formal partnerships with local secondary schools begin. Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School is the first to run a co-branded entrepreneurship program with our team, known as the Entrepreneurship Experience. Twenty-one students participate in the inaugural program, pitching their ideas on Bond’s campus and gaining Channel 7 News coverage! We expand the program to three other schools in 2017, with Somerset College incorporating it into a much larger event called the Celebration of Entrepreneurship.
The most epic ten days in Bond Entrepreneurship history. In early 2018 I fielded a call from Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur Mark Sowerby. The second Myriad Festival was happening in May and he was determined to make it the biggest and best of its kind in Australia. To this end, he had chartered a QANTAS 747 to fly a couple of hundred Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors out for the festival and he needed to find some supporters to help fund the trip. I said “we’re in!” and bought 20 seats on the plane, along with a broader sponsorship package of the entire festival.
We wrapped what we had learned from the Silicon Valley Study Tour into a new subject, and the Myriad Mission was born. We took students to San Francisco and provided an innovation immersion similar to the study tour, before loading them on the plane for the most unbelievable experience of our lives. The events of the chartered plane ride will go down in Queensland startup folklore, with so many connections carved in stone. Back in Brisbane we flew half a dozen Valley entrepreneurs in helicopters to Bond’s campus and ran a community session before immersing ourselves in the Brisbane startup scene. The three days of the Myriad Festival rounded out an incredible experience, and we all slept for days. The video below gives only a slight insight into the impact of this ten day period, but you can hear in my voice that we never stopped absorbing the most amazing entrepreneurial experience.
Bond’s first truly trans-disciplinary degree is announced. On Open Day the Transformation CoLab went live, breaking down the traditional silos of an institutionalised university structure into cross-over degrees drawing from all faculties. The Bachelor of Entrepreneurial Transformation blends the University’s Core subjects with a suite of subjects focused on creative enterprise and a focus on entrepreneurship.
Five years after our first foray into an entrepreneurship program which was open to all students from all areas of the university, a formal Bachelor degree founded on the same principles of trans-disciplinary collaboration came to fruition. Sixty-two academics were involved in the design of the degrees, a true testament to their intrinsically collaborative nature.
The launch of this new degree put me in quite a reflective frame of mind. Since I graduated from my PhD in 2013 I’ve been running flat out with a core team of awesome humans to drive an entrepreneurial agenda across and beyond campus. I’ve listed the main achievements above, but there are many more that sit under the surface and provide a real insight into the enablers of this kind of rapid acceleration. Events like the night we screened The Startup Kids and our first Pop-Up Entrepreneur speaker series started to make it okay for community members to come on campus for an event. But the real magic comes from the people who are involved. Our core team of Audun Fiskerud, Ben Hayden-Smith, Justin Craig, Matthew Baird and Tony Underwood has worked so well together for so long, enabled by support from senior management across the university and willing industry supporters. In the end it all comes down to the people and we are fortunate to have a team committed to advancing entrepreneurship education for the benefit of our students and the broader community. Bring on 2020!