Four years after its launch, UTS Startups has just accepted its 1000th startup, but why does this matter and why is it critical to the future of universities?
As technology improves, transaction costs go down and we get a larger number of smaller companies. This macro trend is undeniable and will increase from here, changing the career paths available to students.
These same technologies give individuals without privileged backgrounds the ability to create solutions to problems that were never possible before, and to spread those solutions around the world, opening up a scale and diversity of opportunity that never existed before.
However, technology-enabled entrepreneurship not only makes sense on a macro and individual level, it is also increasingly favored by young Australians.
Five years ago, 39% of UTS students said they wanted to “start or join a startup”. Last year, 57% of new incoming students indicated that they wanted to pursue a startup of their own, and 8.8% of the 45,000 active UTS students said they are currently running their own startup.
Two areas of focus
So how is UTS responding to the increasing opportunity, need and desire for entrepreneurship?
Among many university entrepreneurship programs, UTS Startups is unique in its focus on two areas:
First, using our community of 500+ active startups to showcase realistic paths to self-employment through role models.
Whether through visits to 100 schools a year for Years 9 and 10 students, or workshops for 5,000 UTS students a year, or displays and content for 2.5 million people passing through Sydney’s busiest street corner, in all cases we work to ensure examples are realistic, relatable and fair so that people can make informed choices about what to do.
Second, using the community to drive peer learning for the startups we support.
I cannot stress enough how strongly I believe in peer learning as the most meaningful form of support entrepreneurs can receive. People should learn from the people they want and can become.
We leverage 250 free space agencies to bring the right people together, ongoing events to bring the right people together, direct launches to bring the right people together, and cohort-based programming to bring the right people together to bring.
And in a rapidly changing world, these rapid feedback loops matter.
Every day, some members of the UTS Startups community will make more progress than others, but the ones that get it right become the role models to inspire new startups, the hosts for interns, and the mentors to help new startups learn. This creates a fast and effective feedback loop to guide new entrepreneurs through their current work environment.
For example, in 2015, the average age of an Australian startup at their first investment was 1.5 years according to Crunchbase data.
By 2021, that average had grown to 3.2 years, indicating a significant decline in early-stage funding. Fortunately, we can show you hundreds of examples of startups that thrive in this environment, and thousands of people go on to start businesses that aim for early revenue rather than early investment.
On a side note, this statistic illustrates how important it is not to focus on funds raised in startup communities. I care about the number of paid jobs created for our students, their impact on the world around them and their own learning experiences.
It takes a startup village
In all those areas, I am very pleased with the results we are achieving, and I would say that these results can only occur in the university environment in which we operate.
Having supported entrepreneurs through a major non-profit organization (Fishburners), a major corporation (Westpac), and now through a major university, I am continually amazed at the incredible leverage UTS provides to do this work effectively.
Nowhere else could we have 8,000 students come every year and more than half of them already want to pursue entrepreneurship.
Nowhere else have we had access to incredible spaces adjacent to Sydney CBD and in the heart of the Tech Central development, facilities such as Protospace and Tech Lab, very strong industry connections and a wide range of research opportunities (over 1,000 PhDs in our engineering faculty alone ).
Nowhere else could students be supported through incredible learning paths from leading faculties in Engineering, Business, Arts, Social Sciences, Design, Architecture, Building, Law, Health and Science, along with a unique transdisciplinary school that brings together students from all faculties for things like the Bachelor Creative Intelligence and Innovation.
Nowhere else would we be able to support the number of startups we do without charging fees or asking for equity. Thanks to the support of the university, we are able to offer this to all startups with a current or former UTS student on their founding team, and all we ask in return is for help in inspiring and supporting younger entrepreneurs.
Nowhere else could 950 UTS students easily connect with our startups in the past year alone through internships and in-subject projects, providing students with real-life learning experiences and a valuable talent pipeline for growing startups, which then leads those startups to 450 new ones. paid jobs last year.
Nowhere else could we so easily tap 100 schools each year to deliver our school programming, with the desire to pursue entrepreneurship from those students rising from 5% of the audience before our workshops to an average of 30% of students after.
Did I mention our network of over 200,000 UTS alumni?
They’ve also been incredible supporters of our startups, and that direct connection of having studied at the same institution is a valuable first connection for many.
Perhaps most importantly, I like the consistency that a university environment brings to this work.
UTS Startups has a gigantic organization behind it that is designed to last for hundreds of years, so every time our model improves, it can actually improve for future generations.
Now that we’ve crossed the threshold of our first 1,000 UTS startups, I couldn’t be more proud and thankful for the team here, for our community, and for the university that makes all of this possible.
I am very excited about how soon the next 1,000 UTS Startups will be launched and how our increasing capacity will enable future generations to define their own way of working through technology-enabled entrepreneurship.
If you are a current or former UTS student with a startup, we welcome you to join UTS Startups, just go to startups.uts.edu.au