SPARK Deakin: Supporting start-ups, entrepreneurship and innovation

Even before he had chosen a university, Samuel Alexander from Indonesia knew he was interested in entrepreneurship. Now studying a Bachelor of Mechatronics Engineering at Deakin, Samuel says SPARK was one of the reasons he chose the University. Now he’s participating in the SPARK Deakin Accelerator program, building the skills and connections to support his STEM hardware and software education platform, Samytronix.com.

SPARK Deakin was founded in 2015, with a vision to create a thriving future built by Deakin entrepreneurs and innovations. That is the power of entrepreneurship – it helps to champion new ideas and technologies, creates new job opportunities, improves economic development and contributes to social change.    

Since it began, the program has engaged over 9,445 Deakin students, staff and alumni. Daizy Maan, the Program Manager, says the initiative offers different opportunities to get involved for entrepreneurs at all stages.  

‘For those who are new to entrepreneurship, our events are a great place to start. We design and curate them to help provide students and alumni with the knowledge and community connections needed to take their ideas to the next level. For those looking for tailored advice on how to get started, they can also apply for a mentoring session to get clear on their next steps. We have also developed a Work Integrated Learning program called Startup Ideation, to support students in developing entrepreneurial skills while at university. Many students have described the experience as a highlight of their degree.’

‘The best part is getting to know other founders in the SPARK community and the story behind their startups,’ says Samuel.

For those like Samuel who are ready to take their start-ups to the next level, SPARK Deakin’s Accelerator Program provides funding, co-working space, connections, mentorship and expertise to accelerate the enterprise.

‘I started Samytronix because I wanted to help my friends get started with programming,’ says Samuel. ‘From word-of-mouth, more people became interested. To get my product to as many hands as possible, I needed a scalable business, and that is where SPARK Deakin came in. The SPARK Deakin Accelerator program has helped me in structuring the business model and marketing our product to schools, parents, and students in Australia.’

Arz Bhatia says he started scouting for opportunities to develop his own start-up, Lemonade social, within two weeks of landing in Australia from India. As a Deakin Bachelor of Information Technology student, Arz was soon connected in with the SPARK Deakin entrepreneurship program.

‘The SPARK Deakin team has always been around to help whenever needed. We’ve also been introduced to a lot of experienced mentors, some of which have been the reason for a few key updates on the Lemonade platform, says Arz.

‘I love that Deakin is very appreciative and supportive of students looking to do something new,’ says Arz.

Mentors and industry partners play a major role in the program, providing invaluable insights, business connections and funding.

‘Our teams have access to top calibre entrepreneurs and change-makers as dedicated mentors who generously contribute their time to guide our start-ups and community. Our industry partners including Google Cloud for Startups, Amazon Web Services, Xero, Airwallex and more, provide in-kind support for our accelerator teams (an overall value of over $60,000 for each team),’ says Daizy. Last year, two alumni of the SPARK Deakin Accelerator received investment of up to $250,000 each from an industry partner, SKALATA Ventures.

Both Arz and Samuel agree that one of the best things about participating in SPARK is the sense of community and connection with like-minded entrepreneurs.

‘What I love about the SPARK Deakin community is that everyone is willing to help each other. Building a start-up is challenging, so being able to exchange advice to each other helps a lot in leveraging our start-ups,’ says Samuel.

Daizy is hopeful to see more international students like Arz and Samuel getting involved with the entrepreneurship program. ‘We understand that for international students there are barriers to finding opportunities in Australia. We have seen that the international students who have been involved with us (through attending mentoring, partaking in the accelerator, going to hackathons, volunteering at our events, or joining start-up ideation) are more confident in taking initiative to be more connected with relevant networks for their career development in Australia. We would also like to encourage more women, especially women of colour, to get involved in our programs.’

You can discover more about SPARK Deakin and how to get involved on our website.

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