Benjamin and Oliver teamed up to form Sincidium, winning first place in the 2023 UniMelb StartUp Pitch Competition. We spoke with them about their journey and learnt more about the AI-based software startup which seeks to ensure competency and academic integrity in the age of AI.
Benjamin Arya (Doctor of Medicine) and Oliver Cucanic (PhD MDHS) were competitors at last year's 2022 UniMelb StartUp Pitch Competition. Having missed out on securing a place in the Final round, they transformed their rivalry into a strategic alliance, assuming roles that leveraged their individual strengths for the 2023 competition. From this partnership of prior rivals, Sincidium was born.
Since the release of advanced AI chatbots, like ChatGPT, academic institutions have been left struggling to develop effective AI-proof assessment methods. “In-person testing isn’t scalable, and banning AI is ineffective if you can't detect it. While others have attempted to develop tools to detect AI-generated sentences, this is already circumventable. And as AI language models become personalised to individual writing styles, we believe that these tools will be rendered obsolete.”
Sincidium's approach goes beyond mere detection of AI-generated content. It fosters academic integrity by ensuring students' work is a true reflection of their capabilities. Not only is the work submitted by students reflective of their understanding and knowledge, but this also has the added effect of improving educational outcomes and raising academic standards.
“Launching Sincidium has been a masterclass in resilience, creativity, and collaboration. The startup journey is a living, breathing education that no classroom can replicate.”
“The UniMelb StartUp Pitch Competition provided us with a platform to refine our ideas, garner feedback, and navigate the labyrinth of entrepreneurial challenges. Our journey was marked by improvement and learning, with the competition workshops offering invaluable insights and knowledge.”
Liam Bussell, CMO of the Cloudtech Group and Consensus VC said, "It is of critical importance for students and aspiring entrepreneurs to gain hands-on experience before they enter the 'marketplace of ideas’. Competitions like the UniMelb StartUp are an excellent way to achieve this. Collaboration between the private and education sectors is the way forward. We are really proud to support the competition and look forward to supporting some of these young founders on the next part of their journey."
As part of the 2023 UniMelb StartUp Competition prize package, Benjamin and Oliver are excited to be joining a broader community of entrepreneurs in the Melbourne Accelerator Velocity Program. Since the competition, they have been working with their technical co-founder Jim Lim, alongside a team of software engineers and UI/UX designers, to build a minimum viable product (MVP), create the Sincidium brand, and launch Sincidium to the tertiary education market.
In the short time since the competition, Sincidium has built a working prototype. Over the next few months, the team is building towards a launch of their beta software for the higher education sector.
Benjamin and Oliver also intend to forge research partnerships with academic institutions, exploring new methods to ensure academic integrity through innovative assessment solutions. Every step of this process is geared toward a successful product launch in early 2024.
Benjamin and Oliver extend their heartfelt gratitude to competition organisers and partners, including the Faculty of Business and Economics, Telstra, the CloudTech Group, Melbourne Accelerator Program, and Wade Institute of Entrepreneurship. Their journey has been a communal effort, underscored by the unwavering support of mentors, judges, and sponsors.
Dave Bell, Telstra Labs remarked, "The Uni of Melbourne Startup Pitch Competition was exciting to be a part of. It was inspiring to see the passion of the young entrepreneurs bringing together ideas and technology into new products. My congratulations to Sincidium, the deserving winners. I wish them well on their quest to bring their vision to life!”
Find out more: UniMelb StartUp Pitch Competition.