Inside NexStar

By Seth Robinson

With a vibrant startup ecosystem and tight-knit community of entrepreneurs, Melbourne has the potential to become one of the world’s innovation capitals. But how do students learn to become entrepreneurs? Programs like the Nexstar 2020 COVID-19 Asia Readiness Virtual Sprint are a great first step.

Is entrepreneurship really something that can be taught? Or is it a killer business instinct and out of the box way of thinking that’s ingrained? We asked seasoned entrepreneur, and NexStar Chief Mentor, Cameron Rambert.

‘There are quite a few variables involved in being a successful entrepreneur. There are those who have a natural inclination, who gravitate towards things like persistence and lateral thinking, but yes, it can definitely be taught. You don’t have to be “born that way”. What it really comes down to is patience and a willingness to learn. Then it’s about creating a learning environment where they can excel.’

It’s this exact environment that NexStar aims to create.

‘NexStar is about connecting students with businesses, to solve real-business problems. It’s an experiential learning platform, with mentoring sessions, workshops, and stakeholder events, all working towards the students making a final pitch to one of our partner businesses. My role as Chief Mentor is essentially developing an end-to-end curriculum, setting out core objectives for the students and the learning outcomes we want them to achieve. It’s all driven by thinking about what are the best ways we can get students into that entrepreneurial mode of thinking.’

According to Cameron, one of the key elements of entrepreneurship is experimentation. It requires an ability to adapt or ‘pivot’ as required, to alter your thinking when the situation calls for it. It’s a mentality that NexStar itself was required to embrace with the onset of COVID-19.

‘This year was a very big change, given the current situation we’re all facing. We took what we did in three months last year, and created an abridged version which we delivered online over three days. It was a pretty radical change, so we really had to think about how to maximise comprehension and the stickiness of that knowledge. We essentially took the seven core elements of the program and consolidated them into the three days. It was a huge learning opportunity, and it may lead to new thinking about future forms of NexStar, but the feedback we received on the program was terrific.’

Students Meixiu Liu and Bobby Christian both echoed the positive feedback, each of them taking away unique lessons from the experience.

‘The sense of teamwork was one of the main takeaways for me,’ says Meixiu. ‘It was a challenging experience, but my teammates and I all worked really hard and supported each other throughout. You’re taking on a real-world case for a startup, so there’s a certain amount of pressure, but you can encourage each other as you work. I think having that support allows you to make the most of the experience, you can appreciate that it’s a chance to connect with experienced founders and network. At the end, you have all these new professional connections, and you become really good friends with your team. I really enjoyed this experience, it was really enlightening.’

For Bobby, the highlight was the feedback he received from the program judges and mentors.

‘I really enjoyed being in touch with a real-start up founder, and getting knowledge from professionals who are working in the industry. I feel like these are the sort of opportunities that really allow you to maximise your potential as a business student and take what you’ve learned at university out of the classroom and into the world.’