Starting up

By Isha Kaur

Digital start-ups and social enterprises – have we seen them all? University of Melbourne students don’t seem to think so and are challenging the status quo on what it means to deliver change by disrupting the way we do things.

This October, over 43 student teams from across the University came together to pitch their digital start-up and social enterprise ideas to a panel of entrepreneurship experts and investors at the UniMelb Start-up Pitch Competition and Social Entrepreneurship Sharks’ Tank; an initiative of the Faculty of Business and Economics flagship entrepreneurship program.

Making a difference

Exceptional winning ideas included Charitable designed to engage and empower the new generation to make a difference in the world through the click of a button, and ‘Project Fibre’ created to bring attention to and address Bangladesh’s ever growing source of pollution– plastic bags – by manufacturing reusable bags through a readily available local resource, banana plants.

Tristonne Forbes, Partner at Pollenizer ,Bachelor of Commerce alumna and a Judge at the UniMelb Start-up finals was impressed with the calibre and work ethic shown by the students. According to Tristonne, their curiosity and drive is what a company like Pollenizer looks for in start-ups.

Charitable WinnersCharitable's Joshua Cheung and Aaron Vo

Founder insights

Two of these students are Joshua Cheung and Aaron Vo, the Co-founders of Charitable, who took some time out to discuss their start-up:

Tell us about Charitable; how does it work?

Aaron: Charitable was created to make donating more flexible, more engaging, and eventually a natural part of everyday life. With card purchases being so prevalent in our lives now, we settled on roundup micro-donations. What this means is, when you sign up to our platform, the total amount of your card purchases will be rounded up to the next dollar, and that extra amount is donated to charities. You can set multiple charities to your account and switch them in and out effortlessly – easy.

How did you both come up with the idea?

Josh: I first met the team in a database tutorial where we got chatting about making the world a better place. We bounced around ideas based on incorporating ‘doing good’ into everyday life. There are many ways for a person to do this, including volunteering, fundraising or donations, and we chose to focus specifically on donations. What are the issues which stop donations from happening, the size of donations, and the spread of donations and so on. We asked donors if there were any donation ‘pain points’ they encountered and then thought about how we could solve it. Thus Charitable was born!

You've been involved in Social Velocity with start-up incubators Compass and MAP, tell us about what it is, what you're doing there and how that's helped Charitable?

Josh: Working with Compass and MAP is like having your own personal trainer. We think we know all that there is to build a start-up, but they really help push you to clarify and confirm what you know. They apply pressure where needed, for example, getting us to focus not only on building our product, but taking the time to understand who our customers are and what problems they actually want to have solved.

What are the next steps for Charitable?

Aaron: The judges at the UniMelb Pitch Competition provided a lot of feedback we fully intend to bring on board. One piece of advice that really resonated with us was customer discovery and customer validation. Our next steps are centred on the donors and their user experience. We want to show prospective donors a mock-up of what we are offering, take in their feedback, go back and make the design better, before going off and building the app.

Where to next? The Faculty of Business and Economics will continue to support its growing student-base of entrepreneurs through our offerings and partnerships which include the Wade Institute, where the Master of Entrepreneurship is taught, Melbourne Accelerator Program and Compass.

Group photo
Unimelb Startup '16 Finalists having a laugh