In 2020, The UniMelb StartUp Competition (US20) ran online for the first time since it was founded in 2010. Student teams from across the University worked together to pitch their start-up ideas to a panel of experts. Among the 31 teams who participated in the event, first place went to team toto: Christian Gashi, Indiana Cooper, and Jasun Li.
US20 provides students across the University with the opportunity to learn how to develop and test a start-up idea. Although the program is run as a competition, it is a learning experience where students undertake workshops and learn from experts in the start-up world.
Medical graduates Christian, Indi and Jasun shared an interest in entrepreneurship and business development. They became friends whilst studying together as undergraduate students, and although new to the entrepreneurship scene, the team saw US20 as an attractive opportunity to broaden their thinking and skills. Each member believed they had something to add to Melbourne’s entrepreneurial landscape and used the competition as a springboard for their journey. They found it exciting to build an idea from scratch, creatively and strategically using their skills to add value to the world.
‘The competition provided us with a blank canvas to create a business solution for an issue that we were passionate about, and the workshops supported us in developing and testing our business idea,’ said Jasun.
toto’s goal is to provide a safety net for concussion care at grassroots sporting clubs, thereby seeking to raise the standard of concussion management around Australia. By providing a personalised, evidence-based care plan, it will be easier for clubs to fulfil their duty-of-care to players by avoiding repeated incidents of concussion injury amongst amateur athletes. Through knowing individuals forced to leave contact sports due to repeated concussions, the team have a personal interest in injury management and ensuring these sports are as safe as possible.
The competition workshops provided an invaluable foundation in toto’s entrepreneurial journey. ‘My primary takeaway from the workshops is that any idea is akin to a living and breathing entity, and should be treated as such. Ideas will constantly change and evolve when put through various tests and will be moulded by input from those around us. Rarely is a final product identical to an original idea,’ said Christian.
The feedback and judges provided useful ideation frameworks and a business perspective to toto, who joined a network of like-minded individuals through the Melbourne start-up community. To top this off, toto received prizes to support them in the next phase of their entrepreneurial journey.
When asked about the challenges and opportunities following the competition, Christian saw the major challenge for launching their product as gaining endorsement from authoritative bodies. ‘We believe that this is an important step in entering the wider market and encouraging sporting clubs to use our product.’ Jasun identified a key opportunity in the increase in awareness of concussive head injuries within the sporting community. ‘There have been several landmark events at the professional level which have helped the public to realise how common head injuries are, and the long-term implications that they can have on athletes.’
What happens after US20? toto welcome anyone interested in getting involved with their vision to contact them. They intend to network with both striving and successful entrepreneurs to discover the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ that their peers have encountered. They hope that with input and guidance from other entrepreneurial minds, they’ll get the best from themselves and their product.
In the next two years, all three students see themselves embarking on their professional journeys as doctors. They will continue to develop themselves professionally and ‘are very excited about developing toto into a product that can improve concussion care around Australia.’
‘I would certainly encourage any students considering entering the UniMelb StartUp competition to do so. It is a fantastic program that provides a solid foundation for your entrepreneurship journey, with the workshops alone having proved invaluable to my understanding of the entrepreneurship space,’ Christian says.
US20 was delivered by the Faculty of Business and Economics and proudly sponsored by Melbourne Business School, the Melbourne Accelerator Program, Academy Xi and the Wade Institute. The competition will continue to be run online in 2021, with registrations opening on Monday 15 February. Find out more: UniMelb StartUp 2021.