Studio 39 backing Gold Coast student startups

App Foundation leader, Tommi Sullivan.

Student entrepreneurship is building at Griffith and Studio 39, the University’s startup hatchery on the Gold Coast campus, will be having a very busy 2017.

The Studio is part of Griffith Enterprise (GE) who have been working with students hoping to develop the next Twitter, Canva or Fitbit rather than a job or career. In 2016 startups jumped into the public mind as digital services like Netflix and Uber began to move into the lives of everyday people.

The successful multi-billion dollar listing of Australian software firm Atlassian on the NASDAQ has provided further impetus, as have television shows like Shark Tank.

Most recently Griffith has forged connections with the American startup community, organising breakfasts with investors, brought in the 3 Day Startup team from Texas to run training and facilitated hacking competitions.

Students also had the opportunity to travel to the United States to experience the start environment in Silicon Valley and meet some founders, with more trip planned in the future.

Upcoming events, visits and engagement

Part of the strength of Studio 39 is its multidisciplinary focus. It is not just about ICT, app development or even technology. It is designed to help all kinds of students, from artists to nurses, social workers to engineers approach their field as entrepreneurs. As a space it means all are welcome to share their ideas.

For the start of the academic year the School of Engineering are bringing several commercial partners onto campus to discuss their projects including:

  • WindAid who are researching a portable wind turbine design that is currently manufactured and operated by a charity in Peru. They will be undertaking projects investigating blade design, material choice and life cycle management
  • Aerospace Consultancy Group​ who are tackling aerospace projects in the ​industry and
  • Gilmore Space Corporation who are seeking to build a Mars Habitat on the Gold Coast for scientific research.

Student Foundations and clubs

While the Studio grows and GE’s ability to support students expands, the focus remains on student collaboration. Studio 39 is currently hosting the Griffith University Startup Entrepreneurs Club and the App Foundation, for students focused on digital startups.

App Foundation co-founder Tommi Sullivan is a 24-year-old PhD student with a background in IT and robotics. He believes start-ups are very different to other businesses.

“Partly it’s the emphasis on digital solutions and partly it’s the start-from-nothing nature of the businesses, but it’s also the risk and reward nature of the investment offering that sets them apart,” he said.

Like traditional businesses, start-ups follow a path of identifying a need, creating a product or service and building a clientele, followed by investment for expansion.

Risk and reward

However, start-ups also face great uncertainty. Tommi believes the key is to balance risk and reward by taking quick and decisive action.

“We need to start finding out much earlier, when the risk is small, so when we have a more significant offering it is based on customer feedback. Start-ups are like learning to ride, the more you do it the more you improve,” he said.

“The development of apps over the past four years has sped up this process even more. It wasn’t exactly fringe technology when we started but it wasn’t huge either.”

The App Foundation partnered with GE, to act as a catalyst for a similar culture on the Gold Coast.

If you think your path in life is leading toward entrepreneurship, contact the App Foundation or GUSUE and drop in to Studio 39.