When the international hacker community Angelhack decided to launch in Australia, they also decided to ramp up the expectations by partnering with the team from the CityConnect accelerator. Griffith graduate, founder and startup mentor, Ayla Soutar rose to the challenge.
Collaborating with local startup accelerator, BlueChilli, the 2017 Brisbane hackathon demanded contestants start from scratch and produce a working prototype of their idea in a only 24 hours. The pitch to a panel of judges was done without slides in only 2 minutes
CityConnect is the latest BlueChilli Accelerator that specializes in solutions for urbanisation – the problems of the city and its people.
We caught up with Ms Souter at Griffith’s Logan campus where she was part of a judging panel at the conclusion of 3 Day Startup, a weekend-long course for aspiring student entrepreneurs, run by the University’s commercialisation office, Griffith Enterprise.
Ms Soutar, a GU Digital Arts and Business graduate and her business partner took the contest’s top two prizes for pitching a “fractional” property ownership platform that uses blockchain technology to increase the frequency of trading shares and reduce barriers of entry to the property market.
“It’s basically a legitimate rent-to-buy/ novated lease scheme for young people who live in share houses – everyone buys back a share of the house from a network of private investors,” she said.
“We demo-ed a working blockchain that recorded (fake) transactions from our website. To achieve this, we had 3 servers running!”
Blockchain is a digital ledger that (among other things) supports the online currency bitcoin. It is one of the emerging digital technologies many people believe will play an ever larger role in our lives. Blockchain acts as a contract, authority, public record and platform all at once, dramatically speeding up and reducing costs of any service that relies on those platforms, like real estate, banking, the law or accounting.
Angelhack also ramped up the prizes, with Soutar winning a place in a global pre-accelerator for 12 weeks.
If she succeeds at “Hackcelerator”, she will have a chance fly to San Francisco and pitch at “Global Demo Day”, to a room full of investors.
Soutar’s win follows Griffith PhD student Jess Bloomfield’s success at a BlueChilli pitching contest in 2016 that eventually netted her seed investment. Griffith is building a healthy profile in the Brisbane startup space with more and more students looking at the business platform as a legitimate alternative to a career.
“Griffith is a young uni, it should own this space”, said Soutar.
“I hope it moves faster. There are so many opportunities, alongside competitors who are well established…But I hope the Uni remembers to engage entrepreneurs – not just academics.”
Hackathons have grown in the last three years as the increasing number of people with coding skills search for more creative and entrepreneurial ways to apply their skills. Digital investment houses, like BlueChilli use the contests to find people who may have the right business acumen for them to invest in. For Soutar her Griffith education was one of the keys to her rapid transition into the startup world.
“My Bachelor of Digital Media (Digital Design) / Bachelor Business (Marketing), naturally collided in the digital space. The flexibility to combine both theory & practice was key to my success at uni – although my peers often gawked at my presentations as a result, (but) In the big bad world everything is multidisciplinary, especially entrepreneurship.”
As well as founding and building her latest startup, Ms Soutar acts as a mentor to young people who want to explore entrepreneurship. She believes the most important trait in an entrepreneur is resilience and she wants the next generation to have as much of it as possible.
“Because you will inevitably fail at some point, and that is OK. It’s critical to get young people thinking differently about the problems around them (are they business opportunities?) – particularly when 40% of jobs will not be around in the next 20 years!”