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Student startup guideline 2023: A case study with Deckle, student entreprenurship at Melbourne University

Student startup guideline 2023: A case study with Deckle, student entreprenurship at Melbourne University

Oct 10, 2023

In our recent conversation with Jesse Argent, the Event Department Manager of Melbourne University, Jesse highlighted the multifaceted nature of Melbourne University. Comprising numerous faculties and departments, each operates somewhat autonomously. For the student entrepreneur, this suggests multiple opportunities. If one faculty doesn't align, another might. Each has its objectives, resources, and vision. Broadening your engagement can only increase the chances of invaluable feedback and potential sponsorships. Additionally, student organizations, sports units, clubs, and societies present further avenues worth exploring.

A Wave of University Founders

It's an exciting time in the entrepreneurial world, especially among university students. Did you know that recent studies show an upswing in students turning entrepreneurs? According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, there's been a noticeable uptick in student-led startups over the past few years. The campus, it seems, is transforming into an incubator, nurturing budding business minds. This trend suggests that being at university doesn’t just equip you with a degree; it presents a golden environment ripe for entrepreneurial endeavors.


Now, if you’re sitting there with a fantastic idea but are swamped by the daunting unknowns of startup life, you're not alone. Questions might be buzzing in your head: “Where do I secure funding?”, “How do I assemble a dream team?”, “What’s the real magic behind networking?”, or “Where do I even begin promoting my business?” It's natural to feel a bit lost, but don't fret. Let's dive deep into the startup journey of Lexon Li and his venture Deckle: Event Games, to give you a clear roadmap.


But before we jump in, a bit about Deckle: Event Games. Based down under in Australia, this unique app is revolutionizing the way teams bond. Think of it as the ultimate icebreaker app, crafting personalized team challenge games and quirky trivia questions tailor-made for team building.

Curious to see it in action? Check out our collaboration with Old State Saloon here.

The Starting Point: Passion

Do you know what's common among young entrepreneurs at universities? They’re all driven by something they love, a passion. Imagine passion as the battery in your smartphone. Without it, the phone won't work. The same goes for starting a business. While everyone wants to be successful and make money, it's the love for what you do that really makes a difference. Starting a business isn’t always fast or easy. In the beginning, there might be more downs than ups. But if you're doing something you love, you’ll keep going.


So, if you love something – be it coding, playing sports, painting, or anything else – think about it. Can you turn it into a business? Your passion combined with what you know can be the starting point of an amazing startup journey.


Let’s take Lex from Deckle as an example. Lex always loved coding. He was making software even before he started university. During college, he used this love for coding to make a daily planner app. He didn’t just want to be successful; he wanted to make something useful for others. And guess what? Melbourne University noticed. They liked what he did so much that they partnered with him for three years to make an ice-breaker app. All because Lex followed his passion.


School Sponsorship - Unlocking University Funding: Step-by-Step


You might be thinking, "Wow, Lex's funding journey sounds almost too smooth." But remember, behind every success story are countless hours of hard work, persistence, and strategy. Let’s break down how you can possibly secure sponsorship from a place as vast as your university.


1. Mutual Benefits:

When aiming for a university's sponsorship, remember it's a two-way street. They're not just giving away money; they're investing in potential. So, start by asking yourself, “What unique thing can I offer that the university needs?” Essentially, they're looking for long-term benefits that can save them costs in the future.


2. Prove Your Worth:

Before a university dives into their pockets, they want to be sure you’re worth the investment. You need to show you've got the skills, dedication, and most importantly, a product or service with potential. Think of this phase as your “audition”. If you've developed related products or services, you have a head start. Show them your work! A solid portfolio can make your pitch much stronger.


3. Don't Limit Yourself:

In terms of pitching for sponsorship, consider this: rather than focusing on a single faculty, why not engage multiple? We recently connected with Jesse Argent of Melbourne University’s student event department. His pivotal role in hosting student events and guiding student groups provides him a unique perspective. Indeed, the successful partnership between Deckle and Melbourne University sprang from Jesse's insight into potential mutual benefits. Deckle’s story, thus, serves as an illustrative example for aspiring entrepreneurs.

In our dialogue, Jesse highlighted the multifaceted nature of Melbourne University. Comprising numerous faculties and departments, each operated somewhat autonomously. For the student entrepreneur, this suggests multiple opportunities. If one faculty doesn't align, another might. Each has its objectives, resources, and vision. Broadening your engagement can only increase the chances of invaluable feedback and potential sponsorships. Additionally, student organizations, sports units, clubs, and societies present further avenues worth exploring. Jesse emphasizes that entrepreneurship is less about instant success and more a journey of growth, cultivating skills such as leadership, management, and communication."

Now, let's piece it together using Deckle’s journey. Lex had already built a working daily-planner app available to everyone. While promoting it during a school event, he stumbled upon an opportunity. The university had been using a pricier app for their orientation activities. Seeing the potential in Lex’s work, the student event saw a chance for collaboration. After setting objectives and testing out Lex's creation, it became evident that his app was the perfect fit. Not only did Lex meet their needs, but he also showcased his dedication and talent. As a result, the university awarded him a funding contract. This financial boost was a game-changer for Deckle. It enabled Lex to grow his team, bringing onboard marketers, a designer, and even a growth head.


Amplifying Your Startup Visibility through University Platforms:

University life isn’t just about lectures and exams. It's a hotbed of opportunities, especially for budding entrepreneurs. The key? Making the most of what's around you. Here's why university events can be your startup’s golden ticket.


1. Networking Goldmine:

The university is like a giant networking event that lasts several years. Every person you meet possesses unique knowledge and skills. Ever felt stuck, maybe with an overseas client or a pesky coding issue? Well, chances are someone on campus can help. So, make your presence known!


2. Spotting Talent:

As you step out, you'll realize that many of your peers are just like you—eager to apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios. They’re not just potential partners; they could be your next employee. And guess what? University platforms provide a diverse talent pool right at your fingertips.


3. The Ripple Effect:

One collaboration can lead to another. Clubs and societies are always on the hunt for innovative ways to engage students. Collaborate with them, and you tap into their audience base. It's a win-win. You help them offer something fresh, and in return, your brand gets maximum eyeballs.


4. The Survival Mantra:

Having the best product or service means little if nobody knows about it. Exposure is everything. And lucky for you, universities often offer these platforms for free. Given that your peers share many of your experiences, interests, and challenges, they're not just an audience; they're potential future customers or partners.


Check out students' feedback after playing Deckle.


Now, a peek into Deckle's playbook. The company zoomed into popularity within the university thanks to its consistent presence at various events. For instance, Lex struck a collaboration with a computing club, where they hosted a fun event. Picture this: Download the app, play a challenge, and win a donut! Simple, but effective. Many students, intrigued by the game, started downloading Deckle's app. Plus, Lex's participation in employability talks sheds light on the merits of joining startups. That's actually how I, your humble narrator, discovered Deckle and later joined the ranks. And the icing on the cake? Deckle's spotlight during university orientations. With prime space at their disposal, they orchestrated engaging scavenger hunts and challenges, leaving an indelible mark on participants.


Fancy a deep dive? Here's Deckle’s successful collaboration with CISSA, the reigning computing club champ at the University of Melbourne.


Piecing Together and Steering Your Dream Team:

1. Scouting the Right Talent

Deckle's Lexon once noted, "A startup's strength doesn't just lie in its idea, but in the people driving it." For budding entrepreneurs, this is golden advice. Building your team isn't just about filling positions; it's about sculpting a group that embodies your vision. And that starts with the hiring process.

While credentials matter, they aren't the only determinant. Passion, the drive to learn, and a genuine interest in your startup's journey often outweigh experience. In the early stages of a business, it's this burning drive, combined with relevant knowledge, that can propel your startup forward.

2. Guiding Your Team

Steering a team isn’t only about leadership. It’s an intricate dance of listening, understanding, guiding, and sometimes, following. As the helm of your startup, it’s crucial to tune into your team's opinions and suggestions. No one person has the complete blueprint for success. But collectively, with inputs from various team members who bring different expertise to the table, you get closer to that ideal path.

Moreover, acknowledge that learning is a continuum. Your employees are bound to evolve in their roles. There might be stumbles along the way, but with patience and encouragement, their potential can blossom.


3. Tailoring Your Team to Your Needs

Each stage of a startup requires different expertise. Think of it like building a house: you need architects before decorators. For instance, a software startup should prioritize developers during its inception, and as the product takes shape, gradually incorporate marketers or sales personnel. This not only streamlines operations but ensures that every team member plays a crucial role in that phase of the business.


Personal Anecdote: The Deckle Journey


My own narrative with Deckle stands as a testament to the fact that potential, paired with an eager spirit, often supersedes experience. Coming to Melbourne from abroad, job hunting was an uphill battle. My diverse background in marketing, sales, and media, while extensive, was often overshadowed by my overseas status.

Enter Deckle. Meeting Lex at a startup event turned out to be serendipitous. Where many saw limitations, Lex spotted potential. My journey with Deckle began with a trial task, a simple marketing challenge. But as I delved deeper, newer challenges cropped up—tasks I had no prior experience with, from professional video editing to SEO research. Yet, Deckle provided the space and time for growth, experimentation, and learning.


I believe my case proves that potential, when nurtured, can lead to unparalleled growth. It's not just about where you start; it's about your drive to learn and the journey of evolution that truly counts.

Conclusion: Riding the University Startup Wave


And here we are, at the end of this journey exploring the exciting world of university startups. Let’s take a moment to go over what we’ve learned. It's a great time to be a student entrepreneur. Universities are filled with opportunities and people that can help turn your startup dream into reality.


We followed the story of Lexon Li and his app, Deckle: Event Games, to understand the path to starting a business in university. Lex's experience taught us the vital role of passion, networking, and building the right team. His story shines a light for other aspiring student entrepreneurs, showing that with dedication and hard work, success is more than possible.


However, it’s not always going to be easy. It takes real grit, a willingness to learn, and a strong commitment to your vision. Remember, every rejection and failure is a chance to learn and get better. They are stepping stones leading you to your ultimate goal.


So, go ahead and take that step. Face the challenges, enjoy the wins, learn from the losses, and keep moving forward. Remember, in the world of startups, it's not just about the end goal but the thrilling adventure of bringing an idea to life and making a difference in the world.

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