Owner: Jeanette Cheah, Chris Hoffmann and Jaclyn Benstead
Industry: Education and training
Ordinarily, Aussie education startup Hacker Exchange generates revenue by taking students and entrepreneurs on educational trips to overseas innovation hubs — think Singapore, Silicon Valley and across the Atlantic to Tel Aviv.
But when a program due to run in Texas in March was cancelled less than a week before take-off, Hacker Exchange immediately changed gears.
“Our team brainstormed our next steps, began conducting market research, and drafted a COVID-19 response,” co-owner Jeanette Cheah says.
Within three weeks, Hacker Exchange rolled out experimental virtual programs to build experience and credibility online — including a virtual ‘Hack the Crisis’ hackathon which attracted more than 300 students.
In May, Hacker Exchange ran a virtual three-day international conference with its partners in Singapore and welcomed participants from over 20 countries to teach them about innovation and entrepreneurship.
The three-day event was a huge success and earnt Hacker Exchange the ‘Innovation In Online Programming’ award from American study abroad organisation GoAbroad.
Hacker Exchange’s commitment to succeed online led the company to expand its customer base across government, the private sector and universities in Australia, the US, UK and NZ, with its virtual programs now recognised by 11 universities.
In 2021, the owners hope to resume delivering in-person programs, while keeping the benefits and lessons learnt from virtual programs this year.
“Education is evolving at lightning speed thanks to COVID-19,” Cheah says.