Mental health & wellbeing, Startup News & Analysis

Academy Xi launches Growth Hack Idol to help mental health organisations grow

Angela Castles /

Academy Xi

Academy Xi co-founders Ben Wong and Charbel Zeaiter. Source: Supplied

Building a startup can often lead founders down a high-pressure and lonely road, which is why virtual reality edutech startup Academy Xi is supporting not-for-profit mental health organisations with its Growth Hack Idol hackathon.

Kicking off this Wednesday, the month-long Melbourne-based hackathon partners marketing agencies and the startup community with not-for-profit organisations that are looking to drive growth but may not have the resources to do so.

The hackathon teams will be formed on Wednesday and work together on a part-time basis over the next month, re-convening on November 8 to share their wins, losses and lessons from the experience.

Founded in 2015, Academy Xi runs courses for startups, corporates, and individuals looking to upskill through augmented and virtual reality, and counts staff from corporates such as ABC, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Staples and Lendlease among its student body.

The startup raised $2.25 million in Series A funding earlier this year to expand its Melbourne team and launch into Singapore, but still has at its heart a focus on local community and social responsibility.

For co-founder Ben Wong, Growth Hack Idol is a way to give back to the community by supporting mental health organisations like eOrygen, an online therapeutic social networking platform; StartOut, an organisation providing mental health support and advice for LGBTQI+ entrepreneurs; and the Alannah & Madeleine foundation, which supports victims of bulling and cyber bullying.

Academy Xi has partnered with the Telstra Foundation to present this hackathon, which will see the participating not-for-profits working with marketing firms Mad Scientist Digital, Milk It Academy and The Revery, as well as participants from the startup ecosystem, to hack their growth and drive expansion.

“We identified a problem in that many not-for-profit’s are supporting really amazing causes, but don’t have the resources to implement the growth they may be looking for,” Wong tells StartupSmart.

“We thought, ‘what’s a different way that we can support the community and crowd source growth?'”

Wong sees the hackathon as crucial for “bridging the gap” between agencies and not-for-profit organisations, while also integrating the wider startup community in this socially-focused initiative.

It’s an approach Wong hopes will yield “extreme growth” for the participating organisations, as he looks to the crossover of the startup and not-for-profit world to drive innovative, creative approaches to growth.

“Many of these not-for-profits have been using their marketing channels for a while but for them to grow with their audience it’s important to try new avenues,” he says.

“You can’t stay static, you need to constantly be nimble and agile.

“We would love to see these organisations come out with completely different strategies and have a shift in where they see their product going and ultimately get traction through that.” 

“It can be quite scary as an entrepreneur”

Hacking for organisations that have a mental health focus is something Wong says he is “quite closely passionate about” in light of the often overlooked issue of mental health in the startup ecosystem.

“It’s something that many suffer from but not a lot of support is raised for it,” he says. 

“Entrepreneurs are people who are ambitious and driven; plenty of times they spend their time alone, and it can be quite scary as an entrepreneur. 

“No one is really supporting them in the way we feel they should be, but with the right community effect we can help support and grow [mental health initiatives].”

Wong says “especially for solo founders” the startup life can be “quite stressful and overwhelming”, which is why he wants to help build a supportive community of entrepreneurs who are open to talking about these issues.

“I think that the whole startup founder thing attracts a certain type of person — someone who can put their head down and drive forward, but entrepreneurialism is quite lonely out there for many people,” Wong says.

“To be able to do it is not for everyone, and for those who do choose to go down that journey it can be quite a tumultuous channel to pursue.” 

Registrations are still open for Growth Hack Idol, which welcomes participants from across the startup ecosystem.

If you or someone you know is living with mental health issues, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636. 

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Angela Castles

Angela Castles was a former Journalist at StartupSmart.

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