High school students across New South Wales will find out just what it takes to build a startup, thanks to a student entrepreneurship bootcamp being spearheaded by cloud computing company GoDaddy and the Australian operations of global co-working giant WeWork.
The pilot program — dubbed Junior Entrepreneur Bootcamp — will see 20 year-10 work experience students from schools across NSW engage in mentoring and workshops while working alongside startups in the WeWork offices in Pyrmont from late November. If successful, the program could become an annual event.
Designed to develop a range of entrepreneurial skills like ideation and team collaboration, the program culminates in a “Shark Tank style” pitch challenge that brings together lessons and guidance from the week. Students from the participating schools will also be given free domain names and websites as part of the program.
“It’s critically important for the future of our economy to be introducing entrepreneurship as a viable career choice and getting students excited about it from an early age,” said Tara Commerford, GoDaddy vice president and managing director for Australia and New Zealand, in a statement.
“This will help ensure we have a solid pipeline of talent to support future innovation.”
The importance of youth entrepreneurship
The bootcamp is one of many student entrepreneurship program popping up on the Australian startup scene, and joins the likes of Brisbane based programs, Startup Catalyst and the Young Starters competition.
Aaron Birkby is the chief executive of Startup Catalyst, a program taking young adults on two-week missions to Silicon Valley and London to inspire their entrepreneurial dreams. He sees entrepreneurialism as a key skill for young minds.
“Entrepreneurship is the answer to everything,” Birkby says.
“I don’t think you can be exposed too early — look at the future of work … and the rate of change of innovation: the concept of having one career is gone,” he says.
Birkby notes that entrepreneurial skills aren’t just reserved for students hoping to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, but should instead be a key skill for all future workers.
“The skill to be entrepreneurial is absolutely critical even if you’re planning on being an employee,” says Birkby.
The Young Starters Competition is an Advance Queensland initiative that sees students aged 15-24 compete to pitch their ideas to a panel of investors, including Shark Tank investor Steve Baxter. Young Starters competition facilitator Tarryn Thiele believes young adults are often particularly receptive to entrepreneurship.
“Young adults tend to have less fear and less responsibility, which helps in challenging their thinking and pushing the boundaries,” Thiele says.
“They’re at an age where anything is possible, our opportunity lies in helping them execute their idea.”
Thiele sees school settings as ideally suited to creating an environment where students learn “it’s okay to fail” — a lesson that is vital to future entrepreneurial success.
Birkby also notes that schools are a unique environment where students can make “incredible friendships and co-founder relationships”.
“The opportunity of what you can achieve to shift the needle of humanity is unbelievable,” Birkby says.