A regional New South Wales aerospace and STEM education startup is hoping some potential investors may be in attendance when it showcases its programs in front of 15,000 people in Sydney next week.
Obelisk Systems is working to make experiments in space easier while teaching high school students coding and robotics. And it’s one of 12 startups selected by Jobs for NSW to feature in the Startup Zone at CeBIT Australia’s upcoming Sydney conference.
Jobs for NSW also provided the Hunter Valley-based startup with a $15,000 minimum viable product grant in mid-2016.
Obelisk Systems founder and chief executive Andreas Antoniades says the grant was used to prove the concept of StarLAB, the startup’s new science, technology, engineering and maths education package for year nine and 10 students.
“It helped with some prototypes and kept the gears turning,” Antoniades tells StartupSmart.
The startup also raised some seed funding in early 2016 but Antoniades declined to disclose the amount raised.
“We’re a team of five graduate engineers and physicists that are working basically 24 hours around the clock with support from the investment team,” he says.
Antoniades says his key motivation for launching Obelisk Systems, which also develops aerospace hardware, was to help students across Australia get a taste of “cool new industries like space” through practical educational solutions.
“I wanted to make an affordable educational micro satellite that could be used to give kids the opportunity to understand the engineering, mathematical and coding problems they would face in their everyday lives [in future],” he says.
“This was the first concept but StarLAB is a far more evolved idea that focuses on STEM skills.”
The startup’s educational platform is now used in around 60 schools across the Hunter Valley, Canberra and Townsville in Queensland.
“We want to really be able to get StarLAB and what we do in to every school in Australia, and help Australia get to the next level [with] its performance in the STEM and aerospace industries,” he says.
Within the next 12 months, Antoniades and his team hope to develop a strong footing in Australian schools and to be commencing the development of infrastructure for a “few projects up our sleeves”.
“We want to not only be in every state, but to be well-established,” he says.
And he hopes showcasing at a major tech conference will help.
According to CeBIT Australia, the Sydney conference running from May 23 to 25 could attract as many as 15,000 people from across the enterprise, government, SME and startup sectors, along with international guests like Randi Zuckerberg.
“[Showcasing at CeBIT’s] going to let people know that we’re serious and that we’re making a really substantial impact … not only in the Hunter Valley but in Australia as a whole with what we’re doing,” he says.
“It may also attract more funding opportunities for us.”
Reflecting on developing Obelisk Systems’ initial prototypes back in 2014 through to incorporating the venture in July last year, Antoniades says the most surprising part of the startup’s journey has been how quickly it has become a “trusted” hardware supplier in the Australian space industry.
He says things have also come “full circle” with the startup being able to deliver education while manufacturing hardware, all from regional Australia.
“It’s surprisingly peaceful,” he says.
While building a startup outside a big city means immediate access to people who “know the ins and outs” of business development is limited, Antoniades says it has made the Obelisk Systems team stronger and more resourceful with learning the ins and outs of legal processes, accounting and manufacturing.
“I think it’s been an advantage because we’ve learned the process ourselves and gotten very good at those processes, but I’ve also made sure I’ve been part of Sydney’s [startup and space] community online,” he says.
*This article was updated at 10am on May 17th, 2017.
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