Published May 16, 2017
When it comes to talking about the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship for students, there’s no-one quite as credible as someone who has walked the talk.
That’s the thinking behind the recent appointment of Benjamin Dunn (who is the CEO of his own startup, and a Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp Alumni) as Viclink’s Young Entrepreneur in Residence.
“As part of our annual review to improve not just the Bootcamp itself, but also the way we provide support to participants post-Bootcamp, we’ve refocused our strategy for young entrepreneurs,” says Emily Sullivan, Viclink’s Student Entrepreneurship Manager. “We identified the need to bring in someone who has experienced the journey of a young entrepreneur, who can advise and connect with Victoria University’s students on a more personal and credible level.”
Emily says that in the three years since Ben left Bootcamp, he and his team (Lukas Stoecklein, Connor Broad and Zac Bird) have been focused on developing the business (Swibo) they started at Bootcamp. “He’s had some incredible learning experiences along the way—discovering what worked and what didn’t—which he is keen to share with future Bootcamp participants.”
The Swibo team’s product is a lightweight balance training board called ‘Tilt’ that turns exercises into games. It uses any smartphone to connect the board to a computer which runs the games, and analyses the board’s movements and measurements, so that users’ improvements can be tracked, and tailored training provided if required.
“We spent a good chunk of last year trying to secure a deal with an Australian company that distributes products to physiotherapy clinics across Australia,” says Ben. “The plan was to leverage their networks so we wouldn’t have to build our own from scratch—but the deal fell over earlier this year.”
He says that it’s one thing to understand the concept of resilience, but quite another to actually pick yourself up and keep going forward after something doesn’t work out as expected. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of learning to share that will benefit our new student entrepreneurs,” says Ben who, in true entrepreneur style, is now considering Plan B for distribution in Australia, and taking sign-ups for the boards from their website swibo.co.nz
Although he’s only been in his new 15-hours-a-week role for less than a month, Ben is already up-to-speed with the goals and strategy for the next Bootcamp (in November this year). He’s also been working on how best to direct resources to ensure Victoria’s next batch of young entrepreneurs leave the programme well-equipped to either start their own businesses or use their newfound skills to secure jobs in today’s competitive job market.
As Emily points out: “The Bootcamp experience isn’t solely about creating startups—it’s more about helping students to learn skills such as how to think entrepreneurially, and how to have a creative and innovative mindset. These are things that Ben has in spades!”
Ben says he is excited about the future, and looking forward to helping other young entrepreneurs while developing skills for his own career. “There’s more to life than getting a job for life,” he says. “Now is the best time—when you’re young, with no mortgage or kids—to get out there and think entrepreneurially. Who knows where it will take you?!”