Just like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg before them, today’s young entrepreneurs working on tomorrow’s big ideas don’t wait for the money to roll in, or for someone else to come up with the idea – they ‘just start it’.
‘Just start IT’ is also the name (and the ethos behind) a new Australian high school program designed to “ignite” the business and technology savvy of tomorrow’s young entrepreneurs.
Running over 18 weeks, the program introduces students to the methodologies behind some of Silicon Valley’s most successful start-up businesses.
Participating schools are assigned a mentor, who, along with the help of a classroom teacher, assists the students to develop and market a technological solution to a real-world problem.
At the culmination of the first semester, students go on to pitch their solutions to a panel of expert judges to see if their ideas could have real commercial potential.
Finalists from past competitions are already in discussions with corporations to take their ideas further, including one stellar team from WA’s Seton Catholic College.
The group of five students took out first place in 2017 for their app Split Connect.
An online platform designed to act as the go-between for parents from divorced families, Split Connect puts parents in contact with health and social professionals – psychologists, teachers or family mediators – to assist them in managing their separation while keeping the focus firmly on the children.
Teacher at Seton and program facilitator Owen Neal says competition was stiff on the day, but it was the originality of the Split Connect idea and the enormity of the issue that got the team over the line.
“...there were some great pitches, probably some better pitches ... but they didn’t really deal with big problems, they dealt with the stuff where there’s other solutions out there that do similar things.”
“...there are so many divorced families and kids that are affected by it. It’s a massive problem and [Split Connect] is a really ‘out of the box’ solution to it. I think that’s why it won.”
The team also had a personal connection to the issue at hand. Student and team member Reece Markham told the Fremantle Gazette that the app was inspired by his own experience of being caught in the middle of his parents’ divorce.
Markham says he wanted to “bring the focus of the divorce back onto the kids” and it was hoped that the app would go some way to helping others going through a similar experience.
That hope might be one step closer to becoming a reality.
Neal says the boys have already been approached by some big names in the tech sector offering their time and expertise to get Split Connect off the ground.
But now the group have started it, they’ll need to ‘just finish it’.
The next stage of the program will see the team working with their mentor to refine their idea for the market.
“That’s where “the real work” begins, Neal says. “...they’ve got lots of support, it’s just whether we can get a group of Year 10 boys over the line,” he says.