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Startup 101

Jeremy Kwong-Law, Co-founder of Vistr, pitching at Demo Day

Jeremy Kwong-Law, Co-founder of Vistr, pitching at Demo Day

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At INCUBATE we’re searching for motivated and entrepreneurially-minded students, alumni and researchers with great ideas. We want to help you start your startup with a goal of creating an innovative new business.

We believe a revolution in entrepreneurship is underway. A student, armed with a laptop, an internet connection and a great idea can create a company that reaches people around the globe, with just $5000 or less.

We want to help students and alumni set out on their entrepreneurial career. This page is designed to introduce you to startups and entrepreneurship and how we can help.

“INCUBATE helped us focus and simplify our ideas to move forward, which led us to get our first paying customer and raising seed investment.” – Jeremy Kwong-Law, Co-founder of Vistr, is building a platform to help people make better financial decisions.

What is a Startup?

A startup is a fledgling business that is creating a completely new product or service based on technological innovation. A startup is not a small version of a larger company. Startups are often doing something completely new and thus are searching for a repeatable and scalable business model, often with the potential for global impact.

What is a Founder?

A Founder is the person, or the entrepreneur, who came up with the idea. There can be more than one Founder, known as Co-Founders. Ideally they bring different skill sets to the team. We often see two co-founders where one might have a technical background, such as a software engineer, and one might have a non-technical background such as marketing or sales. However, we encourage anyone who is applying to understand what skills they’re lacking in the team and have a plan to recruit someone into the team to fill that skill-gap.

I’m a Single Founder With No Technical Skills But I have a Great Idea, Should I Still Apply?

Yes. We welcome startup founders with limited technical skills but we want to see them become experts in their industry area and have a plan for building their first product within the program time frame.

Can I Work for a INCUBATE Startup?

Yes. If you want gain work experience or you are looking for a job in a startup, register your skills and interest here:

Artistic Projects and Community Event Ideas

INCUBATE co-hosts guest speakers and events on entrepreneurship with organisations on and off campus. While we encourage creativity in all students, INCUBATE is designed to help entrepreneurs building something innovative which will be the basis of a new business. Students with creative Ideas which don’t fit the Incubate criteria are encouraged to apply to USU Bright Ideas.


INCUBATE is a startup accelerator program. The startup businesses are generally accept into the program are very early stage, often they will not have any customers or a even a product. INCUBATE is the first step in your business development. During the 14 week accelerator program you can build and shape your business direction based on what you learn in our workshops, and from the Business Mentors that we connect you with. We don’t take equity (or a financial share) of your business. We do take an advisory fee if you raise investment in the first 2 years. For Founders, Incubate is a full-time commitment for the 14-weeks of the Program.

I Have an idea for a Business, How can INCUBATE Help Me?

Firstly, get started. Don’t wait until you get accepted in to Incubate. We will ask you at interview what progress you have already made on building your business. If you don’t believe strongly enough in your idea to talk to people about it and to take action, then why should we believe you have what it takes to build a business?

Often the first steps we recommend for founders is to investigate their market and conduct interviews with potential customers to better understand the problem you think you’re solving.

If you would like to talk to the team in person we’re available for a first chat and general startup advice. Please book in a time.

I Want to Apply! What Are the Application Criteria for INCUBATE?

Any startup that has a founder or core team member that is a current student, researcher or alumni from The University of Sydney can apply to INCUBATE.

INCUBATE is not a course or an assessment, it is not a business pitching competition. You will not be marked on your achievements.

Startups have been known to apply to INCUBATE multiple times before they are accepted. Don’t feel you have to be perfect, or have all the answers before you apply. If you have a big idea, you’ve spoken to some people or potential customers about it, got some feedback you can use, then we can help you find ways to build it.

INCUBATE Accelerator – the Essentials

INCUBATE an accelerator program where you can work on your business for 14 weeks and be pushed to achieve your goals. You will be supported by access to workshops, mentors, office space and money. INCUBATE is real life business building. At INCUBATE you don’t ‘tick boxes’,  you spend the time building your startup and developing it into a money-making growth organisation that you are driving.

  • Up to eight startups will be accepted into the accelerator per cycle
  • There are two intakes per year
  • You will set business milestones / goal to achieve in collaboration with the Program Manager and In-House Mentor
  • You will attend workshops, coaching and presentation training
  • For Founders, it is a full-time commitment for the duration of the program
  • You will meet with a Board of Mentors three times per cycle. This gives you the opportunity to understand why a business advisory board is essential for future growth as well as an external reporting/update mechanism

I’m a Researcher or Postdoctoral Student. Can I Apply?

Yes. Researchers, doctoral and post-doctoral students are encouraged to considering applying if they believe their research has potential commercial applications. INCUBATE strongly encourages entrepreneurial researchers who are passionate about bringing their invention and innovations to the real-world to apply.

Key attributes we look for in researchers:

  • Strong entrepreneurial drive – applicants are interested in becoming co-founders of the startup company
  • Clear vision as to the potential product or service they wish to create
  • Willingness to conduct prototyping and business development during the 3 month accelerator program
  • Willingness to learn how to  market and pitch their startup to industry and investors

Staff and students working on University-owned IP may also be eligible to apply for up to $50k Proof-of-Concept funding from Commercial Development and Industry Partnerships (CDIP). If you are interested in this route, you can apply with CDIP here. INCUBATE works closely with CDIP on any startups that utilise University IP, to assist them in coordinating licensing and commercialisation discussions with The University of Sydney.

“Incubate helped me to find the right people and the right path to accelerate the commercialisation of my research project.” – Ali Fathi, founder TrimphGel

What Happens When the Program Finishes?

The end of the 14 week Incubate accelerator program leads to Demo Day. There you will ‘pitch’ or present on stage to an audience of 150+ investors, students, peers and business advisors. Your pitch may be to ask for investment, or it may be to ask for members to join your advisory board, or another ‘ask’ that you will decide in collaboration with your Board and the Incubate Program Manager


After you leave the Incubate Program we will assist you to find a co-working space to move into.

The INCUBATE Program is about building your contacts, knowledge and skills to build a successful technology-based start up idea. The variety of ideas that have come through the program is huge. From ‘ebay for cows’, babysitter apps, vertical gardens, project management apps, clever keyboards, health and well being aids and event planning tools, we welcome applications from technical and non-technical founders.

Further reading

James Alexander – A Guide to University for Student Entrepreneurs

James Alexander – Top 5 Things to Avoid When Applying to a Startup Accelerator

Shane Herft – How to ruin your startup: All action, no talk

Further Watching

INCUBATE National Demo Day

Eric Ries on the Lean Startup (Short Video)

General Assemble: Tools for Entrepreneurs

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