Passion for problem-solving leads to Shanghai

University of Queensland Business Management student Dave Cole’s passion for entrepreneurial problem-solving has taken him to Shanghai via the UQ Idea Hub and its China Mobility Program.
Here he relates the impact of that experience.

The China Mobility Program is more than just a way to explore the startup scene in one of the world’s fastest-moving cities, Shanghai. It’s also a great way to learn about how to run a business and how to network. It’s a pathway to hear from leaders in industry and government, a way to expedite your own business endeavours and to absorb some of the sensational Chinese culture.

The program allowed me to forge lifelong friendships with the other students I travelled with, and to gain mentors from among my Chinese colleagues in the local startup I was matched with.

I attended a number of events hosted by the Shanghai technology hub, Caohejing Hi-Tech Park(CHJ): one of the largest hi-tech parks in Shanghai. CHJ hosts more than 2000 established companies as well as several innovation centres for startups. The scope of their operation is breathtaking.

It was easy to get lost in the experience, the way a wonton does in the opaque depths of a tasty soup.

Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad with Australian innovators and leaders in Shanghai.

Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad with Australian innovators and leaders in Shanghai.

Each of the 10 UQ students who participated in the program applied through the UQ Idea Hub, receiving a scholarship and a four-week internship within a burgeoning business in the city.

Another student and I worked for Artable, a startup with a focus on providing the Chinese community access to a creative education through an online platform. Artable had the advantage of mentorship through China Accelerator, one of the most popular and established accelerators in China.

During the internship, I was able to gain a birds-eye view of the components of the business and interact with the owners and software developers to add value in a meaningful way. I learnt what environmental factors the company faced within China, and how the business positioned itself with its suppliers, customers and competitors.

Interns with our fearless leader of Artable, Zoe.

Interns with our fearless leader of Artable, Zoe.

It was fascinating to see how tech-savvy the Chinese community is, and how responsive they are to innovation. New businesses in Shanghai have the opportunity to launch their ideas among an audience the size of Australia without leaving their own city. Operating in such a vast market expedites the startup process by allowing for the testing and iteration of ideas with a large group of potential customers in a small amount of time.

Outside working hours we were lucky to experience some of the best food we’d ever eaten, along with a trip to a peaceful neighbouring province.

Temple tranquility for the travellers.

Temple tranquility for the travellers.

Several conferences gave us the opportunity to connect with many of the largest players in the business domain of Shanghai. A highlight was spending time with UQ alumnus Peter Davison, a seed investor of PayPal and one of the co-founders of a leading startup incubator in Sydney, Fishburners. His insights and experience were brilliant.

Needless to say, I came home with a head full of ideas, inspiration and a fresh perspective on how the Australian business market could utilise young entrepreneurs like us: innovators who are willing to take a risk to try to solve the problems of the future.

I encourage undergraduate or postgraduate UQ students with big ideas, an appetite for a unique cultural experience and a vision to create positive change in our world to apply for the China Mobility Program through the UQ Idea Hub in 2017.

The UQ Idea Hub is a startup pre-incubator for the aspiring, the inspiring and the ambitious. It brings together workshops, experienced mentors and a network of local and global innovators to help develop ideas into solutions that could change the world.

Applications are currently open for budding entrepreneurs to take part in UQ Idea Hub's first six-week program of the year. Learn more about what is involved in the hands-on workshops here or apply now to turn your idea into something big.