Melbourne Business School News See inside our MBA Innovation Bootcamp for future founders 

See inside our MBA Innovation Bootcamp for future founders 

When you're learning how to pitch a business idea, there's nothing better than real-world experience.

A platform that summons private chefs to your home. A meetup app for people who want to form a sports team. Home agriculture that addresses food insecurity. A new way for parents to book childcare on the weekends.

Those were just some of the startup ideas presented at last January's Innovation Bootcamp for MBA students at Melbourne Business School.

Offered as part of our Full-time MBA program and as an elective in our Part-time MBA program, the Innovation Bootcamp is a five-day intensive subject that requires students to develop a viable business idea to address real-world problems.  

The teams then need to pitch and successfully defend their ideas before a panel of judges consisting of founders, investors and startup consultants.  

The winner of last January's competition was Chefmate, a platform that allows users to call a professional chef into their home kitchen for a fee. It's the brainchild of Full-time MBA students Karan Chopra, Rahul Sapre, Khai Huei Ng and Part-time MBA student Alex Spoljar (pictured, left to right). 

Part-time MBA student Alex Spoljar and Full-time MBA students Khai Huei Ng, Rahul Sapre and Karan Chopra (January 2024)

Khai Huei Ng pitching (January 2024, Innovation Class)

"I was surprised by how much our team could accomplish in such a short time," said Alex, who added that this was "maybe the 20th version" of their original idea.

"We got ideas and solutions not from the people you would have thought they would come from."

Alex, a Part-time MBA student who founded his own outdoor landscaping business in 2017, said he chose to join the bootcamp to learn from Melbourne Business School alumni and more experienced entrepreneurs.  

"Innovation interests me given my own journey of creating something new," he said.

"I was interested to see from a more experienced and corporate perspective how they go about it, what’s important, lessons I can learn and that I didn’t learn from my own experience."

Alex said he now has a better understanding of why startups fail and succeed, and steps he can take to increase his chances of success. 

Bootcamp participant James Hayes (pictured, far left) agreed.

James Hayes and team at Innovation Bootcamp 2024

"You get a better appreciation of the realities of being innovative and starting a business or testing ideas," said James, a Full-time MBA student who works in management consulting.

"It was such a 'real world' kind of class, (rather) than something that is more academic."

During the bootcamp, James and his team — MBA students Oliver Ying, Charline Meynaud, Anna Filippova, Jemima Roe (pictured with James, left to right) — came up with the idea for Crescent, a startup that proposes selling household agriculture kits to low-income families in Nigeria.  

It was one of two other startup ideas praised by the judges alongside Jude, a dashboard that helps cafes and small businesses integrate their sales data from existing software to improve operational efficiency. 

Full-time MBA student Celine Au-Yeung, who came up with the idea for Jude together with Jacob Burn, Darren Boyd and Aaradhya Srivastava, said her biggest takeaway from the bootcamp was how to test and validate new ideas, and how to better phase her questions for business.  

"I like the way we all bring so many different perspectives. That's really the strength of Melbourne Business School, of having so many international people from lots of different industry backgrounds," she said.

"There are few places in the world where you get such a focused span of attention from such accomplished people."

Concept to commercialisation in five days 

The Innovation Bootcamp subject involves five days of lectures on innovation, disruption, testing business models and pitching ideas; workshops on creative brainstorming and design thinking; and talks from high-profile guest speakers and professors, who introduce students to concepts and techniques they would need to make their idea successful.  

Students also learn to synthesise concepts from other subjects such as strategy, marketing and operations.

"The goal is to help people come up with better ideas and to unblock their ability," said Associate Professor of Strategic Management Kwanghui Lim (pictured). 

"Often, people are creative – it's just that they block themselves, so we free them up."

Assoc Prof Kwanghui Lim in Innovation Class (January 2024)

Part-time MBA student Claretta DSouza, who was part of a team that came up with the idea for PaperGassum, an eco-friendly packaging made from sargassum algae, said she enjoyed the subject despite the amount of work it involved.

"The last night, we were all working till 1am just because we had to deliver a pitch and a report in five days – from the conception of an idea for a startup all the way to a business and commercialisation plan.

"In the mornings we would do the theory and methods with Kwang, and then afternoons we would work on our project. So, it's pretty intense."

While Claretta has no immediate plans to start her own company or work in the startup space, she's looking forward to applying her new skills to her current role. 

"I'm going to take some of these learnings back into my job in medical research commercialisation. It's a little different to what we did here, but there’s a lot of applicability."

During the development phase, students receive guidance from mentors who go from team to team to help students shape their concepts. Mentors are usually alumni and former students who have successfully completed this subject in the past. 

Gaelyn Taylor, a human resources executive and former Innovation Bootcamp student who now volunteers as a mentor, said: "I think this is one of the most valuable classes for an MBA student, whether you're going to be someone who goes into a business or someone who's going to be a consultant.

"The way Kwang teaches and the method he uses to get to the crux of the problem to understand innovation is just so valuable. 

"As a mentor, it's deeply rewarding to be able to give back to the School and to be able to watch other people sweat and go through the pain you did."

Laura Atkinson, MBA student, in Innovation Bootcamp (shot January 2024)

Experiential learning from a broad network 

The strength of the Innovation Bootcamp lies in its people as much as in the process itself, said Associate Professor Lim. 

"In some sense, the structure and the process of an innovation bootcamp are not a mystery. Innovation is innovation," he said.

"What makes it unique is both that it's very experiential and that we weave our strengths into it, which are the alumni, the network and the support from people who want to pay it forward.

"While any business school might have this structure, they don't have this combination of people."

Last January's guest lecturers included MBS MBA alumni Lauren Morrey, Chief Operating Officer of Breakthrough Victoria, the $2 billion investment fund set up by the Victoria State Government, as well as Richard Cawsey, the Founder and Executive Chairman of Sydney-based venture capital firm Denali Venture Partners.   

The panel of judges included University of Melbourne Enterprise Professor Colin McLeod (pictured, front row left), Executive Director of the Melbourne Entrepreneurial Centre and a member of the University of Melbourne's Genesis Pre-seed Investment Fund; Alison Hardacre (pictured, front row centre), an MBS MBA alumni and co-founder of the health management practice Halaxy; and Charlie Day (pictured, front row right), Chief Executive of green ammonia company Jupiter Ionics and the ex-CEO of Industry Innovation and Science Australia

Innovation bootcamp class pic Jan 2024

Innovation Lab judges (January 2024)

"I think the experience of spending a week really thinking about what it takes to get something off the ground from an idea into something real is hopefully something that people will take with them into their future careers and will mature with them," said Mr Day. 

"If the cohort here can contribute to what I think is already a growing wave of startup activity in Australia, that's going to be a win for everyone." 

As well as pitching their ideas, students spend the last day of the bootcamp learning how to keep developing their ideas outside the classroom, said Associate Professor Lim.

This includes hearing from successful entrepreneurs and senior executives within the startup ecosystem, invitations to work with the judges to develop their ideas, or guidance on taking part in other pitches, such as the Hult Prize.  

"At the end of the session, Colin made offers to the teams to organise a pitch for Tin Alley Ventures, which is the University's venture capital fund," said Associate Professor Lim.  

"I mean, who gets that kind of opportunity, right? Whether you get the money is not the point. The point is you get guidance, feedback, mentoring and support.

"As a business school, that's the kind of thing we can deliver because of our alumni, our network and the quality of people we have."

To find out more about studying at Melbourne Business School, visit our Degree Programs and Short Courses pages, or learn about our range of services For Organisations. 

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