Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support of the Year Award

UNSW Founders Program

Finalist of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support of the Year Award

"Building Australia’s most comprehensive university entrepreneurship program"

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UNSW is answering the challenges posed by the rapidly changing world of work by delivering to our students, staff and alumni Australia's most comprehensive university--‐based entrepreneurship initiative, the Founders Program. Comprising 11 initiatives, this program has been designed to embed entrepreneurial skill building at scale within the university community, while also identifying and supporting exceptional entrepreneurial talent to launch startups with global impact.

The unrivalled commitment by an Australian university to building a robust program, delivered by a team of industry experts and deeply engaged with the startup ecosystem and investment community, has borne fruit. In only two years, the Founders Program is a large and thriving pipeline for technology startups who are delivering genuine innovation for the benefit of our economy and society.

Key People

Dr. Elizabeth Eastland
Director of Entrepreneurship
UNSW Entrepreneurship,  University of New South Wales

Professor Brian Boyle
Deputy Vice Chancellor, Enteprise
Division of Enterprise,  University of New South Wales

Jennifer Zanich
Head of Ecosystems and Partnerships
UNSW Entrepreneurship,  University of New South Wales

Fi Tschaut
Head of MCIC Network and Programming
UNSW Entrepreneurship,  University of New South Wales

Luke Deacon
Head of Founders Programs
UNSW Entrepreneurship,  University of New South Wales


Founders from startup JAR Aerospace demonstrate their prototype's capabilities

Founders and staff in the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre Makerspace

Startups from 10X Accelerator Cohort 3 on Demo Night

Startups from 10X Accelerator Cohort 3 on Demo Night


Impacting lifes

Launched by co--‐founders and friends Martin Karafilis, Marcel Herz and Christopher Sampson while they were undergraduate students, Tiliter is a technology startup that is revolutionising the supermarket checkout while reducing plastic waste on a global scale.

This innovative startup uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to teach supermarket checkouts to recognise products without the need for barcodes or manual selection. By replacing barcodes, Tiliter is creating faster, easier and digitally advanced checkout processes, and providing a more sustainable shopping experience.

Aside from the technology, the driving force behind Tiliter is the urgent need to reduce the amount of plastic waste that is being produced for product. "The top two supermarkets in Europe produce over 800,000 tons of plastic a year, so we started to realise that that was more of a focus for us than anything. The whole idea is that we can replace barcodes, and therefore take away the need for the plastic packaging," said co--‐founder Martin.

Despite their big vision and innovative technology, the Tiliter co--‐founders faced an enormous hurdle;
"We came from big, corporate companies. We weren't really involved in the startup scene or entrepreneurship in general. We thought that we were just good businessmen, or that we had good technical skills," Martin said.

Recognising their talent and potential, UNSW Founders Program managers accepted Tiliter into the flagship 10x Accelerator program, where they received their first masterclasses in lean methodology and corporate strategy, were matched with industry mentors and were introduced to investors.
"Having that sort of community, people to talk to, people to bounce ideas off is really good. That's something that money can't buy," Martin said.

A year on from their 10x experience, Tiliter has experienced astonishing success. In 2019 alone, Tiliter signed partnerships with suppliers to four major retail chains in Australia, opened an office in Munich that employs 11 people and services partnerships throughout continental Europe, and expanded into the US market.

Reflecting on their past achievements and future plans, Martin is incredibly grateful for the experiences and opportunities made possible through the Founders Program. "This accelerator program is really producing some of the best startups in Sydney right now, I think. The support that the university gives through the program is absolutely amazing."


Lessons learned

Communication - the Founders Program is an ambitious program offering a wide range of different initiatives to participants at different stages. Engaging with participants with a level of personalisation so that the 'Founders Journey' is relevant to them is challenging.

Scale - impacting only 10 or 20 companies is not sufficient to build a sustainable pipeline; we needed to design programs that had much bigger impact, more quickly. They also needed to be designed as a pipeline so that earlier-stage programs could fuel recruitment into later-stage programs.

Quality - Entrepreneurship at scale demands quality. To encourage startups and the ecosystem to engage we needed to deliver programs that are delivering value so that participants become our most effective advocates; Founders 10x is an example of this, with alumni frequently recommending the program to their peers.

Sustainability and Impact - our participants have demonstrated a strong desire ensure their companies are financially successful, but are also contributing positively the world. In a recent survey of our advanced companies, over 90% had either already implemented, or intended to implement, a sustainability strategy informed by frameworks such as the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.


What's coming?

In 2020, UNSW Founders will continue to explore new opportunities to extend our unique model for teaching entrepreneurship and encouraging our startups to focus on impact.
In 2019, we ran a pilot, Health 10x Accelerator, in partnership with The George Institute of Global Health.
The accelerator's goal was to support health startups whose product or service was directed to solving one of world's most pressing health issues;
the rise of non-communicable disease.
This pilot, which supported over 20 startups, was so successful that the Australian Federal Government has announced Health 10x as a recipient of a significant government grant.
This grant will see Health 10x run again in 2020, with an expanded remit to support health startups from across Australia.

UNSW Founders is also actively considering new industry--‐‑specific accelerator streams including Future Cities and Cyber Security.
We will also launch a world--‐‑first
'Entrepreneurial PhD', which will encourage postgraduate researchers to commercialise their PhD research through entrepreneurship.
This three-year program will see researchers participate in the Founders Program as they work towards the completion of their thesis and will culminate in their participation in the 10x Accelerator.

Finally, 2020 will see the launch of a new focus on sustainability within our programming.
We will launch a new framework to embed sustainability education into our programming, prioritise speakers and mentors who have expertise in the field, and introduce a new monetary prize in recognition of our best performing, sustainable company.



Startups and Projects supported


Individuals engaged in entrepreneurial skill building workshops


Startups we’ve supported in 2019 who have female co-­‐founders


Academic courses our programs are now integrated into


Startups through our flagship 10 Accelerator


Industry mentors and speakers engaged

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