CAMP 2017: What happens in Shanghai ...

3 May 2017

As UTS students and graduates participating in this year’s China-Australia Millennial Project (CAMP), decompress from their exhilarating visit to Shanghai in March, we get the inside story from UTS CAMPers Kersti Muras, Max Parsons, Larry Yin, Lu Wang and Annette McClelland on their eye-opening experiences in Shanghai’s dizzying start-up scene and how they are bringing them into the next phase of the CAMP program.

Inspired and fired up, participants in this year’s China-Australia Millennial Project (CAMP)  wrapped up five days of fast-paced, intensive and immersive experiences in Shanghai at the end of March. These young leaders are now in the midst of the online development phase of the CAMP program – a dynamic incubator bringing young entrepreneurs and innovators from the two countries together – including nearly 20 UTS graduates and students, who received a new UTS scholarship to enable them to participate in this groundbreaking program.

We caught up with a few of them to share their insights and experiences at Shanghai’s booming start-up hubs and co-working spaces, Austrade's new base, Shanghai University and China’s ecommerce giant Alibaba's Hangzhou headquarters.

Kersit Muras Max Parasol

Kersti Muras
Bachelor of Business 2017

Max Parasol
UTS Law PhD candidate

Lu Yin Annette McClelland

Lu (Larry) Yin
Master of Media Arts
& Production 2010

Annette McClelland
Bachelor of Arts 2013
and current MBA student

What excites you about CAMP and the Shanghai summit?

  • Lu Wang: “Sharing our different knowledge and skills, and meeting successful start-ups and innovation leaders in Shanghai!”
  • Kersti Muras: “Making connections with millennials across Australia and China who are passionate about learning, solving problems and creating the future. It is a community of inspired and engaged people who want to share and learn from each other.”
  • Annette McClelland: “Collaborating across borders! The CAMPers are such talented people with all sorts of varied life and career experiences and it is incredible to have the opportunity to work with them and build relationships for life. CAMP is full of amazing like-minded people interested in doing great things for great reasons and was a fantastic opportunity to work with other people in social entrepreneurship and awesome to meet people in Shanghai. I hadn’t been there in thirteen years and it’s changed so much. It’s great to see the innovation that’s happening there.”
  • Max Parasol: “The skills of my teammates.”
  • Lu (Larry) Yin: “As a businessman from a small company it’s the connections that excited me, and also the opportunities to go back to Australia and collaborate with the Australian friends I made from CAMP in my career. I believe we can make impact in my two beloved countries – China and Australia.”

Activity at CAMP

What was your personal highlight?

  • Lu: “I loved guiding some of the other CAMPers when we visited Suzhou, showing and sharing the different aspects between Shanghai and Suzhou.”
  • Kersti: “Visiting co-working spaces and incubators for start-ups and listening to personal stories from entrepreneurs was definitely a highlight. We also heard from industry experts and a government representative from Austrade who spoke about the Australian Landing Pad for start-ups in Shanghai. The energy and enthusiasm from other delegates in the group was also amazing and hearing about their interests and passions, developing those personal connections is something that I won't forget.”
  • Annette: “Visiting the different accelerator spaces and meeting so many founders working in Shanghai. I really enjoyed hearing their stories and imagining what our lives might look like if we were entrepreneurs in China.”
  • Max: “Discovering the sheer talent and diverse skills of my teammates.”
  • Larry: “I talked to nearly everyone in Shanghai summit and I made a load of friends. I encouraged some CAMPers come to Beijing before the end of 2017. I will show them around, find connections and opportunities for them and also give free consulting about being a start-up or an overseas student in Beijing.”

What surprised, thrilled  and inspired you there?

  • Annette: “The immense scale of everything! I knew China was a big market but I hadn’t really conceived the magnitude of it. We knew before going Shanghai has a larger population that the whole of Australia but without going there I just didn't realise what that meant for the entrepreneurial ecosystem – all the different pockets of people, skills and opportunities. There are 24 million people in Shanghai alone. The thinking there is if we can find a market of at least one million people, then we’ll throw money at it. I was shocked to learn that millions of dollars could be handed over in under twenty minutes! Also, Alibaba is massive. We don’t realise how huge they are but they have just as many customers in China alone as Google, Facebook, Amazon and those other platforms have across the world. The Alibaba campus is massive too. We stood at a window and everything we could see in every direction was Alibaba. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s CEO, is like a Hollywood or sporting celebrity in China!”
  • Max: “Attending a Chinese AI meetup, I was inspired by the desire of Chinese founders to engage in meaningful conversations.”
  • Kersti: “It was my first time in China, so it was definitely eye opening. I was surprised to see just how modern and developed the city was and how easy it was to travel on the metro. The sheer, scale and speed of development in China is overwhelming when you think that Shanghai has the same population as the whole of Australia.”
  • Lu: “The Zhangjiang high technology area is very modern. And Alipay is a creative way to pay.”
  • Larry: “I think I made more Aussie friends in Shanghai summit than seven years living in Sydney. That excited and inspired me because people in CAMP share the same interests and passions about China and Australia – that made it easy for us to find a topic or a thing to talk, to discuss, to exchange, to feel. I can see a lot of potential for CAMP and CAMP relationships in the future, that also excited me.

Selfie of CAMP participants

What are you working on for your CAMP project?

  • Max: “Solving a global problem.”
  • Annette: “I'm on the UTS Entrepreneurship team and we've been determining how we might improve collaboration between the Chinese and Australian entrepreneurial ecosystems. There are so many directions we could take this so we're still exploring the problems, stakeholders and possibilities between storming ideas.”
  • Lu: “I am responsible for the design work and translation into Chinese for my team’s project.”
  • Kersti: “During CAMP we have been learning about China – who is the Chinese consumer, how do they access products and services and what is the state of entrepreneurship? A business model that is successful in other global markets will not work in China without adapting it to the local market. We have seen many Western companies try and fail. Even across different cities in China, consumers are so diverse that you need to recognise they are a distinct market, with their own needs. We also learnt about design thinking as a way to frame our problem solving approach. We are now at the 'problem finding' stage. We know that China and Australia are different markets with different strengths but how can we help entrepreneurs collaborate better? Who has a problem that we can solve? We have been talking to people and conducting primary research to better inform our approach. At the Sydney Summit, we will be pitching our tested business idea as a proof of concept. We will be on stage, convincing investors, industry sponsors, corporates and government why our idea is a winning solution that will foster long term relationships and bring Australia and China closer together.”
  • Larry: “I’m helping Andrea to make a better CAMP next year – if everything goes well I think we will present a masterplan of the 2018 Beijing Summit to everyone at the Sydney Summit. I’m also in a creative industry think tank at the moment and I'm collaborating on two tentative ideas – first one is Vivid Beijing and I will bring Andrea to meet the Secretary General of Beijing Tourism Centre. We will discuss if Vivid Beijing could happen in the near future. The second one is about using CAMP as a platform to provide free consulting service to UTS students wanting to launch a start-up in Beijing and Shanghai. This could enable Australian creatives to aim for a bigger market.”

How do you think the experiences from the CAMP program will help you in your professional journey or with any other projects you are working on?

  • Kersti: “The innovation and intercultural leadership skills I learned at CAMP will be applicable to any project however I really want to use this experience to become more focused on the China-Australia relationship. I have already taken my knowledge from CAMP and conducted further research to understand how the internet of things (IoT), big data and data science will impact social, economic and governance spheres in China.”
  • Lu: “It’s been helpful to learn how start-ups are built and learned about current issues in China impacting on the start-up scene”.
  • Annette: “More entrepreneurial experience always helps along the journey of pursuing one's own business. However, I believe it is the relationships I build throughout this program that will be most valuable for me in my future career, entrepreneurial and cultural pursuits.Also, I learned that hardware manufacturing in China is incredibly fast. You can get a prototype manufactured and delivered in a few days. And the iterations of the prototype take no time at all. You can get the current prototype in the morning, request the changes and upgrades to it, and the next iteration could be completed that afternoon. This has got me and my business partner thinking about our options for scalability potential of (our own start-up) Tekuma.”
  • Max: “The ability to apply interdisciplinary approaches to solve problems.”
  • Larry: “CAMP provided connections, potential collaborations and opportunities between China and Australia. I’m talking with a past CAMPer who works in tourism in Queensland about increasing quality Chinese tourism to Australia. This would mean I would able to send more of my customers to Australia this year. I’m also talking with another fellow camper about selling a new educational summer camp in Chinese middle schools and high schools. I also met Andrea (CAMP CEO Andrea Myles) in Beijing yesterday and we will work together to make next year a better China summit, maybe in Beijing. CAMP even provided me an opportunity to build a stronger bond between UTS and me. I can’t describe how much I appreciate that the UTS Alumni network sent me that email to inform me about CAMP and also awarded me the scholarship. I think this is the best event or activity I’ve participated in from the UTS Alumni network.”

Want to see what a whole bunch of joyful, energetic and determined social entrepreneurs running around Shanghai looks like? Take a look at some brilliant pics from Shanghai taken by Kersti and Larry here.