Hatchlings Take Flight

3 May 2017

UTS Communications graduate Annette McClelland dove into UTS’s innovation and entrepreneurship Hatchery program looking for some design thinking skills. Afterwards she went straight into the accelerator program Hatchery+ and came out with a drone tech start-up rocketing to success. Now the Hatchery+ team is inviting other entrepreneurial UTS alumni to take the plunge.

Annette McClelland in the Hatchery

Annette McClelland

In 2016, UTS MBA student and Communications graduate Annette McClelland and her best friend and business partner Michael Griffin launched Tekuma, a drone technology start-up that enables the operator to fly a drone with one hand while operating a camera with the other.

Annette credits her time with UTS’s Hatchery and Hatchery+ entrepreneurial and innovation incubation programs for teaching her how to turn Tekuma from an honours thesis concept into a viable, award-winning tech start-up.

“Hatchery was a fantastic immersion experience. I did the (foundational) Hatchery program in March to June of 2016, then the Hatchery+ program from September to November. Michael came up with the idea for the controller and the software as part of his honours thesis and we applied for the Hatchery+ program with that idea to develop into a start-up.”

Annette had previously participated in some design thinking workshops while working in the not-for-profit sector. Excited by the exchange of skills, ideas and imaginative potential of the design thinking process, she applied for the Hatchery foundational program, which introduces UTS students to the basics of the start-up scene.

“I went in to learn as much as possible but I didn’t have a specific entrepreneurial idea at that stage. It opened up my eyes to applying design and Lean thinking to new ideas outside of the not-for-profit sector. I came across so many passionate people within the program and I wanted to be passionate about a project too! I talked to Michael about his drone controller project, and once we decided to apply for Hatchery+ and got in, our progress took off from there.”

The Hatchery and Hatchery+ programs are two distinct programs run by the UTS Innovation and Creative Intelligence Unit.

Hatchery+ is for UTS alumni and students. It’s a three month accelerator program for start-up venture founders and co-founders with an idea, and provides a collaborative and supported co-working space, $2,000 in seed funding, mentorship, workshops and masterclasses. Industry partners include AMP New Ventures, Artesian, Blue Chilli, Cicada Innovations, SheStarts and Muru.

Have your own start-up idea? Applications are now open for the next Hatchery+ program – find out more

Hatchery is a precursor program for current UTS students. It teaches “foundational entrepreneurship skills with a focus on design thinking (i.e. developing innovative ideas grounded in real human needs), lean start up (the rapid testing and implementation of ideas), prototyping and pitching.”

Getting Airborne

A self-declared ‘hustler’ (the good kind - seriously it’s on her website), Annette always kept her eyes and ears open for opportunities, which might explain the rich and varied path her young career has taken since she first came to UTS to study communications.

Like many students at 18, Annette had no idea what she was going to do with her life.

“I just knew I wanted to write. I loved technology. My dad taught me to type before I could walk! Seriously, I started walking at two years old but I was touch typing well before then.”

Eighteen years later Annette’s Dad also influenced her choice to study at UTS.

“My dad did his MBA at UTS – he studied in the last year it was still possible to get a free education thanks to Gough Whitlam – and he had a great experience.

When I came here to do communications it was good because it was so practical and we were doing pieces of work that were real world scenarios in the industry. I also did an exchange to Singapore for four months and it opened my eyes to living on my own and adjusting to a new country on my own steam.”

Annette also participated in the UTS Shopfront and UTS Build leadership programs, among many other projects and volunteer activities during her undergraduate degree.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications in 2012, Annette found a job with the Black Dog Institute as the digital content creator for the BITE BACK website, a space for kids and teenagers to share personal stories, follow inspiring people and access a variety of activities for positive mental health. Not satisfied with only reaching her audience through a screen however, Annette soon began reaching out to schools and doing in-person presentations with students.

“I loved that. Going into schools. Talking to kids. Listening to them. You learn so much and your impact is so much better face to face.”

In 2015, wanting to expand her career options, Annette returned to UTS to pursue a Masters in Business Administration (MBA).

“My Dad was happy about that! And the MBA is a good fit for me. I love meeting, listening and talking to people, human relationships and communication, but I wanted more business knowledge, core subjects such as finance and economics. I didn’t have that.”

While doing the second semester of her MBA degree, Annette enrolled in the Hatchery program, and then in her third semester, she was accepted into Hatchery+ with Tekuma - a new hardware method for drone control.

"Hatchery lit the spark within me to pursue a passion and being accepted into Hatchery+ gave me the courage to leave a full-time role after three years."

Hatchery+ taught Annette and Michael the start-up skills they needed to get Tekuma off the ground.

The name Tekuma comes from the Japanese word teku meaning ‘tech’. Ma is ‘M’ for Michael and ‘A’ for Annette. It also translates to ‘space’.

“It’s Michael and Annette’s tech space! Get it?!”

At the end of 2016 Tekuma won the top prize at UTS’s Demo Day – the Hatchery+ final pitching competition, where a number of fellow start-ups in the program pitched their ideas to industry experts, venture capitalists and angel investors. Tekuma was also the runner-up at the UTS MBA in Entrepreneurship Venture Day pitching competition.

While Tekuma gains traction in Sydney’s start-up scene, its global potential is also becoming apparent. A recent trip that Annette took to Shanghai with the China Australia Millennial Project highlighted the opportunities for manufacture and scalability in the Chinese market. Later this year as part of her MBA, Annette will also travel to San Francisco to explore the potential within the Silicon Valley start-up space.

“We’ll see where the world takes us. We’re on a roller coaster right now. When you are doing something completely new, you’re always learning from everyone around you.”

Annette strongly encourages any alumni considering the Hatchery+ program not to waste the learning opportunities to be had there.

“APPLY! APPLY! APPLY! You get space, you get seed funding, mentorship, friends for life and they take no equity! Why wouldn’t you? And it’s getting better every year. The program is more mature, there are more connections with industry and partners. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Curious about Hatchery+?

Meet Joe Allen, Program Manager for Hatchery+. With applications opening in May for passionate and innovative UTS alumni and students interested in applying for the program, we asked him what participants can expect ...

What do you want from participants?

We are looking for people passionate about changing the world in a positive way. No idea is too big as long as you are willing to commit to making it happen.

What do they get for participating?

Teams receive $2,000 seed funding (no equity taken), a free co-working space, access to free legal support and discounted services, a three-month structured development program and access to mentors and advisors from the start-up ecosystem.

What’s the range of start-up ideas that have come through?

The ideas are extremely varied, ideas from teams in the current program range from sailing resource kits, corporate gifting solutions through to a B2B tuna marketplace.

What’s a B2B tuna marketplace?!

It’s a business to business platform to buy and sell tuna – it also enables people to better track each fish from ocean to table.

What stages of various ventures have you accepted and how did they thrive (or not)?

We take people or teams at all stages (some are already generating revenue). However as a minimum we are looking to take in teams that have validated their idea, meaning that they have spoken to a few potential customers to prove the problem they are solving exists. Teams that have passed this initial (but crucial) hurdle get the most out of the program because they are ready to build and launch their product or service and get customers.

We’ve seen teams come into the program at validated idea stage and by the end of the program raise $700,000+ in the months following.

Have you been surprised at which ventures progressed well and which didn’t?

At the really early stages of a start-up it is extremely difficult to tell which will thrive – there are so many variables. As a general rule, teams that really understand the problem and have the skills and motivation to execute on the solution will find some form of success. One of the best things about working in a start-up is not knowing how successful it can be until you give it a shot!

What significant achievements have different start-ups had?

Teams have gone on to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, won awards and many are now making revenue and growing their team.

What benefit do participants get from their fellow participants?

Starting a business is a challenging journey and having a few like-minded souls going through a similar experience can be invaluable. We encourage a highly collaborative environment and we often see teams sharing their skills and time to help out others. By joining the program they become part of the Hatchery community and can continue to give and receive support from other experienced founders.

What expertise is there?

We have a range of leading experts and mentors from the start-up ecosystem who generously give up their time to work with the teams.

We are also in the process of finalising some partnerships with large industry partners to provide pro-bono expert help from their staff.

What are some statistics around the number of enrolments, the diversity of participants, the variety of ideas, and the stages of life and stages/types of career-backgrounds of participants?

We had 15 teams participate in the program in 2016 and 10 teams in the current program. We want diversity and aim for balance in gender and people from a range of disciplines, ages and backgrounds.

We have an average of 60+% female founder teams (almost twice the average for similar programs).

We have had more alumni participants than current students and this is generally a result of having a bit more experience and ability to commit to the program.

We take teams ranging from idea validation stage through to early stages of revenue and product development. Ideas vary from drone controllers, to car washing apps, tuna marketplaces and recruitment software.

Founders come from all different backgrounds and experiences and we’ve had teams with founders from all faculties at UTS.

What size are the cohorts?

We generally look for 8-10 teams each program. This enables us to support a range of ideas and founders whilst still having the ability to provide in-depth support during the program.

Am I disadvantaged if I haven’t done Hatchery before doing Hatchery+?

Not really. There’s a development boot camp period at the beginning of the Hatchery+ program to build participants’ foundational skills and thinking processes. It’s intense and the learning is fast and requires participants to be on their front foot - in a good way.

What makes the UTS:Hatchery+ program unique?

UTS has one of the most comprehensive offerings of any university start-up program. 10 weeks of entrepreneur skill building in the Hatchery program teaching the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and then the Hatchery+ program is 3 months designed to take your business to the next level.

What are you looking for in a participant application?

We are looking for people with interesting ideas that have the potential to make a big impact on the world. We like to see teams that are committed and can show they have the ability to gather the necessary resources to make their idea a reality.

When are Hatchery+ applications open again and where should people apply?

Hatchery+ applications will be open again in mid-late May – visit the Hatchery+ website, follow the Hatchery+ Facebook page or join our mailing list.

For anyone currently enrolled at UTS who is interested in the foundational Hatchery program, Tida Tippapart, Hatchery Program Manager has this to say:

“We look for Hatchery participants who are hungry to collaborate, willing to be challenged, who are looking beyond the traditional educational program. The learning is self-directed but is part of a community of likeminded people who will support and collaborate with you.”

For more information on either program, reach out to the Hatchery team at hatchery@uts.edu.au.

Hatchlings Annette and Michael discuss Tekuma and Hatchery+