UNSW Sydney startups have won the top three prizes at this year’s regional competition of the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards (GSEA) in Sydney, capping off a stellar year of recognition for UNSW’s entrepreneurial capabilities and Founders Program.

Teams representing the Bugisu Project, Pearler, Get to Sleep Easy and eXsight competed with university students from across Australia for the chance to pitch their ideas at the 2019 GSEA Global Finals in Macau, where more than 50 countries will be represented. The global finals will take place from 10-12 April 2019.

Bugisu Project, a startup supplying ethically-sourced coffee from Ugandan farmers to Australian businesses, won first prize. Co-founder Darcy Small said: “The win is quite unexpected for us, but I think it validates what we are doing and the importance of incorporating social and environmental impact into entrepreneurial ventures.”

Tying for second place were Pearler, dubbed ‘the Spotify of investment’, and Get to Sleep Easy, a maker of ‘smart beds’ for patients. Pearler is a platform creating searchable and customisable investment portfolios to promote diversified investment in order to grow passive income over time. Get to Sleep Easy has built two products: a Smart Inclining Bed that transforms any bed into a customisable hospital bed and a Smart Sensor Alert System that maps patients’ movements and informs care staff of possible issues such as falls or bed sores.

Rounding out the top three was eXsight, recent winner of the Peter Farrell Cup, whose leaders pitched their tech accessory allowing colourblind users to see colours on phone screens. A first-time Founder, Emma Casolin said of the recognition: “It just goes to show how far the support I've been given on my journey has been able to push me, and I'm really proud of my achievements.”

All startups have received mentorship, support and tailored programming throughout 2018 from UNSW’s new entrepreneurship platform, the Founders Program, which is embedding entrepreneurial skills in students' university experience. The program has helped 10,000 participants build entrepreneurial confidence and more than 240 startup teams have launched their ventures in 2018 alone.

Reflecting on this success at the end of the first year of the program, UNSW Director of Entrepreneurship Elizabeth Eastland said the recognition of four UNSW startups “continues to demonstrate that UNSW Founders is supporting the best student and staff startups of any university in Australia. This follows directly on the heels of UNSW startups winning the top three prizes at Tech Sydney’s Student Startup competition and numerous other accolades”.

The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards were founded in 1998 to give student entrepreneurs the opportunity to accelerate their success, challenge the status quo and connect with a global peer group. It is an initiative of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, a global network of more than 13,000 entrepreneurs in 57 countries.

A new partnership

After the successful first partnership in which UNSW startups competed in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, UNSW Founders and the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation have announced a strategic partnership to help raise the level of student participation in EO’s global network, foster a pathway for young Australian women entrepreneurs into a global network of mentors and programs, and open up access to EO’s experts and thought leaders.

Sydney Programs Chair for EO Tristan Boyd said: “EO Sydney is really excited about the strategic partnership with UNSW Founder. EO Australia recognises the responsibility it has to actively support the next generation of founders on their entrepreneurial journey through support coaching and mentoring.”

Dr Eastland said: “We see our partnership with EO as directly complementary to the UNSW Founders Program - our most successful founders will continue to be provided with world class support as they grow from successful startups to world class scale ups. Over time the information both organisations share with each other will help us build a most powerful pipeline of new industries, with outstanding financial metrics underpinned by values of diversity, sustainability and ‘giving back’.”