HEXperience of a lifetime – unveiling innovative student startups

Students Computing

Caitlyn (left) presenting her winning pitch, followed by Oliver and Dexter (rightmost)
Caitlyn (left) presenting her winning pitch, followed by Oliver and Dexter (rightmost)

Earlier this year, a group of ANU students travelled to HEX International Singapore, a two-week immersive program for idea-stage founders to refine their start-up ideas and learn from leaders in business, social impact and innovation. Their attendance was made possible by the generous support of Loong Wang, entrepreneur and former ANU School of Computing student. Loong is the co-founder of four start-ups and is passionate about encouraging students to forge their own paths as entrepreneurs.

“I want to say to students that start-ups are a real path, especially if you’re doing something in deep tech, it’s the path to bringing it into the real world.” – Loong

Among the attendees were CECC students Caitlyn Lewis and Oliver Bagin, each with their innovative products.

Bardar – your best friend for a great night out!

Introducing Bardar, an application crafted by founders Oliver and Dexter during their undergraduate studies at ANU. Oliver is a Bachelor of Advanced Computing (Honours), Research & Development student, and Dexter is studying a Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). Using data from venues, events and people, Bardar maps what happens in real-time at venues. What events or music acts are happening, along with photos of the venue and crowd. Currently based on Sydney venues, Bardar’s real-time insights into venue ‘vibes’ assists patrons in avoiding mood-killers like long lines or empty clubs.

It also provides business intelligence for venues and promoters such as demographic data, customer trends and interests.

After refining Bardar to a Beta stage over the past year, Oliver’s selection for HEX International provided invaluable networking opportunities and insights into business and entrepreneurship.

Plantify – use magnets to grow your plant

Caitlyn, a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) Research & Development, student introduced Plantify, a pioneering agricultural solution to increase the yield and rate of growth of plants using magnetisation. The magnets can be used to change the chemical composition of the plant, enhancing its metabolism and speed up its growth.

Attending HEX helped nurture Caitlyn’s business acumen and facilitated invaluable connections crucial for her venture’s growth.

What it means to be an entrepreneur

“The learning opportunities available through creating a startup are incomparable. The responsibility and self-driven learning is just unparalleled,” said Oliver. Opportunities such as HEX allow students to learn from seasoned professionals and provide a platform to refine their entrepreneurial skills.

Oliver presenting his winning pitch

“Leading a startup will teach you so much about yourself, how you work, your motivations and how you manage your own time.”

– Oliver

Reflecting on their HEX experience, both Caitlyn and Oliver emphasised the significance of networking and learning from fellow entrepreneurs.

Insights from HEX

“My cohort were and are my biggest supporters. It was also great to hear and get advice from entrepreneurs who had succeeded,” Caitlyn remarked.

“I have always had ideas and concepts but didn’t know how to execute them. Through the program, I learned more about the business side of a start-up, which allowed me to learn which steps to take and when,” says Caitlyn reflecting on her experiences during the two-week program.

ANU Students with the judges including Jaclyn, cofounder of HEX

Bardar co-founders, Oliver and Dexter highlighted how HEX has enhanced their skillset, and mutual appreciation for each other’s contributions. Dexter noted Oliver’s growth in pitching and networking post-HEX, stating, “I saw Oliver grow a lot on the business side after he attended HEX, he’s become more confident in pitching and made some great connections for our business.”

Oliver, a Bachelor of Advanced Computing (Honours), Research & Development student, typically specialises in the technical side of the business while Dexter gravitated more toward the operational aspects of the business.

Oliver (left) with Dexter (right), founders of Bardar

Oliver emphasised the significance of mutual understanding and respect between technical and business-oriented team members. “I think it's so important for technical people to understand the business side and the skills required, but likewise the business side should take the time to understand what their technical team needs,” Oliver expressed.

Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs

“Do it! If you have an idea, give it a go and see where it can take you! You never know if you don’t try!” says Caitlyn.

Echoing her sentiments, Dexter explained that the barriers to entering a startup are low, with costs to set up an app lower than ever. “It makes you different, even if you fail it shows that you have the passion to back yourself and work hard.”

The road ahead for our young entrepreneurs

Since returning, Caitlyn has continued her work on Plantify, specifically research and prototyping. She is also exploring more potential collaborations with the ANU Agrifood Innovation Institute.

Meanwhile, Oliver and Dexter have launched Bardar on the app store, attracting investor interest – but this is just the beginning. They envision expanding the scope of the app beyond venue data and across markets, with Singapore emerging as a promising market.

ANU students standing (left to right): Ahmed, Caitlyn, Yvonne, Oliver, Daniel, Tahlia, Rauen
Bottom row, kneeling (left to right): Anneysha, Emma, Linh
Oliver and Caitlyn were winners of the Pitch Night, as well as Tahlia and Daniel from ANU.

Learn more about Bardar here

Learn more about Loong Wang and his latest startup with Dr Giuseppe Barca

An interview with Loong Wang

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