Following in the footsteps of the state government, which appointed Mark Sowerby as its inaugural Chief Entrepreneur a year ago and recently passed the title onto Steve Baxter, the University of Queensland has appointed a Chief Student Entrepreneur.
Taking on the role is Ben Coughlin, a third year economics student and founder of Backyard Coach, a platform connecting customers to instructors for private swimming lessons.
In the role, which sits within the university’s UQ Idea Hub, Coughlin will be charged with inspiring and mentoring fellow innovators at the university.
Professor Iain Watson, UQ deputy vice chancellor (external engagement), said, “As the inaugural Chief Student Entrepreneur, Mr Coughlin will help inspire and mentor other students in entrepreneurship and innovation.”
“His wealth of entrepreneurship knowledge ensures he will be able to offer students a unique perspective as a young mentor.”
Coughlin, who has taken part in the ilab germinate accelerator, among other programs, and won the Lord Mayor’s Budding Entrepreneur Grant in 2016, said he is excited to give back to the UQ Idea Hub and help grow the community.
“The ongoing support I received from the UQ Idea Hub, even after I’d completed the intensive workshop program, truly taught me how to grow a business and engage in the Australian startup ecosystem. UQ Idea Hub was essential, and still is, in developing the skills needed to pursue my business,” he said.
“I’ve been coaching sport for four years and there’s nothing more rewarding than helping others discover their own path to achieve their goals.”
The creation of the Chief Student Entrepreneur role comes as more universities develop and get serious about entrepreneurship programs.
With the University of Queensland long having run startup programs, it opened the Idea Hub last year to provide a coworking space for students to get their ideas going.
Also launched last year was RMIT University’s Activator City Hub in Melbourne. In addition to current students, RMIT staff and alumni are also able to access the space.
The university said the space is to act as an extension of its RMIT Activator online program, which offers an interactive digital way for university members to explore their ideas.
More recently, the University of Queensland partnered with HYPE Foundation to form Australia’s first sports technology-focused accelerator program, Hype UQ Spin Lab.
All programs align with a major upcoming sporting event, at which the startups pitch their companies to a captive audience of sports industry influencers, investors, and potential partners. Previous events have included an NFL Draft and the World Cup; the Australian cohort will have run its demo day as part of a sports innovation event running in parallel to the Commonwealth Games, taking place on the Gold Coast in April.
Image: Ben Coughlin and Professor Iain Watson. Source: Supplied.