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UNSW start-ups thrive thanks to generous donor

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The Farrell Family Foundation continues to provide vital support for high-impact startups through the annual Peter Farrell Cup at UNSW.

A phone screen cover that allows people with colour blindness to see colour, a smart locker system activated through Bluetooth technology, and a ‘smart’ hospital bed that tackles some of the most preventable incidents and illnesses in our hospitals and nursing homes. These are just three of almost 100 innovative ideas conceived and developed into successful businesses by participants of the Peter Farrell Cup – UNSW’s most prestigious competitive ideas program and Australia’s first ever pitching competition for student-led startups.

Founded in 2001, UNSW has held this flagship event annually ever since, supporting hundreds of student-led startups to grow and thrive. Since its launch, the Cup has grown exponentially, from a dozen student entries in the competition’s early years to close to 100 applicants participating in 2018, due in part to generous philanthropic funding from the Farrell Family Foundation in support of the Cup since 2015. The Foundation recently gifted UNSW with an additional $650,000, ensuring the continuation and growth of the Cup until 2024.

Each year, enterprising students armed with high-impact business ideas work in teams – alongside expert mentors – to develop and test their concepts, perfect their pitch and present to a panel of investors with the hopes of launching a real business. Successful students are provided with access to the crucial funding, practical skills, and industry links required to gain real-world traction.

Fittingly, the Cup is named after Dr Peter Farrell AM, 2001 Australian Entrepreneur of the Year, founder of the world-leading health company ResMed, and Chairman of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UNSW. Dr Farrell is a long-term supporter of UNSW and generous benefactor of the Cup since 2015, along with the Farrell Family Foundation.

Bringing brilliant business ideas to life

Not only are the student startups launched through this flagship event changing industries, they are also changing lives. A business recently co-founded by UNSW Law student Sachin Kinger and Nikhil Autar is no exception.

Diagnosed with leukaemia at 17 and having since undergone life-saving bone marrow treatment, Nikhil has had more experiences with the medical system than any young person should have.

The difficulties Nikhil endured and witnessed while in hospital moved him to create Get To Sleep Easy, a startup producing cost-effective devices to transform any bed into a customisable hospital bed, and alert care staff of possible issues using smart sensor technology.

“I lost a couple of friends to preventable incidences that should never happen. One was 28 when she fell in the bathroom,” he said. “Being a medical researcher, I had the ability to look through papers and start reading into these preventable things – some of the biggest killers are things like falls and pressure sores.

“When I looked up the literature, I saw that facilities with hospital beds had lower rates of falls because they help people sit up and get up – that’s how the Smart Inclining Beds came to be.”

Nikhil and Sachin pitched their then fledgling startup at the 2018 Peter Farrell Cup, subsequently went on to receive first prize at the 2018 Student Startup Festival, and became  ‘Founders in Residence’ at UNSW’s incubation space. Their Smart Inclining Bed is now being used in nursing homes and high care residential facilities in Australia and there are plans to expand the business to assist the future ageing population in developing countries.

Setting sights on success

Another student-led startup set to make industry waves is eXsight, co-founded by students Emma Casolin and Maggie Feng. Emma and Maggie took out first place at the 2018 Peter Farrell Cup for their idea to develop a mobile phone screen cover for colour blind individuals – of which there are currently over one million in Australia.

eXsight was inspired by the experiences of Emma’s brother, who struggled with colour vision deficiency growing up.

"My brother has colour blindness and I noticed he has many problems at school and in his daily life," Emma said. "I was sitting on the bus one day and thought, 'Why isn't there a filter to put on a phone for those who suffer from colour blindness?' And with help from my team, mentor and family, here we are."

Both Emma and Maggie credit the Peter Farrell Cup with providing them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to pursue their creative talents.

“I was second year, Emma was first year. We didn’t know what entrepreneurship was about, especially being a woman in entrepreneurship. So being in the Peter Farrell Cup, and getting this encouragement, getting all the support, getting this whole new network, really gave us confidence and made us believe that even though we’re first and second years we are capable of a lot more,” Maggie said.

Driving change through innovation

2019 will be the second year that the Cup is run in partnership between UNSW Business School and the UNSW Founders Program, which is the University’s initiative to equip founders across campus with the skills, networks and resilience needed to succeed in the 21st century global marketplace.

For the past 19 years, the coveted Peter Farrell Cup has been a highlight of the UNSW calendar and a wonderful celebration of our students’ entrepreneurial abilities. It has supported UNSW in our vision to become a global leader of change and innovation and continued to strengthen our capacity to achieve social and economic impact by fostering the next generation of thought leaders.

Through the renewed generosity of the Farrell Family Foundation, the Cup will remain embedded in the fabric of our University’s entrepreneurship strategy, assuring our high-impact entrepreneurs have access to the very best support.

Peter Farrell Cup 2020 Applications Now Open!

Are you a current UNSW student or Higher Degree by Research candidate with a business idea or an early stage startup that could make a real difference to our changing world?

Do you want the knowledge, skills, guidance, support or funding to help turn that idea into reality? Then the Peter Farrell Cup (PFC) is for you!

Register your interest in the 2020 PFC

If you would like further information on either the Peter Farrell Cup, please visit the UNSW website.

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