Student Startup Stories (Part Two)


UNSW Student start-up stories: 

By Rachel Lee


The increasing new wave of startups this century means that failure is more common than ever. However, it also means that anyone with an idea and the means to execute it can create their startup and be called an entrepreneur. But how does an entrepreneur remain successful and driven amidst all the competition?

More interestingly, how do students make a difference while they are still actively studying at university?

Instalment #2 Lumaway - Alexander Tran 

What motivated you to become an entrepreneur and start Lumaway?

I did the whole typical, commerce-student-turned-investment-analyst for a couple of years. I was learning a tonne but found myself lacking a feeling of impact and fulfilment. As part of my job, I was meeting entrepreneurs regularly. They would pitch their ideas and we would decide whether they deserved the capital or not. 98%of the time, it was no. But even so, when they talked about their business, they almost always had so much passion, belief and intention behind their words. I wanted that. I yearned for it. And I knew I wasn’t going to find it working excel models all day.

I had a couple of friends who wanted the same and so we started in our free time we started working on an idea together. Eventually, we pitched it to a startup accelerator who decided it would be a good idea to give us some funding and put us one step closer to our vision. 

How does Lumaway work? 

For most people, their most important financial asset is their career, and it's a huge burden on their sense of worth when they don't know where to go and how to get there. The main problem is that there isn't a solution that helps them see what exactly they should do, given their backgrounds and goals.

To solve this, we're building a Google Maps for careers. People simply type a sentence summarising their work and in 5 minutes discover where they can go with realistic next steps. 

What was the most rewarding and challenging experience of being an entrepreneur? 

Providing real impact to our first customers. So much goes into that. You have to begin by identifying a gap in the market, prototyping a product, analysing feedback, iterating, building a team, setting up processes. Challenge and reward are two sides of the same coin and are inherent in the work of starting a business. You can’t have one without the other. 

With the increase in startups, what differentiates Lumaway from others? 

Our team and network are what sets us apart. We’re 11 people strong now, everyone is passionate, hard-working and have clarity on the vision. We know what our strengths are and where we lack in terms of ability (but fortunately, we understand how to make up for that). 

Our advisors are also leaders in their respective fields - Artificial Intelligence, Learning and Development, Organisational Psychology & Finance - so that always helps - having people who’ve been there and done that a thousand times over to guide you along the way. 

To all the student entrepreneurs, what would be your biggest piece of advice? 

Know your ‘Why’. Sit down and think about it. Write it out on a piece of paper and stick it on your bedroom wall. This is not going to be one single reason, it’s going to be a list of reasons. If you can understand your why, it will be your foundation to help move you through the grime of running a startup. It helps pragmatically too, because the second question any investor or customer will ask you (right after, ‘so what do you do’), is why did you start this company? And you sure better have a good answer prepared. 

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