FFWD Hub 2020

The FFWD HUB program gave international students the opportunity to create their own startups, build their local networks, and increase their employability. Over the course of six weeks, students were challenged to test and validate their startup ideas while receiving personalised feedback on their progress.

A project to support international students with employability and entrepreneurialism

Project dates

2019-2020

Project background

The 6-week FFWD HUB entrepreneurship program was designed for higher education students to build their first MVP or startup with the goal of getting them ready to join a larger accelerator program and build out their businesses in NSW upon completion. By doing so, international students were given the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills and increase their employability, which they often found difficult to achieve on their own. The program was developed for any international student in NSW to access regardless of whether they were in Australia or studying from their home country.

Project overview

The FFWD HUB program gave international students the opportunity to create their own startups, build their local networks, and increase their employability. Over the course of six weeks, students were challenged to test and validate their startup ideas while receiving personalised feedback on their progress. Each participant had access to expert industry mentors and virtual events.

By the end of the program, students walked away with a local industry network, new skills, and a validated startup idea. Best of all, FFWD was a fully digital program with optional physical components, which allowed students from NSW institutions to participate in the program regardless of their current location and at their own pace.

Project outcomes

The program attracted more than a hundred teams from 33 different nationalities studying at higher education institutions across NSW. This included teams in urban and regional NSW, as well as teams currently situated abroad due to COVID-19.

Students particularly valued receiving personalised weekly feedback and advice from industry mentors and having a clear framework to progress from idea to validated concept. During the difficult period of the lockdown, the program allowed students to remain productive and motivated by giving them an opportunity to build their business, connect with experienced mentors and other students, and continue to develop themselves and learn new skills.

One of the participants described their experience: “Being an international student was really hard. I’ve sacrificed my time and money and family at home. Finding a job was really difficult. My friend recommended this program and it’s really given me the confidence to develop my own ideas which I never thought I could do.”

Project highlights

Making a dream a reality! The FFWD HUB program is based on a methodology that values execution over perfection and has supported entrepreneurs around the world to build billion-dollar businesses. Participants connected with each other, listened to motivational talks from executives at leading firms such as Atlassian and BCG Digital Ventures, and receive one-on-one mentoring from experienced startup founders.

At the end of the program, top performing teams were given the opportunity to pitch their ideas in the FFWD Demo Night, which was widely broadcasted online, to win prizes and connect with investors. As one student declared, “the FFWD HUB is an amazing program. I really think this program is going to turn my idea into reality. Although I’m actually studying full time, I’m setting aside time for FFWD because it’s really interesting and I believe it’s going to help me transform my idea to a new level.”

Project deliverables

The program was built from the ground up and consisted of 51 course videos, 6 weekly homework, assessments, 7 live sessions and support from the industry. We recruited 100+ teams to participate in the program and achieved a completion rate that significantly outperformed the industry benchmark.

In addition to the virtual program, winners of the program pitch night continue to receive strategic support and coworking space from Haymarket HQ. The program was enthusiastically received by the participants and resulted in dozens of positive (unsolicited!) reviews. As one participant expressed: “The FFWD program helped me stay motivated during lockdown. I felt like I didn’t have that much more to learn but it turns out that there is always something new to learn.”

As a result of the program, NSW is now home to 21 more startups that are now on track to develop the jobs of the future. A number of the graduates have also progressed to applying for Australia’s top accelerator programs to raise funding and continue their entrepreneurial journey.

Challenges and recommendations

The program was launched during COVID-19 amid one of the most turbulent times in recent global history. The lockdown and future uncertainty impacted people from all walks and backgrounds, including international students.
The program had to be overhauled to align with new government directives and market changes thus we developed it remotely with a distributed team. Despite the challenges, we were fortunate to have had extensive experience developing virtual programs and received strong support from industry, which allowed us to reach more students than expected and develop a program built on digital-first educational principles.
As a result of COVID19, the international student market in Australia has undergone structural changes and we therefore recommend education providers to take a hybrid offline and online approach that caters to students regardless of their location, whether in Australia or abroad, and one that follows best digital first educational practices.

Further information

Visit www.haymarkethq.com to learn more about the program and to get in contact with the Team.

FFWD Hub 2020