FastForward (FFWD), an entrepreneurship program in Australia, has seen a 100% increase in applications in 2021 as compared to last year. Around 60% of the participants are international student entrepreneurs and around 20% are offshore due to the current travel restrictions.
FFWD is a six-week program run by Haymarket HQ and funded by the new South Wales government, which is primarily aimed at helping all potential entrepreneurs get access to investors, mentors and practical experience.
The number of applicants has doubled to 200 this year from 100 in 2020. All current and former students of higher education institutions in NSW are eligible to apply for the program.
Isabelle Lee, program manager of FFWD, said they introduced the program to attend to a gap in the market.
Lee further stated that it has been noticed that a lot of foreign students who come to Australia either already have a small family business back in their home country or they wish to start a business but they do not know where they would find the required support.
They either didnt clearly understand the cultural differences or were not sure where to begin. So, the program was developed in collaboration with the NSW government that also funded it, she added.
Although the program was launched during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it worked out well as the inaugural program drew a total of 200 applications from which 100 participants were selected.
The pandemic turned out to be an advantage as there were several students who could not travel to Australia for higher studies and a digital program served the purpose quite well, Lee continued.
This year, the program received 400 applications from students from 45 countries, with 200 accepted to the program which started in February 2021.
Lee further mentioned that there was one female participant from India who particularly stood out because her idea was to make female hygiene products more accessible to women in her village. Along with her, there were several participants who wanted to introduce cuisine and products from their home country to Australia. For example, some South American students wanted to introduce coffee that could offer unique experiences when combined with food.
The program has also drawn the attention of a wide range of highly-experienced mentors such as Persollos confounder Olga Oleinikova, who has also authored several books books on the migrant experience; developers from Atlassian; a growth hacker from Airtasker who will work with the participants as they undergo a training program including a series of quizzes, assignments, resources and activities.
Following this, the highest performing participants will go onto the next round of a demo day. This will be a pitch event where participants will have to talk about the problem they wish to solve and the pitch their start-up idea to a panel of judges and a public audience. The same event will act as a platform for them to find potential investment opportunities.
The FFWD21 demo day will be conducted in late March.