UNSW Co-op student Victor Zhang has won his division of the Young Social Pioneers Incubator, and a $10,000 investment from UBS, for his social start-up ‘Generation Entrepreneur’.
‘Generation Entrepreneur’ is a not-for-profit that aims to empower high school students to think outside the constraints of classroom learning and develop their own entrepreneurial ventures.
“I wanted to create a program where students can come up with ideas and change them into real world businesses, start-ups or social ventures – projects they care about,” said Zhang.
“We aim to give high school students access to mentors from industry, support and resources to launch those ventures. We have worked with over 660 high school students already,” he said.
Zhang started his first business venture at 12, and developed the idea for ‘Generation Entrepreneur’ while he was still in high school.
“I remember sitting in a classroom in high school and to be honest I wasn’t a huge fan of it. You just follow the syllabus or textbook and aren't encouraged to explore things outside the classroom or challenge that status quo,” he said.
The Young Social Pioneers Incubator is a six-month program, run by the Foundation for Young Australians, that brings together 60 young entrepreneurs from around Australia to turbo charge their ventures and help them to make an impact.
Foundation for Young Australians CEO Jan Owen said the PitchUp event was a celebratory end to the incubator program.
“This year’s winners represent the best and brightest young innovators, entrepreneurs and thought leaders across the country – rethinking the world and solving tomorrow’s problems today. That’s what YSP is all about,” Owen said.
“Our judges at this year’s event were impressed by the calibre of all pioneers, the quality of their pitches and depth of their passion. After more than three months of intensive workshops, training and study, these young entrepreneurs are ready to take their ventures to the next level. We can’t wait to see what that looks like.”
At 18, Zhang was the youngest participant selected for the program, which was made up of seven streams. His project was part of the education stream, which assists projects designed to have an impact in the education sector.
“I pitched against nine other people in education and managed to win the $10,000 from UBS foundation, which was amazing,” said Zhang.
Zhang is a Co-op scholar and is currently studying a Bachelor of Commerce at UNSW with a major in Information Systems.
“Business and technology, and how those two merge, has always been interesting to me. I chose the Co-op program because it provides really valuable insight into how large organisations run,” he says.
Zhang is putting the money into ‘Generation Entrepreneur’ so it can run more events targeting people from lower socio economic backgrounds, and assist the program to become sustainable over the long-term.
“So far our programs have been able to reach a lot of high school students from selective or independent private schools. But we haven’t been able to impact the people we could impact the most – and that is people from disadvantaged backgrounds,” he said.