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NSW TAFEs, universities co-create entrepreneurship school

Sydney got its very own Stanford with the launch of the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship (SSE) on Wednesday. Unlike the prestigious Palo Alto tech-oriented university, however, the SSE will welcome students from all academic backgrounds. In fact, the SSE is a collaboration between all 11 NSW universities and TAFE NSW. And instead of offering standalone degrees, diplomas or certificates, it will provide workshops and lectures that are streamlined with students’ existing studies. Admission will be selective, based on students’ written applications.

Photo: SSE

Deputy premier and minister for small business John Barilaro cut the ribbon to the school, which was built thanks to a $25 million cornerstone investment by the NSW government. Based in a TAFE site in Ultimo, Sydney, it will train at least 1,000 students annually, with more invited to participate in co-curricular activities like hackathons and networking events. Depending on their type of involvement, students may receive course credit for school activities.

Former director of the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship, Australian Nick Kaye, will lead the SSE, the idea for which was seeded at a talk he gave about the Stockholm school. “There was a bit of a perfect storm.  There was obviously an appetite to do something groundbreaking in a global sense in Sydney, and an interest involving the 11 universities and TAFEs. The right people must have been exposed to this idea to take that thought a little further,” he said.

That thought is now concrete. So far, the school has held talks by renown American economist David Audretsch, and launched its pilot course: an introduction to entrepreneurialism called ‘The Navigator’. Teachers have been selected from the member institutions as well as from the innovation community and government.

Kaye said that entrepreneurship can “certainly” be taught, as skills and attributes like pitch ability, leadership, financial literacy and resilience can be inculcated. Though he’s realistic about the extent of such learning. “…What we’re not saying is that we can take any given person and turn them in to the next Elon Musk…,” he said.

He appears to have the credentials to lead this venture. Whilst directing the Stockholm school, he catalysed the creation of audio streaming service SoundCloud. “We actually introduced the two founders through one of our matchmaking events there,” he added. The most profitable startup he oversaw – online payment provider Klarna – is now valued at around $2.5 billion. Izettle, another similar company that also grew out the the school, is valued at over $500 million. And he is positive about Australia’s potential to produce similar successes. “I think [the innovation ecosystem here] looks very energetic,” he said. He is equally upbeat in relation to the SSE: “I think will be a fantastic platform for Australian innovation.”

For Kaye, the SSE won’t just potentially benefit its students; it could have a wider influence on the population. “I think [entrepreneurship is] critically important…we know that growing young companies is a key engine of the economy, and will increasingly be so in many fashions, including employment.”

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