Griffith student secures investment for startup

Griffith PhD student Jess Blomfield (pictured) has rolled her research expertise into a start-up that has received seed investment funding after winning a pitching contest at startup accelerator Blue Chilli.

Jess wasjoined by hundreds of University students at Myriad, a technology and innovation festival at Brisbane Powerhouse in March. Jess’s startup CoworkAlly is a digital co-working platform designed to help the growing number of freelance workers.

“Freelancing is not just outsourcing or working from home, but service orientated micro contractors offering flexibility to larger organisations and value to small businesses,’’ Jess said.

Research by the American Freelancers Union and Emergent Research found around 40% of America’s workforce will be freelancers in 10 years. While its flexibility can be attractive, loneliness and unstructured work patterns can make freelancing difficult in the longer term.

The solution she developed was a “trusted network” of peers that a person felt supported by and accountable to.

“This is freelancers, working alone or in small groups, creating a trusted network that advises, encourages, inspires and keeps accountable the rest of the group.

“Coworking spaces are not new, but their benefits aren’t accessible to everyone as more and more people work from home and those in rural and regional areas.

“The idea really came from doing a PhD, which can be a really isolating experience and there’s no reason for it to be,” she said.

Jess sharpened the idea for CoworkAlly in late 2016 through BlueChilli’s pitching contest for university students. Jess won and went to an intensive validation boot camp in January where she secured seed investment. By mid-February her business was underway.

“I was just “procrastigoogling” when I came across this student competition at BlueChilli.

Three months later, I’m dealing with investment contracts!”

The January boot camp included interviewing dozens of potential clients to find where the holes in her start-up plan might be and refining her pitch and structure.

The key attraction to start-ups is that if successful they can quickly scale up to very successful businesses, as their market is potentially global.

This is why start-ups are attractive business models for younger people: the price of entry is lower, the energy is higher, the risk of failure is higher, but failure comes just as quickly and the cost of that failure is lower.

The culture that surrounds start-ups embraces failure as just another step toward the success CoworkAlly is working towards.