Business as unusual: How 3 Day Startup makes entrepreneurship for everyone

A cohort of enterprising minds from across the University’s four Academic Groups came together at Griffith last month to take part in 3 Day Startup.

This internationally renowned program is an intensive workshop that is designed to engender an entrepreneurial mindset in its participants and prepare them for the ever-changing new world of work.

“At Griffith, we recognise the importance of preparing students to be part of a rapidly changing workforce, either as an employee, or as entrepreneur ready to establish a new venture or business. In either case, an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset is a valuable building block to enable students to achieve their career goals ,” Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Professor Debra Henly said.

“The 3 Day Startup program is a key offering among a suite of innovation and entrepreneurship courses and extracurricular opportunities available to students targeted at enhancing their employability.”

Hosted by company cofounder Cam Houser, 3 Day Startup is, as its name suggests, a three-day workshop that provides aspiring entrepreneurs with a dynamic, cross-disciplinary and hands-on way to develop their worldview, knowledge and skill set.

Open to students of all years, majors and experience levels, 3 Day Startup takes its participants through the process of developing their own startup with practical exercises and engagement, and equips them with the skills to succeed in the dynamic and diverse labour market.

3DS co-founder Cam Houser

“The world is changing really fast,” Mr Houser says. “The nature of work, with all these communication technologies, product innovation, globalisation… the world is a weird place.

“One group that’s dealing with these changes really well is entrepreneurs. Startups and entrepreneurs are providing a lot of innovation for the world. This is why the Hilton Hotel Group didn’t give us Airbnb. And the taxicab industry didn’t give us Uber.

“It was entrepreneurs that gave us those ideas. So this work is, well, how can we equip universities and students to get those tools, to get those capabilities and skills and capacities?”

To that end, Mr Houser says, the 3 Day Startup program is “very experiential”, providing participants with immersive activities such as pitching and developing ideas, engaging with customers, brainstorming through mentorship and more.

3 Day Startup’s Director of Operations, Shayna Dunitz, agrees, explaining that the skills the program instils in its participants will remain valuable in all they try their hand at, regardless of the ways in which the working world continues to change in future.

“Even students coming into university four years ago, things look different for them now as they’re graduating and getting ready to go into a career,” Ms Dunitz says.

“So, having an entrepreneurial mindset and being able to adapt to change really well, be flexible and innovative and creative when it comes to problem solving, being a good communicator, understanding how to work in different types of teams … those are the things that aren’t going to change, and we’ll always need to know how to do those things.

“Regardless of whether the job they go into goes away or shifts into something new, if they can still be a creative problem solver, can still work in a team and communicate their ideas to different types of people and stakeholders, they’re going to be OK. That’s why this is so important.”

Failure is the key to success

One of the key attributes that 3 Day Startup encourages through the entrepreneurial mindset is resilience. According to Mr Houser, somewhere in the vicinity of 90 per cent of new businesses tend to fail; the important thing, he says, is being able to get back on the proverbial horse and start again when faced with such challenges.

“Resilience is an interesting idea because some people think entrepreneurs are hardened and they’re at 100% all the time, they never have moments of weakness, never break, they’re never vulnerable,” he says.

“And resilience, just that idea means that, for that concept to exist, you’ve gotta take your hits, and resilience means that you can bounce back.”

“So we try to talk a lot about, ‘How do you stay resilient, and how do you understand that failure is part of the process?’ But we really find that, if most ventures fail, and we’re helping people understand how to cope with failure better, they’re going to be strong, so that when they have successes, they’ll be better at coping with those as well.”

Entrepreneurship is everybody’s business

Although entrepreneurship is most often associated with business studies, Mr Houser explains that being literate in such theories and practices is actually beneficial in an exceptionally broad sense.

“On Day One, they show up, they pitch ideas and learn what a pitch is and why it matters. Asking your boss for a raise — that’s a pitch, right? So we explain how this is useful in so many other contexts,” he says.

As such, the academic cross-section from which the group hails traverses a range of disciplines — including science, health and education, among others — highlighting entrepreneurship’s relevance beyond those who are studying business-related degrees.

Master of Education student Sharifah Hussien says she was primarily drawn to take part in the program as a means to improve her own understanding of the entrepreneurial mindset, and to discover ways in which she could apply that thinking to the benefit of her career as a teacher.

“I was very interested, number one, that this was actually provided for us free of charge,” she laughs. “But, also, the reason that I was looking out for entrepreneurship is because I am a teacher by training, so therefore I see a lot of opportunities in education.

“Because I have a chance to see the inside of this, and I know how much money the government puts into education, I thought that I could come in and learn the ropes a little bit of how entrepreneurs think and then build on this educational journey.”

Along with her fellow participants, Sharifah has come to understand the benefit of adopting an entrepreneurial mindset for her own professional and personal development. However, Ms Dunitz says, making the leap from the reflexive association of ‘entrepreneurship’ with ‘business’ is still a challenge the company faces “all over the world”.

“3 Day Startup delivers these programs on all six inhabited continents, and so we’re seeing the patterns, and that’s definitely one of them,” she explains.

“One of the things that we’re doing, at least, is [to make it known] that our programs are for everyone on campus. We tell that to our organisers too. We are very explicit in stating the best programs have the most diverse participants, and it’s also how we get the biggest impact. We need the sciences students and the history students and the philosophy students and the med students to also have this knowledge.

“It’s been so exciting to see those students come into our program and see what they get out of it because, really, what this does is it opens people’s worldview, because they come into the program assuming certain things about themselves and their potential and their career path. Then they do our program and it’s just, like, the world is so much bigger now, there’s all these things they can do.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Griffith’s relationship with 3 Day Startup initially stemmed out of the University’s existing ties to the Advance Queensland innovation program.

Since first being introduced, those inter-organisational ties have grown largely from the work of Griffith Enterprise Business & Innovation Manager (Sciences) Mr Hunter Walkenhorst and Project Coordinator Mr Simon Barclay. Their contributions, Mr Houser says, have been crucial in solidifying the partnership between the University and the US-based company.

“Griffith has been a really awesome part of our community,” he says. “We love the University, and the team in particular have been really great advocates for growing entrepreneurship here.

“What we really love about Griffith, and why they’ve been a great partner, is there’s a lot of hunger here. There’s a very open-minded approach to innovation and what the future of work looks like.“

“We’re a very internationally minded organisation and the fact that they want to keep working with us, we value tremendously,” he continues.

“But the staff themselves are very entrepreneurial — Hunter and Simon, in particular, have been the type of people that, when you say, ‘Well, how can we do this?’ their answer is, ‘Well, maybe we could do this approach,’ — it’s never, ‘Why would we do that?’

“The first instinct is one of possibility, which is a great thing to have in a partner. And it’s why we’re very optimistic about the entrepreneurship culture here at Griffith and where it can go, and the heights that are ahead.”

The next 3 Day Startup program takes place at South Bank Campus from 9-11 April.

See the Innovation and Entrepreneurship website to find out more about taking part in 3 Day Startup and other entrepreneurship activities at Griffith University.