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Female founders lead the way at national tech innovation event
A University of Wollongong-backed startup that is helping change education through affordable 3D printing technology has picked up two major prizes at a national innovation showcase, Tech23.
The awards demonstrate iAccelerate’s impact in promoting gender equity in the tech sector as well as enabling new businesses and supporting economic growth in a rapidly changing economy.
Me3D, part of UOW’s startup incubator iAccelerate, designs and manufactures affordable 3D Printing equipment that supports education, from students to professionals.
The company was among 23 of the very best Australian startups at Tech23, held in Sydney on 17 November, where it won:
- The AMP Amplify Award for Best technology Tech23 2015 start-up founded by a woman, with a $2,500 cash prize.
- The REA Group Digital Disruptor Award, worth $5,000 cash.
Tech23, now in its seventh year, is a national celebration of Australian innovation, with founders drawn from across the country and boasting connections with Australia's leading R&D organisations.
It brought together investors, entrepreneurs and innovators from across Australian enterprise, government and industry sectors, showcasing 23 world-class startups with high growth potential, technical expertise that are tackling big problems.
The 23 young tech companies chosen for the event - spanning big data to artificial intelligence to renewable energy - were given five minutes to present their idea to more than 400 potential customers, partners and investors.
Me3D was founded in late 2013 by researchers at UOW’s Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) and a UOW alumnus. The Tech23 prizes build on the company’s recent wins in the Panel and Audience Winner categories at iAccelerate Pitch 2015.
The company combines experience in design, engineering and economics to build a business around designing and manufacturing a range of 3D printers specifically for teaching additive fabrication and enabling other science, technology, engineering and maths learning in schools.
Through close ties to UOW and supported by iAccelerate’s programs, Me3D has quickly grown from selling 20 printers a month to more than 200.
In addition to sales, the founders have maintained a strong community commitment, including the creation of Seed3D initiatives that provide 3D printers for free to schools and builds a local community hub of expert users able to assist with this technology.
The equipment is manufactured locally through an Australian Disabilities Enterprise, providing meaningful, challenging work and an opportunity to develop future-proof skills.
Me3D co-founder Leanne Connelly said: “Working with the iAccelerate team and going through the education program, we have really sharpened our business's focus and with the input of the other great startups in the iAccelerate community we have continuously tested and honed our pitching skills. We wouldn't have had the confidence or clarity of direction to be a contender in Tech23 without them.”
iAccelerate CEO Dr Elizabeth Eastland said Me3D’s success was testament to the strategy to support female founders in technology, develop spin-out companies from University research and researchers and to support local economic growth.
The startup hub celebrated a major milestone in its gender equity mission this year when it revealed that females made up just under half of its current companies, including scholarship holders and other program participants, while females made up four out of six of the iAccelerate management team, including the CEO.
“iAccelerate aims to creatively contribute to the economic regeneration and diversification of the Illawarra, encouraging global aspirations and inspiring the next generation of innovators,” she said.
“Me3D’s success is also further evidence that female representation on founding teams provides diversity and increased ability to succeed as well as a deep customer understanding, which is the critical aspect of startup company success."