Australian and US students swim in the virtual global Shark Tank

Investors armed with $80 million in virtual cash swooped on ambitious student startups as part of a “Shark Tank” styled assessment for budding Australian and US entrepreneurs.

Smart phone software capable of detecting melanomas, healthcare robots, sustainable e-waste solutions and a consultancy platform were among the innovative pitches from Australian Catholic University and Nazareth College teams vying for the attention of Sharks in the virtual trans-Pacific tank.

The assessment was the culmination of the Global Virtual Intercultural Program (GVIP), a business unit to nurture in students from each school a sense of connectivity, global citizenship, and the development of new skills such as cultural IQ.

Australian and US students, some with cultural ties to China, Samoa, Spain and the Philippines, tackled legal, ethical, logistical and financial challenges, all the while negotiating the unprecedented realities imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve got 53 people in this virtual boardroom, all from different cultures and backgrounds. This is what learning’s all about,” Nazareth College director of the Global Business and Leadership Graduate Program Al Cabral said.

ACU Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law and Business Professor Terri Joiner lauded the students’ resilience and creativity.

“Considering some of the barriers it’s been a significant learning journey and (the pandemic) hasn’t stood in the way of their success,” she said.

“This Global Shark Tank exercise is a wonderful example that learning doesn’t have to be turgid and boring – it can be fun.”

Four industry experts drawn from the health, trade management, retail and biotech fields had virtual $20 million budgets to invest in the projects.

The objective for each group was to pitch a product or service, create a company and launch it globally. Each of the five groups were vying for hypothetical investment in potential exchange for equity in their company.

The winner was TestQik, an Indian-based healthcare company pitching immediate skin assistance smart phone software that can perform risk assessment for melanomas.

Safe-T, a robotic early detection device for COVID-19, was the runner-up.

Other innovative pitches included an e-waste recycling service (PicCyc), a robotic device to assist people with a disability in their home (Spidr) and Konsult, a third-party platform designed to connect small businesses with consultants who specialise in global business and growth.


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