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Students sail to tech win

A LOVE of sailing, an inefficient club membership system and knowledge of technology won two UWA students a $7,500 prize in the inaugural WA Business Planning Competition.

The competition, organised by Software Engineering Australia (WA) in conjunction with Computer Sciences Corporation, was designed to enhance business skills of small IT&C (information technology and communications) companies in WA.

The organisers selected 70 individuals to take part in a series of seminars valued at about $2000 each to give them a background in marketing and business management.

The entrants, ranging from 18 to 60 years of age, were then invited to present a business plan for their company.

The youngest team were Nick Randolph (21), a fifth-year Engineering/IT/Commerce student at UWA, and his girlfriend Meg Delahoy, (18) a second-year engineering student majoring in mechatronics.

They used the opportunity to professionally evaluate a plan they have for their Your Club On-line company.

Said Randolph: “Meg and I love sailing. The idea of the on-line club system came to us when we were queuing to renew our membership at Mounts Bay Yacht Cub.

“What should have taken five minutes took us 40 minutes. Meg and I were discussing how ridiculous it is that we had to queue with the other members of the club for so long to do a routine annual job.

“We discussed a way of putting our club on-line so that it could do it on the Internet to save time for members and tedious form-filling for the committee.

“Then we thought, if we did it for one yacht club, while not every yacht club in Perth, then we thought why not all clubs.

“We now have an on-line concept that does more than just let members sign on, it can offer a wide range of services to any club that wants to use it.

“The company we are setting up will be able to handle all the mundane records on a data base including sending out accounts, tracking membership fees, keeping a calendar of events and all those jobs the clubs find so hard to get a committee member to do.

“They would simply pay a small capitation fee based on their membership numbers.

“The concept has grown and grown in our heads, but we didn’t know about marketing and running a business.”

“So we signed up for the free courses.

“We have done all the research and now know it can make money. So we now go to the next stage – setting it up.”

Other winners in this inaugural event were: Scott Arbuckle, David Westgarth-Taylor and Phil Kerr, of Decom.com, who won $30,000 for a business plan for marketing a system of reading old mainframe files with modern technology, and Aaron Savory and James Selleck of Imagemation, who were awarded $15,000 for developing a business plan to market a number of software products including a shoe-box accounting program.

Said competition organiser Pene Welsh, of the Software Engineering Australia: “The prizes were awarded on the basis of the business plan they created, not the type of business or company that has been set up or is to be set up.

“Our concern is that the newcomers learn the disciplines of setting and running a small business.

“The whole project has been extremely successful.”

SEA is a non-profit organisation founded in 1999 and dedicated to increasing the competitiveness and sophistication of the WA IT industry. It organises technical training, networking events, provides technical facilities and has been instrumental in getting a $10 million grant for start-up companies in WA.

CSC is a $10.2 billion California-based consulting and information technology services company with more than 68,000 employees world-wide, providing help to governments and industry in achieving strategic and operational results through the use of technology.

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