Leap of faith

Tips for launching a startup during a pandemic

An image of startup ideas scribbled on a paper, plus a scrunched up ball of paper

As UQ’s Chief Student Entrepreneur and successful founder, Rachael Dagge is no stranger to launching startups. She spoke with Contact to share her tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Ironically, times of uncertainty can bring clarity in terms of priorities and vision. For many, the past few months of reflection – or changes at work – have spurred long-standing ambitions to launch a startup or side hustle.

Launching a startup is all about timing. If you're considering taking the leap, here are some tips to get you started.

1. Test your assumptions. Use the time to get to know your customer and your market – you may think you know what people think and feel, but don’t try and create a problem to fit your solution. This is a huge mistake I see time and time again (and have done myself). Rather, it should be the other way around.

2. Be adaptable and resilient. You will come up against so many hurdles. There will be many times you want to throw in the towel because it's just too hard. There is a lot you can learn from sitting back and approaching something at different angles.

3. Have a diverse team. Get involved in business with people who are different to you and who challenge your thinking – that’s where intelligent pivoting happens. For example, a slightly high-risk decision-maker paired with a low-risk decision-maker is a wonderful duo. You're going to butt heads, but that's a good thing. 

An image of a worker at their desk

4. Stop being scared people will take your idea. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they either couldn’t tell me about their idea, or they were petrified of intellectual property around their idea, I'd own my own Island in the Maldives. I'm not saying don’t be smart about who you tell, but you are the person with the care, the hard work, and emotion behind the problem – and that's powerful. An idea is nothing without many components driving it forward, one of which is motivation. You can tell me your idea and I might think it's excellent, but I don't have the same motivation as you. By talking to people, they can give you assistance, advice, connect you with worthwhile people, or even potentially invest. 

5. Just do it. It's easy to talk about an idea to friends and family. The hard part is pulling your finger out and actually doing it. Don't wait to have every kink smoothed out – it's never going to be perfect. And despite around 90 per cent of startups failing, you personally gain an incredible amount by being a founder. Nothing I have learnt professionally or academically, outside the startup space, has given me the same learning curve and opportunities. Have fun with it and embrace the peaks and troughs.

An image of a whiteboard with post-it notes

Looking to launch a startup? We can help!

Did you know UQ Ventures is open to young alumni for free? You can test an idea, enhance your skills or apply for funding through one of the many Ventures programs. Get in touch to see how you can get the most out of UQ Ventures.

About the author

Rachael co-founded Spyke in 2020. The startup was inspired by tiny particles found on the wings of dragonflies, which have a powerful antibacterial quality that kills germs at first touch. Spyke aims to manufacture these ‘nano-spikes’ and apply to objects and surfaces in order to destroy bacteria upon contact. In addition to domestic applications, such as door knobs and bench tops, the team hopes to apply the technology to prosthetic limbs in order to curb infection rates in amputee patients.

On top of her role as UQ’s Chief Student Entreprenuer, Rachael has been accepted into a six-month fully funded program for women in STEM, SheCodes Plus, through BHP and Spacecubed. She has also managed to secure herself a graduate role with KPMG’s health team, which she will balance with her startup ambitions.