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Sam McDonnell from Sydney, Australia

Co-Founder of Construction Cloud

There’s nothing to stop you from starting your future now.

Designer chases start-up dream, wins UTS backing for web app

Mid-way through his Bachelor of Design degree at UTS, Sam McDonnell re-adjusted his focus from studying to becoming an entrepreneur. He began working part-time as a freelance designer for two technology start-ups, became interested in app design and user experience, and started attending entrepreneurship events.

“I thought: ‘why not, why can’t I do this?’” he says. From then on Sam attended every event he could and read every recommended book. “I was maniacal about chasing opportunities.”

He soon joined forces with UTS engineering students Hartley Pike and Jan Schroeder. They co-founded Construction Cloud, a collaboration platform for project managers in the construction industry enabling teams to interact and track projects anywhere.

UTS helped the three entrepreneurs establish their company, providing the foundation they needed.

The trio entered the UTS 3P Business Plan competition and won. A year later the university funded their travel to the US to pitch at the Virginia Tech Challenge. Their team won Best Intangible Product.

After this win, UTS provided Sam and his co-founders with office space. They soon landed their first client – NorthConnex, the longest road tunnel in Australia’s history.

But after this initial project the business wasn’t growing as fast as they hoped. Even though they were working seven days a week, they were living off their savings. So they decided to raise funds and research new ways to expand their product, consulting closely with people in the construction industry.

At the start of this year, Sam, Jan and Hartley took part in Startmate, a 12-week accelerator program at ATP Innovations – a collaboration between UTS and three other universities.

With the help of mentors, the team developed a new and more personalised business model, raised half a million dollars, launched a new product and doubled their revenue.

Sam says the key to his entrepreneurial success was forcing himself to get out of his comfort zone. He says that university is the perfect place to meet like-minded people to start a venture with, and that students don’t need to wait until they graduate to start a company.

His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is that they should freelance and acquire work experience while they’re at university.

“There’s nothing to stop you from starting your future now,” he says. “Go to talks and events in the Sydney start-up community. Read everything you can on entrepreneurship. Soon you’ll see the people who have successful ventures were once no different and no smarter than you.”

Ready to make your mark?