Expand your horizons with an international Startup AdVenture

20 May 2024

Does spending 4 weeks overseas learning about innovation from entrepreneurs and startups as part of your studies sound too good to be true?

UQ Ventures’ Startup AdVenture program gives students the chance to gain practical experience in real workplaces, expand their network, and go through transformative personal and professional growth. The program is open to all UQ students, irrespective of their degree or degree level and may be available for academic credit through some elective courses. The program destination you’ll visit may change from year to year with previous destinations being Singapore, San Francisco, China and Hanoi, Vietnam.

UQ Startup AdVentures students posing outside the departure gate in Brisbane airport.
The Vietnam Startup AdVenture begins!

Are you a domestic student completing an Innovation and Entrepreneurship major as part of a Bachelor of Advanced Business, Bachelor of Business Management or Bachelor of Design? If you’re at the end of your second year or in your final year of study, you can receive academic credit for the experience via the Business Industry Placement (RBUS3309) course that would also count towards Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Practice (TIMS3311).

Interested in gaining exposure to similar industry opportunities closer to home? You can enrol in TIMS3311 to work with a local startup or on a technology commercialisation project.

The benefits of challenging your comfort zone

Everyone knows that growth is a result of getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing new things that challenge you. Bachelor of Business Management students Olivia and Hallam travelled to Hanoi, Vietnam, as part of Startup AdVenture and are keen to share their experiences with current and future students considering studying at UQ.

Olivia’s Startup AdVenture experience

Olivia chose to study at UQ because of its history, beautiful campus and strong reputation. “I had a gut feeling I was meant to be there,” she says. For Olivia, the Startup AdVenture gave her the opportunity to reconnect with peers while immersing herself in a vibrant business ecosystem and exploring global opportunities. Prior to her Startup AdVenture experience, Olivia’s exposure to innovation and entrepreneurship concepts was theoretical, although she had launched her own small cleaning business in 2021. Completing the Startup AdVenture program helped Olivia think about how she could expand her business or start something new.

“The Vietnam Startup AdVenture trip was an invaluable journey of professional learning and personal development,” Olivia says.

Olivia at host startup, AdFlex.
Olivia at host startup, AdFlex.

Through the program, Olivia was placed in a startup called AdFlex, an affiliate marketing company that provides a holistic focus on CPA (Cost Per Action) solutions and technology-driven growth.

“This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that offered me countless chances to work on my communication skills and expand my network in a foreign country,” she says.

Olivia loved learning about the rich culture in Vietnam, connecting with those in her workplace, exploring the city and trying traditional meals. Some of the challenges she faced included the language barrier and navigating different cultural expectations.

“Norms such as wearing ‘inside’ shoes only, midday naps and participating in communal meals after work were unfamiliar to me,” she says. “Similarly, understanding the norm of not speaking highly or honestly about oneself and one’s business proved challenging. I addressed this by articulating expectations in person and online through email and messaging and used Google Translate when necessary.”

“The experience confirmed my ability to adapt to new environments and communicate clearly,” Olivia says. “I also practised cross-cultural competency and learned how to build relationships and networks with people from different backgrounds. Building confidence in these environments as a student has shown me that I belong in professional settings and can contribute value to discussions.”

Hallam’s Startup AdVenture experience

Going into the Startup AdVenture program, Hallam had 3 goals. He wanted to develop his communication and networking skills to benefit his customer service job, understand how to run a business in a foreign country and further expand his network within the gig industry.

Placed in a business development intern position within Salemall’s website live chat function, Hallam was tasked with exploring the business’s position in the local market and identifying growth opportunities to expand into the Australian market.

Hallam and Startup AdVenture Program Coordinator, Fi Woolliscroft, at host startup Salemall.
Hallam and Startup AdVenture Program Coordinator, Fi Woolliscroft, at host startup Salemall.

“At the beginning of my time in Vietnam, I was immediately confronted with a whole new world of businesses constantly adapting to their changing environment and streets full of shops selling the same products,” Hallam says.

One of Hallam’s biggest takeaways from the experience was the importance of keeping face when interacting with others to maintain a respectful and positive persona, especially in business contexts.

“The longer I spent interacting in Vietnam, the quicker I learned that questioning and communication are universally respected if it’s done in a way that builds on the conversation rather than halting it or pointing the finger of blame,” he says.

“The challenges brought up by not being confident in conversing forced me to seek clarity – I made it a daily goal to build relationships and trust with colleagues, which created opportunities for me to network and build valuable connections.”

“Being pushed outside my comfort zone acted as a catalyst for learning on the go and reinforced just how important communication is.”

Innovation in action: A front-row seat to an industry case study

Olivia’s time at AdFlex as part of the Vietnam Startup AdVenture gave her the chance to see the entrepreneurship and innovation concepts she’d learned about in action. One of these concepts was the lean start-up methodology.

“The lean start-up theory is a decision framework that favours rapid trial and error to fail fast and hard over extensive planning before taking action,” Olivia says. “During my [Startup] AdVenture, I learned that AdFlex originally launched as a gaming platform in 2012. Since then, they’ve pivoted in response to an opportunity seen in the market to harness affiliate marketing. Now, the business is ranked #1 in Vietnam out of 6 companies for effective mobile marketing advertising.”

“Looking closely at the business’s rapid growth and service expansion since pivoting to affiliate marketing demonstrates a successful application of the lean start-up method,” Olivia says.

“While the lean start-up concept is widely known and taught, witnessing its application in a real-life ecosystem within a culturally distinct setting affirmed its significance and necessity for achieving success. I will apply the theory to my future career in a workplace setting or within my own business one day to test and generate new and feasible ideas.”

Discover more ways to gain industry work experience for academic credit as part of your business degree. Visit the Work-integrated learning website.

Making the most of their Startup AdVenture experience

By exposing her to the manifestation of innovation and entrepreneurial theories learned during her degree, Olivia says her Startup AdVenture experience had a fundamental impact on her future career trajectory. During her time in Vietnam, she also established a connection with her mentor and AdFlex startup CEO.

“The experience confirmed to me that I’d love to start my own business or contribute to another startup one day,” she says. “Beyond this, I gained personal confidence in networking, public speaking, cross-cultural competency and creativity. I also gained practical experience applying marketing planning and strategy for a unique business model.”

Startup AdVenture students at the entrance to the Temple of Literature, Hanoi.
At the entrance to the Temple of Literature, Hanoi.

Beyond the placements, there are also plenty of opportunities for students on the Startup AdVenture to explore the country they’re visiting. As Olivia says, “I valued the program’s ability to facilitate personal and professional development, as well as the fun, cultural immersion and travel experiences along the way,” Olivia says.

Hallam says his Startup AdVenture provided him with new skills, capabilities, knowledge and important connections. After building trust with his supervisor during the experience, he is now looking into how they can run a business together in Australia.

“During my time in Vietnam, I learned about the depth of the culture’s history and the symbolism in their art and stories,” he says. “In my own life, I’ve already started using these things in the marketing approach for my Australian startup gift business – selling eco-friendly hand-made stuffed animals made in Hanoi. Specifically, giving my stuffed animals names and stories using symbolism, which you don’t see much of in the Australian market.”

Learn more about the UQ Ventures Startup AdVenture program.
Discover our Bachelor of Business Management.