Startup Catalyst: Lessons learned from our San Francisco journey

Mindblown. That’s probably the best word to describe our experiences in San Francisco. For the past two weeks, myself and three other QUT students traveled around Silicon Valley where we visited a number of startups, co-working spaces and headquarters of international tech giants.

We were on a youth mission called Startup Catalyst, taking young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley with the aim of learning from some of the world’s best entrepreneurs and bringing that spirit back to the Australian startup scene.


On arrival, the drive from the airport was filled with billboards about Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence software, distinctly different from the usual Australian scenery. It was clear we had landed inside the tech bubble that is Silicon Valley.

Over a jam-packed 10 days, we visited Facebook, Google, Stanford University, a number of famous accelerators, as well as growing startups such as Boosted Board and Hello. Evenings were spent at networking events, where we made sure to ask tough questions to the many talented and knowledgeable people in attendance. Some of the highlights included advice on how to have extreme focus on your product and target market, as well as how to achieve product-market fit. It’s safe to say we also encountered a lot of buzzwords.

One of my favourite things about Silicon Valley was the high concentration of smart people and big ideas. There’s a saying over there that nobody takes you seriously unless you have two failed startups, and you could really see this mindset in the hard-working and perseverant nature of many of the people we met. As an example, the founder and CEO of Service Rocket, told us an incredulous tale of how he studied at an Australian university full-time while also working full-time in America. Yep, that’s right. Two countries at the same time with two full-time roles. Unbelievable.

Other than this though, there really isn’t anything drastically different about Silicon Valley and Australia. Sure, there may be a higher concentration of talented engineers and business people over there, but our best are just as good as theirs.

Myself, Kaitlyn, Dom and Mitchell are looking forward to spreading our many learnings within the Brisbane startup community and hope to start something big one day ourselves.

Massive thanks to QUT Business School and QUT SEF Faculty for sponsoring our places on the trip too!

If you have any questions about Startup Catalyst, or are looking for a great co-founder, get in touch! We’d love to share our crazy, incredible trip with you.

– Danielle Vaz, QUT Business/IT Student, @daniellevaz_

Our visit to Airbnb’s amazing office.

Bachelor of Business (Marketing) / Bachelor of Information Technology (Information Systems)

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