In celebration of World Pride, we sat down with LGBTQIA+ entrepreneur and founder, Albert Ong. Albert is a hybrid mechatronics engineer, biotechnologist, and interaction designer. He’s the founder of Tinkery, an EdTech company that makes custom STEM learning kits, or as Albert likes to call them, courses in a box.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Inventor, innovator, educator.
What is Tinkery?
Tinkery is an EdTech company that makes courses in a box (hardware and curriculum). We ship them out to schools, universities, parents; anyone who wants to learn to tinker. At the moment, we’re working on a product that you build, ship back to us, and we deploy it to address a global challenge. The students can then view and track the live data from their prototype in the field and know that their product is making a difference.
I’ve been in two accelerator programs for Tinkery since the start of the year. The first is StartOut GrowthLab; StartOut is an LGBTQIA+ founders community, and GrowthLab is their flagship 6-month accelerator program for LGBTQIA+ founders. The second program is UTS Green Light, a 12-week accelerator program dedicated to algae biotech solutions.
When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I experimented with entrepreneurship from a young age and built my first website/startup when I was in Year 8. It was a tutoring and games walkthrough website, which I ran for about 7 months until I realised the scope of content was too big.
I’d also been fascinated with the application of STEM and tech while studying biology, chemistry, and physics in high school. I’d think about the future of tech and ways to apply the same principles from these subjects elsewhere.
What do you enjoy most about entrepreneurship?
The freedom and independence to choose what I want to do when I want is what I really love about entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship also lets me combine all my skill sets into one job, which there wasn’t a traditional pathway for in Australia. When I was looking at full-time work there were jobs related to robotics, mechanical engineering, or biotech, but none that encompassed all those areas. That meant I had two options: move overseas or create/work in a startup.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs? And any specific advice for those from diverse backgrounds?
Just do it. I know that there’s a lot of hesitation when it comes to entrepreneurship because it’s deemed risky or expensive, but it’s incredibly rewarding. If you’re concerned about the risk, budget and forecast it so you can take that leap.
I’ve found that connections are probably the biggest barrier for entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, due to a lack of access to startup communities. As a person from diverse backgrounds, the biggest challenge I found was not having built-in connections or an obvious path to getting your foot in the door. My only advice is to talk to as many people as possible; you have to start from somewhere so you may as well start now.
What motivates you?
Futurism, Neil de Grasse Tyson, my mentor Jesse Dawson, and Tinkery’s impact.
What’s your motto?
One of my favourites is from one of the mentors at StartOut: do things that you love, because that’s what you’re going to wake up to. So, if you’re going to work on a startup, make it be something that you love because you’ll be in it for the long haul.