Before travelling to China as part of an SSE International Bootcamp, Luke Di Stefano had never heard the term ‘unicorn’ to describe a billion dollar start up.
“Everyone was talking about unicorn, unicorn, unicorn…I thought it was a mistranslation,” he laughs. “They don’t teach you that at uni!”
Now Luke is ready to take on the world. Over seven days of intense meetings and workshops, the 20-year-old Australian Catholic University commerce student, who had never pitched his business, gained pitching experience and connections with some of the biggest companies and investment groups in China.
Rob Deeming and Luke Di Stefano. (Left to right)
“The whole experience, honestly, I can’t really put it in words. It’s something you couldn’t get anywhere else,” he says. “The trip completely changed me as a person and it’s changed my outlook on business.”
Luke founded his company DECEPTIV Apparel in late 2017 as an exercise to help him learn how to start a successful business. He had travelled to China before, but he says the opportunity to pitch directly to investors, learn the nuances of doing business in China and meet other entrepreneurs from around the world was something he couldn’t dream of doing on his own.
“The minute I saw the program, straight away I thought ‘this is it!’. I applied within an hour after seeing the email and honestly, it’s the best decision of my life. The program was by far the best thing I’ve ever experienced.”
For his fellow participant, Rob Deeming, an academic and researcher at University of Technology Sydney, the experience was eye-opening in a different way.
As the CEO of Billy, an aged care startup, Rob was no stranger to pitching or meeting investors. But he says the opportunity to connect with major investment groups like Fosun, which own multiple international insurers (and potential future customers) was incredibly valuable.
Rob Deeming (UTS) describes the China Bootcamp experience
“Since the China experience, which was only two weeks ago, I’ve had four follow ups with the Fosun investment team and I’ve pitched the business to 20 or 30 people over the course of about two weeks,” he says. “So, we’ve had a very real and tangible outcome from the program.”
Although Rob had a good understanding of the Chinese market before joining the bootcamp, he says the combination of cultural activities, structured learning opportunities and real-world interactions helped quickly deepen his knowledge and focus his efforts.
“It’s really helped me to shape how we would launch our business into the Chinese market,” he says. “You get a really deep understanding of how to think about making your business successful in the Chinese market, entry strategies and having success there at every different level.”
Luke and Rob are now both in regular contact with investors in China and planning their next move. For Rob, the conversations with Fosun will hopefully lead to Billy being able to pilot their technology in China. For Luke, the trip has opened up a world of possibilities.
“It completely changed me as a person,” says Luke. “I’ve come back fresh, revitalised and I’m ready to sell in China. I’ve made connections for life and I’m hellbent on taking this off now. It’s really going to change my life.”