From startup to Head of Product Development: one student’s exciting venture in entrepreneurship

29 May 2020

Working in the world of startups wasn’t initially part of the plan for The University of Queensland engineering student, Tony Jojo.

Tony believes his current success as Head of Product Development for audio technology startup, Audeara, came from taking part in UQ Ventures' suite of entrepreneurship programs. 

Beginning with a search for a work placement in 2017 as part of his engineering degree, Tony found a wealth of exciting internship opportunities through UQ Ventures. It was through the connections and friendships forged in Ventures programs that Tony first discovered auditory tech startup, Audeara.

Audeara was founded by Dr Chris Jeffery and Dr James Fielding, who developed their first prototype through Venture's accelerator program, ilab, before securing a $400,000 Kickstarter fundraising goal in 2017. Audeara technology is now available for commercial purchase in Australia and is receiving huge interest from international retailers.

From internship to employee, Tony has worked full-time with Audeara for three years.

“When I found Audeara on the UQ Ventures website and read about their startup story, I just thought, this is who I want to work with."

"I got an internship interview with Audeara, and I’ve been there ever since!” Tony said.

Tony worked his way steadily up the company ladder to Head of Product Development and Market Analysis for Audeara. The fast-growing company, now a registered NDIS provider, creates smart-tech headphones and transceivers for hearing impaired individuals. Audeara uses a combination of advanced audio technology, specialised engineering and data analysis to measure and tailor high-quality sound.

Tony’s role sits between business, engineering and customer service, allowing him to work directly with the Chief Technical Officer to build new products. He is currently liaising with customers and hearing clinics around Australia to generate new mobile apps to accompany the headphones.

“I’m mixing the technical business and the customer-facing front, so I get to do a bit of everything,” he said.

When asked about the challenges faced by the current global pandemic, Tony shed a positive light on the situation. The team’s passion for their product and mission keeps pushing them to achieve bigger and better things.

“It’s a small team and everyone’s on the same wavelength,” Tony said.

“It’s nice having the flexibility to go for a run during the day, then come straight back to work at a time that suits. We’re actually all being very productive at home!”

Now in his final year of Business Management and Engineering at UQ, Tony has quite literally been around the world with his entrepreneurship experiences. In 2018, he completed a four-week Startup Adventure internship in Tel Aviv, Israel, delivered by UQ Ventures.

Startup Adventure, Tel Aviv cohort, 2018 (Tony Jojo in yellow jacket).

Tony’s time with Tel Aviv tech startup WeissBeerger, a data analytics platform for breweries and services in the Food and Beverage Industry, taught him a lot about the inner workings of new companies and startup ventures. The people skills he learnt, especially when dealing with high-profile figures in the company, was a particularly valuable lesson.

“My immediate supervisor had very high standards, and I loved that – it made me work harder. She taught me how to ask for peoples’ time and to push for that five-minute chat. Everyone’s so busy, so it was hard to do, but I’ve definitely been using that advice a lot since coming back.”

Tony found the cultural immersion aspect of his internship highly beneficial, and despite the difficulties posed by language barriers, it was a fantastic opportunity to explore how startups evolve internationally.

“It was crazy and chaotic,” Tony said.

“But I loved it! There was a lot of networking and I made some really good friendships, so it was a great way to learn about startups.”

“This is all thanks to Ventures!” 

Get 2020 ready with a Ventures' program! 

Ventures is open to all, from new students to PhD and alumni: online, free of charge and extra-curricular. Visit 'Events' to see what's on this week.