University of Wollongong graduate Paul Fenech co-founded his IT start-up when he was still a student. CREDIT:PAUL JONES

From The Sydney Morning Herald, By Alex Reszelska


University of Wollongong graduate Paul Fenech co-founded his company when he was still a student, and now employs several other university graduates.

Fenech, 26, is a director of highly disruptive IT start-up V-DAQ, providing regulatory fleet tracking and management solutions to transport companies ranging from small-business owner drivers to large multinational operators. Based at UOW’s Innovation Campus, V-DAQ employs a number of the university’s alumni and students.

The university, it seems, is a solid, recurring thread in the company’s DNA. The firm started in 2017 when two entrepreneurs, Fenech and his colleague Rylan Kolb, met at the Wollongong campus as students.

“Both of us did a Bachelor of Engineering majoring in mechatronics. My thesis project was building a soft robotic hand under the guidance of the renowned soft robotics specialist, Senior Professor Gursel Alici,” Fenech says“I was a good student, but early on, my grades were pretty average. Only after I had realised how applicable the skills I was learning could be in real life did I start to get excellent marks.

“At the end of my second year, everything began to gel together: what I learned with what I wanted to achieve. This was the time when I started to engage in many projects, helping people with research and learning massively. I ended up finishing university with first class honours.”

His company V-DAQ initially developed hardware and software to detect when a vehicle had been in a car accident. Then the idea evolved, and the start-up joined UOW’s business incubator iAccelerate.

“Having the university with all its brainpower and innovation just around the corner is amazing,” Fenech said. “We regularly run internship programs, hire most of our staff from UOW and lead the industry-side of some courses for the engineering faculty. And running the business from the Innovation Campus, with its great facilities and equipment, is great too.”

The biggest takeaway from his university life is that you need to cherish your school friendships and stick your nose out of the textbooks.

“For me, with my passion for technology and innovation, the minute I got the taste of the real business, I became a better student. [UOW] has good social relevance and teachers who foster both technical and social skills. And that’s the future – on the graduation day, no alumnus should feel scared of making use of what they’ve learnt at school.”

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