GovHack Hackathon: The Launchpad for Your Success – A Personal Journey

Atena Pegler’s Journey: From GovHack Participant in 2016 & 2017 to Volunteer in 2023

Part 1: My Journey Begins

As someone who had been deeply entrenched in the Australian startup community for many years, I had witnessed a plethora of stories unfold. I was a digital advisor, providing mentorship on digital marketing to startups in Fishburners, a thriving entrepreneurial hub. Through my lens, I saw dreams materialise into reality, brilliant ideas fizzle out, and the perpetual oscillation between success and failure.

Through my experiences, one statistic remained consistent: an estimated 90% of startups fail. But why? Some might argue that it’s the inherent risk of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. I, however, saw it differently. I saw a gap in market knowledge, a lack of understanding of target demographics, and often a disconnect between what startups were offering and what their audiences actually needed.

Part 2: My First Encounter with GovHack

During my time at university, while pursuing my Master’s in IT at UTS, I often found myself grappling with the uncertainty of which field within IT to specialise in. The decision seemed daunting, with considerations about future salary prospects, demand in the market, and personal interest playing on my mind.

Then GovHack happened. In 2016, I decided to participate in the GovHack Hackathon, a 48-hour marathon designed to address real-life challenges using open government data. As a participant, my goal wasn’t to code, but rather, to provide an innovative solution to a pertinent challenge using my industry knowledge and insights.

I was part of a team that developed “Edugate,” an intelligent software solution aimed at identifying the vector of skill-gaps in the market, vis-à-vis the emerging student workforce. The idea was to help students make informed decisions about their courses, TAFE classes in their final years of high school, and degree applications, thereby increasing their chances of employability.

We identified this as a critical problem that data could help solve. The rate of unemployment among students completing secondary and tertiary education could be improved through predictive analytics and data matching. By smartly aligning qualifications with the ever-evolving employment opportunities, we could help bridge the gap and minimise chances of unemployment.

Much to our delight, Edugate won a state award for this project! The journey from ideation to creating a viable solution was both challenging and exhilarating, laying the groundwork for many more successes to follow.

Link to Edugate Project:

Part 3: The Birth of an Idea

Fast forward to 2017, when I stumbled upon a GovHack challenge that resonated deeply with me. The challenge was centred around the small business and startup industry. The moment I saw it, I knew this was the project I wanted to dedicate myself to. But I needed the right team.

During the opening ceremony, I managed to connect with some talented data analysts who shared my vision. Together, we created “Search(t+1)” – an innovative data application designed to enable businesses to make accurate predictions about their target markets and gauge their chances of success.

Part 4: About Search(t+1)

So, what does Search(t+1) do? It leverages comprehensive ABS data on suburb demographics and historical data of New Enterprise Incentive Scheme businesses to predict the best Australian startups type and their potential success.

Our user-friendly dashboard displays market growth predictions, recent demographic insights, and a “Startup Success” feature which forecasts the chances of a particular business plan succeeding. These accurate predictions help startups and investors alike to reduce risk.

Youtube Video:

Github Link to this project:

Part 5: Triumph and Beyond

Much to our delight, Search(t+1) ended up winning a national award for this project! The red carpet award ceremony in Brisbane was a surreal experience and the moment when I held the award in my hands is etched in my memory.

But the GovHack experience did much more than just give me a trophy; it gave me the confidence and courage to execute an idea from start to finish. A year later, I launched my own consulting business Digital Help Desk which I recently branded to Atena Pegler Coaching, coaching startups to execute their ideas and leverage marketing for success.

Part 6: The Takeaway

GovHack wasn’t just a competition. It was a learning experience, an opportunity to make an impact, and most importantly, a catalyst for personal growth. And the most beautiful part? You don’t need to be a technical whiz to participate. All you need is an idea about a particular industry and the will to see it through.

So, if you’re hesitating about participating in GovHack or any hackathon for that matter, take it from someone who’s been there and come out the other side – it can change your life in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. As I always say, the first step to success is showing up. See you at the next GovHack!

Part 7: Giving Back to the Community

In a beautiful twist of fate, my journey with GovHack didn’t stop after winning the national award. In fact, it took a new turn. Today, I find myself not just as a former participant but also as a volunteer for GovHack, serving as the NSW Regional Lead and Deputy Operation Lead.

Despite my bustling schedule, I dedicate a significant amount of time each week to ensure the smooth execution of GovHack. Why, you ask? Because I believe that by facilitating this platform, I can impact many more lives, helping them discover opportunities just like I did.

In this role, I get to channel my energy towards enabling countless individuals to leverage this unique platform, bringing their innovative ideas to life. I see my younger self in many of these participants and it gives me immense joy to guide them through their journey.

My experience has taught me that the more we give to the community, the more we receive in return. It’s not about the tangible rewards, but the innumerable life lessons, the shared knowledge, and the beautiful connections we form along the way.

My journey has come full circle – from a participant to a successful business owner, from receiving guidance to providing it. It’s a testament to GovHack’s impact – creating leaders and givers out of dreamers and doers. Here’s to many more years of giving, learning, and succeeding together.