Chatloop wins the inaugural Shane Chidgzey Young Entrepreneurs Award

Chatloop wins the inaugural Shane Chidgzey Young Entrepreneurs Award

A capacity crowd of investors, alumni, staff, students and a shark recently enjoyed 10 of The University of Queensland’s (“UQ”) brightest startup companies as they pitched their businesses at The Precinct, Advance Queensland’s innovation hub in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. The startups have just concluded 3 months of intensive effort in customer discovery, product prototyping, business development, mentoring and pitch practice to graduate from the 12th cycle of the “Germinate” startup accelerator program run by The University of Queensland’s ilab. 

With over 180 people in attendance, SBS Food Lab star Dr Joel Gilmore welcomed the startups to share their vision for improved language learning for refugees, better teaching in economics, easier ways to shop for furniture and the perfect way to pop the question. Founders fielded questions from an audience of startup mentors, investors and academics including Queensland Chief Entrepreneur and Shark Tank star Steve Baxter. The audience also entered over 1,000 entries into ilab’s system to score their pitch, product and potential as part of the judging for the $5,000 Shane Chidgzey Young Entrepreneurs Prize, awarded to the most promising startup of the class.

“The excitement and interest in UQ’s startups just keep building, and this capacity audience and their energetic engagement is a wonderful reflection of that” said Bernie Woodcroft, Director of UQ’s ilab. “The entrepreneurship opportunities UQ now provides to its students, researchers and young alumni at all levels is world class. It has been inspiring to work with these passionate Germinate 12 founders who have really made the most of their opportunity.”

The Germinate 12 startups included:

Chatloop– connecting people from a refugee background to trained volunteers through a messaging system for convenient language practice.

Mcklein Javeri, Founder, Finding Perfect.

Finding Perfect– creating digital tools for millennials to choose perfect gifts for their loved ones and connecting them with businesses where these items can be purchased.

Happy Dinosaur– creative outdoor media partner unlocking the potential of idle space for creativity and communication.

I Tinker Too– providing software solutions that automate time-consuming tasks, keep critical information organized and measure data that is valuable to small business owners.

MediRoo– a personalised medication management platform for patients to stay on top of all their medications.

Model Econ– an interactive economics education platform to help educators facilitate learning and engage students to understand the world.

Nature Freedom, Founder, Mathew Townsend

Nature Freedom– a not-for-profit social enterprise organisation aiming to inspire, connect and empower young people with disabilities. 

North Hem– providing on-demand showrooms to help online furniture retailers close more sales through a building-as-a-service product.

Robotics Playground– providing an accessible, inclusive and fun space to learn and explore robotics and all things STEM.

Tutio– helping students optimise their study time using a combination of personalised practice questions and peer-to-peer teaching to create the private tutor for everyone. 

Following his inspiring pitch, the winner on the night was Michael Mersiades, founder of Chatloop who received the inaugural $5,000 Young Entrepreneurs Prize personally from UQ Business School alumnus and donor, Mr Shane Chidgzey.

“I congratulate Michael for his inspirational startup and Chatloop is a worthy winner.  The fact that students at UQ can harness and grow their ideas through ilab is fantastic, and that’s why I’m proud to endow a prize to help ilab participants through this process.” Mr Shidgzey said.

Building a social enterprise while also completing a PhD in Applied Linguistics is no easy task and Michael attributes his time at ilab in the success and rapid growth of his company. 

“I’ve got plenty of drive to make Chatloop a success, but UQ’s ilab Germinate program helped make sure I was driving in the right direction.”

Michael has also launched a crowdfunding campaign to help grow the impact of his system. Please visit to help Chatloop achieve its potential.

[You can also find a selection of pictures from the night on our Facebook page:]


About The University of Queensland’s ilab

ilab was established by the Queensland Government in 2000 as a business incubator to support early stage, high-tech companies through the first few years of development. The University of Queensland subsequently (UQ) acquired ilab and since 2012, ilab has changed operations to include Germinate accelerator programs, intern placement programs and a range of other founder friendly initiatives. Since then, UQ’s ilab has run more than 13 accelerator programs, continued its startup incubator, has supported in excess of 500 young founders across 185 startup companies and has organised over 3000 mentor sessions cementing its position as one of the most experienced startup accelerator programs in Australia.

For more information about UQ’s ilab programs, visit