By Erika Menezes
Cover photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash
2021 Deakin Startup Competition Student Stream winner and MOBIT Co-founder, Lachlan Carboon, was drawn to the startup space because of his love of technology and problem-solving. Passionate about using tech to find solutions for everyday problems, Lachlan wants to create positive change through entrepreneurship. Right now, he’s working to help high school students get their best chance of success by harnessing the potential of mobile phones in classrooms.
What is MOBIT?
Created by Lachlan and his Co-founder, Ryan Falconer, as high school students in 2020, MOBIT is a usage-moderating application that helps prevent students from being distracted by their mobile phones in class.
How does MOBIT work?
According to Lachlan, “MOBIT will revolutionise the way students manage their screen time by restricting distracting content while still allowing access to crucial services like contacts and educational resources. By allowing certain functional restrictions on phones, MOBIT has the ability to change the education game.”
Below, Lachlan discusses his startup journey, Deakin Startup Competition experience and plans for the future.
Congratulations on winning the Deakin Startup Competition! Tell us a bit about yourself. Have you always been interested in entrepreneurship?
I’m a first-year Bachelor of Mechatronics at Deakin. I’m interested in robotics and space exploration. Outside of university, I’m an intern at ROVing Intelligence, a Melbourne startup that builds remotely operated underwater vehicles for ports and harbours.
Yes, actually before signing up for Deakin’s Startup Competition this year, my co-founder, Ryan Falconer and I had our first attempt at a startup idea in 2019 where we won the Startup Shakeup’s Pitch Fest People’s Choice Award. After the competition and doing further research, we realised it wasn’t an idea we wanted to continue working on.
Finding Community through Deakin Startup Journey
As a first-year student, how did you learn about the Deakin Startup Competition?
My mum saw the [Deakin Startup] Competition on social media, she sent me the link and encouraged me to apply.
Initially, I thought it was a competition where you did a pitch and the winner got a prize for having the best business. I was blown away when SPARK Deakin told us we had 15 workshops lined up, a few rounds to refine our submissions, and were going to be provided with mentors.
Even now with the Competition over, there are 4-5 more workshops for us in the next few months. I’m really grateful for how generous the SPARK Deakin team is in their support of Competition participants, and to have found this network of people interested and invested in entrepreneurship and the success of students, staff and alumni.
What’s your favourite outcome since starting the Deakin Startup Competition, for yourself personally and for your startup?
I think the real prize is the connections you make, being able to ask specific questions, and continuing those relationships over time. I met some pretty amazing people [during the Deakin Startup Competition] and they gave me some great advice.
What were some key insights about yourself or being an entrepreneur that you learned during the Competition?
There was one workshop where our [Deakin Startup] Coach, Isaac Jeffries, asked us a series of deep questions that really got us thinking about our journey. A visual that helped me conceptualise those questions was a diagram on the wall. It highlighted that more could be achieved by having one area of focus, rather than scattering your attention and energy in many directions. That was a problem I’d been struggling with before the [Deakin Startup] Competition. This workshop helped me realise I needed to use my time more effectively and put some projects on hold; that was one of the best lessons I learned.
Digital solutions to lead the way
What inspired you to create MOBIT?
I came up with MOBIT in response to my school’s canvassing of staff and students about whether mobile phones belonged at school after the Victorian State government issued a state-wide ban on phones.
It seems you were in a unique position to understand both students and the school’s concerns about having phones in class.
I was. As a high school student at the time, I could see where the students were coming from, but I could also see why teachers and the school had real concerns about having phones in class.
As School Vice-Captain, I was invited to be part of the learning development strategy that consulted with the school community to find a solution. From that process, we saw most adults thought mobile phones were unnecessary and detrimental to students’ learning, but students saw their phones as a necessary part of their day as an educational tool (calculator, calendar, research tool) and an important point of contact between them, their family and employers.
The school came up with a policy in response to these findings, but I thought we could go a step further and create a tech solution tailored to meet students’ needs and also reassure adults about how phones are used in class. And not just for my high school, but any school that wanted a digital solution to this ongoing issue.
Both Ryan and I agreed that there was a gap here that needed to be filled and that was how MOBIT was born.
Many schools seem to adopt a policy of banning phones. What makes MOBIT a better solution?
Mobile phones aren’t good or bad, they’re just tools. What needs to be managed is our usage of them, for students that’s during class. And MOBIT can help with that in a way phone bans can’t.
The truth is mobile phones can be distracting and have negative effects on students’ learning. MOBIT helps students remain accountable and create healthy phone usage habits. Learning these skills is becoming increasingly important as phones get more advanced and technology becomes more embedded in our lives. That’s why MOBIT is a better solution, phone bans don’t address the underlying problems that students and schools face.
Mobile phones aren’t just for talking to people anymore. They’re also powerful educational tools under the right circumstances, and MOBIT is trying to help both schools and students harness this potential. With our application, we want to give students and teachers the opportunity to achieve their full potential and we believe that utilising current mobile technology is key to unlocking their success
Is there a special meaning behind ‘MOBIT’?
We decided on the name ‘MOBIT’ because it was memorable and recognisable. We liked that it had a connection to mobile phones and that it draws on our connection to information technology or ‘IT.’
First, blue skies, then, space.
Do you have any dream collaborations you’d like to see happen between MOBIT and other businesses or organisations?
Collaborating with apps already in the school system, like Compass, would be amazing and would be an instant path to market for MOBIT. Through one of my mentors, I met one of Compass’ founders and received feedback which was really helpful.
Would you/MOBIT be interested in helping government policy embrace a technological solution that goes beyond banning phones?
I’d like to present the Victorian Government with an effective solution that’s better for schools and students and gives them the opportunity to use a digital option, like MOBIT, without penalising students for doing something really normal like having a phone.
Moving forward what’s your vision for MOBIT?
MOBIT’s vision is, ‘Advancing the way you learn using the tools you already have.’ I want MOBIT to become a successful business that’s used globally and be an app that students and teachers both love to use.
Before I go back to university next year, I’d love to get someone experienced to help run the company. I learned from the [Deakin Startup] Competition’s workshops I’m not building MOBIT to create a job for myself. I want to create a business that can run without me because I’m really interested in pursuing a career in robotics and space.
I started MOBIT as a way of proving to myself and the world that I can create digital solutions to solve problems and successfully create and run a startup company because when it comes to the space industry, it’s a lot more expensive.
What progress do you feel you made from the start of the Competition, to Showcase Night, and after the Competition?
From putting pitches together to sounding confident, the knowledge I’ve gained from workshops, masterclasses and mentors, I feel more prepared about starting and running a startup and being an entrepreneur.
Winning the prizes and the funds was great, but the confidence and belief I gained in myself and the app, and the networks I’ve developed have been the most important things I’ve received from participating in the [Deakin] Startup Competition; that’s something all the top 8 finalists gained from being part of the Competition. We’re all winners in my book.
What do you feel like you’re capable of now?
Like I’m capable of getting the customers that the app needs. I’ve come a lot further, even since last year with the last startup I was working on. For the first time, I’ll have a physical product to show people what I’ve built and can demonstrate how I create digital solutions to improve people’s lives. I also feel 100% confident that I can build an app and get customers within a year.
Any advice for anyone thinking about doing the Deakin Startup Competition?
Do it straight away, you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.
Even if you start the Deakin Startup Competition and decide later that your idea isn’t one you’d like to continue pursuing, there’s so much to learn from going through this process that you mightn’t get to experience in your degree; and the SPARK Deakin team will be there to support you every step of the way.
This Competition teaches you skills to help fast-track your career, so you don’t have to wait until graduation to start the startup or the social enterprise you’ve been dreaming about. You can start today.
Interested in applying for the 2022 Deakin Startup Competition? Don’t wait, send in your EOI today.
Deakin Startup Competition Winner Profile:
Name: Lachlan Carboon
Studying: Bachelor of Mechatronics
Areas of interest: entrepreneurship, space exploration, robotics.
Startup name: MOBIT
MOBIT Team members: Ryan Falconer, Co-founder.
Purpose: An app helping high school students moderate their phone usage by blocking distracting apps and allowing access to classroom-appropriate functions; enabling students to use technology to reach their full potential in school.
MOBIT’s Vision: ‘Advancing the way you learn using the tools you already have.’
Why entrepreneurship? I’m passionate about making a change in the world and using my interest to develop technology that hasn’t been created or even thought of yet.
Mentors and founders who inspire Lachlan: SPARK Deakin mentors, Startup Coach Issac Jeffries, Maree Timms (high school science teacher), Mark Cooper (Ceo, FoucusHQ), Elon Musk.
Favourite Post-Competition outcomes: The confidence I gained in myself and the app and the networks I’ve developed have been the most important things I’ve received from participating in the Competition.
Prize money plans: We’re planning to use it to set up the company, purchase promotional materials, and engage the services of a grant writer to help us apply for upcoming grants.
What does success look like to you this time next year? To me it looks like having 3-5 customers (for MOBIT that’s schools) next year, using our application with their students.
Advice for future participants: “Do it straight away, you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose… the SPARK Deakin team will be there to support you along this journey.”