Melissa RAN

Startup advisor

About This Project

I was born in Chengdu in the 80s to a father who worked in the newly established Chengdu TV station, and a mother who majored in English and worked in an international trade firm. My mother had the opportunity to study English at a postgraduate level in Australia in 1990, after which she became an Australian citizen. I joined her and immigrated to Australia when I was 10 years old.


To me at that time, Australia was unlike anything I had experienced. It was both strange and incredibly exciting. I saw the ocean for the first time. It was also the first time I had ever seen a supermarket with plastic cartons of milk. In China in the 80s, we got milk delivered in metal tanks on a bicycle!


I went to the University of New South Wales (UNSW), studied law and finance, and joined global firm, Procter and Gamble. But I had always aspired to be an entrepreneur, so I left to create my own startup projects that included a project-management software company that was named one of Australia’s top 50 most-innovative products.


That experience, both successes and failures, meant I understood the challenges that other young entrepreneurs were facing and the support they needed, and it led me to become a Startup Advisor for UNSW. In this role, I have worked with various Chinese city governments, such as Beijing and Shenzhen, interested in Australia’s talent and innovation output.


It struck me, though, that I had not encountered much collaboration between my hometown Chengdu and my industry niche. Chengdu is the economic and technological hub of western China, a region that’s the focus of China’s future economic development. It is also rapidly increasing its international engagement and represents fantastic opportunities for Australian startups.


With the support of the Australia-China Council and the Australian Consulate-General and Austrade in Chengdu, I organised the Chengdu Innovate initiative which took four Australian startups to tour Chengdu’s innovation ecosystem in 2016, and later held an Innovation Roundtable. That led to Chengdu-based Walnut co-working space signing a collaboration agreement with Sydney-based Tank Stream Labs. There’s more demand than ever for innovation-driven collaboration between Chengdu and Australian startups.


Melissa Ran is Program Manager, Startup China, University of New South Wales, Sydney.

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