Irish start-up Junior Einsteins wins at Voom 2018

23 May 2018

From left: Rebecca Bright from Therapy Box, Virgin founder Richard Branson and Tracey-Jane Cassidy from Junior Einsteins. Image: John Kennedy

Voom prize-winner Junior Einsteins wants to help kids engage more with STEM.

Dublin’s Junior Einsteins was one of two women-led companies to take the crown and a share of about €1.1m in prizes at Virgin Media Business Voom 2018 in London today (23 May).

The company led by Tracey-Jane Cassidy won the Spark & Start category at Voom 2018. Junior Einsteins saw off stiff competition from Castify, which helps people to find and cast actors; and Gobbler Boats, which is helping to remove oil and plastic from the ocean.

The winner of the Scale & Grow category was Therapy Box, led by Rebecca Bright. The company creates apps to help diagnose, treat and support people with communication disabilities. It won out over Rejuce, which makes beautiful juices from ugly fruit and veg; and Action Petz, a franchise of safe indoor and outdoor dog parks.

The judges included Virgin founder Richard Branson; co-founder of Innocent drinks, Richard Reed; serial entrepreneur and TV presenter Sophie Morgan; founder and CEO of Tropic Skincare, Susie Ma; and Virgin Media Business managing director Peter Kelly.

Junior Einsteins encourages children to get into STEM subjects through hands-on interactive experiments and amazing science events.

‘It is about teaching children how to make mistakes, how to cope in an ever-changing world and how to think, not what to think’

Necessity is the mother of invention

In her pitch, Cassidy said that she started Junior Einsteins through necessity.

“I’m a scientist and a single mum with three small children and I wanted my kids to do more hands-on science.

“I believe that you don’t have to be the smartest kid in school to do science. I started by doing experiments and got people on board to bring science to life in the form of after-school parties.

“It’s a wonderful thing when you love what you do, and I married science with children.”

Cassidy explained how she intends to build Junior Einsteins into a global franchise business from Ireland, whereby the love of science can be brought into homes through birthday parties, schools and even corporate businesses. The company has already built an internationally focused website and has produced an operations manual for franchisees.

“It’s about keeping the quality and building a diverse, beautiful brand.”

She said that science needs to be seen as fun as well as educational. “It is about teaching children how to make mistakes, how to cope in an ever-changing world and how to think, not what to think.”

Cassidy told Branson and the judges how a typical Junior Einsteins class would start with lessons in slime. “What kid doesn’t love slime?”

She added: “But really, what I am teaching them is long-chain polymerisation. They then learn that this goes into how soldiers protect themselves on battlefields through the material that goes into kevlar armour.

“It is all about fostering a love of science and a love of learning. There’s nothing greater than seeing a kid walking tall and saying, ‘I’m a Junior Einstein.’”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years