The LaunchBox accelerator – this year taking place at Trinity’s Ideas Workspace, Tangent – is getting student start-ups ready for investment.
LaunchBox, the student start-up accelerator from Trinity College Dublin, is now in its seventh run with a dozen start-ups gearing up for the final demo day in September when they will pitch to investors.
At the final event, each team will have the chance to win a cash prize, following on from €10,000 in funding for getting into the programme. Among this year’s cohort are some social enterprises addressing issues such as sustainability and homelessness.
The summer accelerator welcomed the student start-ups to Tangent for this year’s three-month programme, a collaborative environment where they benefited from office space, mentorship, and access to Trinity’s alumni, partner and investor networks.
By September, all 12 start-ups are expected to be investor-ready and primed to follow in the footsteps of previous LaunchBox successes such as FoodCloud, Touchtech Payments, Artomatix and Change Donations.
“We are proud to work with our students over the summer to help support the development of their innovative ideas. This programme showcases why Trinity remains an international leader in producing entrepreneurs,” said Tangent CEO Ken Finnegan.
Indeed, LaunchBox has delivered start-up success. Since 2013, 70 student ventures have created 130 jobs and raised €9.4m in investment and funding through the LaunchBox accelerator.
Below are the selected start-ups for the latest cohort.
'I want to see a time when humans and computers can create art together'
This morning we are delighted to welcome back @Eric_Risser founder of @Artomatixltd and LaunchBox alumni/superstar! Eric has been in talking through his journey and mentoring the teams.#LaunchBox19 pic.twitter.com/UHgReyH9ZW
— LaunchBox (@TCDLaunchbox) July 17, 2019
Founded by James Kennedy, social enterprise Aquahomes proposes a unique solution to the homeless crisis by upcycling decommissioned rescue boats sourced from oil rigs into sustainable housing. The idea emerged from a two-day ‘homelessness hackathon’ in Trinity College Dublin in which more than 100 students took part. With more than 10,000 people now homeless in Ireland, the event drew the support of representatives from homelessness and housing organisations searching for high-impact solutions.
Bounce was founded by Charlie Butler, Brian O Mahony, Josh Stafford and Rónán Dowling-Cullen to redefine marketing “for the smartphone generation”. The mobile platform for market research aims to help companies connect with this target audience. The USP is ‘hypertargeting’, promising outreach to anyone, anywhere at any time. Having spent the last few months building the software, Bounce now has a number of test users putting the app through its paces before it’s ready for paid users.
CashBox aims to facilitate cashless donations to people experiencing homelessness, who will see fewer donations as society goes cash-free. Co-founder Robin Twist also took part in the Trinity Innovation Challenge for homelessness, which led to this prize-winning social enterprise.
Twist attended the 2018 LaunchBox Demo Day when he started his postgraduate degree at Trinity. “This was my first taste of the work that Tangent does, and it is odd and unnerving – in a mostly good way – to think that in just 10 weeks, Daniel [Cosgrove, CashBox co-founder] and I will be one of the teams pitching,” he told ThinkBusiness.ie.
With more than five years of experience in AV production, plus a background in engineering, computer science and business, the Elucid Audio team has set out to solve challenges facing new users in the world of sound. From aspiring podcasters and radio presenters to musicians and sound technicians, this learning platform aims to eliminate the frustration, confusion and demotivation felt by first-time users of audio equipment. Co-founder Adam Reid said: “We want to open up the world of audio to everyone.”
EthiCart is targeting the growing cohort of young adults seeking to shop sustainably, but who are short on the time and information needed to make this important consumer shift. Founders Laura Brennan and Lara Pairceir want to build an app with concise, easy-to-follow information on the sustainable and ethical standards of products, and suggestions for more sustainable alternatives where possible. The app will use data from already-existing third-party certifications such as Fairtrade, Origin Green and Certified Sustainable Palm Oil from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
Approximately one-third of all food produced worldwide is wasted and, according to FloWaste, 79pc of food waste in the hospitality and food service sector comes from “avoidable food scraps”. FloWaste has pegged this problem to oversized portions and unsatisfactory food leading to leftovers. The solution proposed is data-driven and targets canteens. By fitting canteen trays with sensors, tray racks with machine vision technology, and canteen customers with an app to provide feedback on the food left uneaten, FloWaste hopes this data can help reduce waste, cut costs and lessen environmental impact.
LadyBird Dynamics noticed that Irish consumers aren’t actively managing their energy usage and spending, and decided to step in and help. With a Jolt sensor clipped into an electricity meter and paired with a smartphone app, users will be able to monitor and track their energy usage, and even spot the big energy wasters in their household. The app will also deliver energy efficiency tips and reminders from a personal smart assistant, and the company aims for the product to be free to consumers. “With [LadyBird Dynamics] I want to change how people interact with utility bills,” said CEO Dale Chen.
Social entrepreneur Aimée-Louise Carton is on a mission to create the most comprehensive and engaging mental wellness app, which will be accessible for all. As well as taking on LaunchBox, she recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to edge towards this goal.
KeepAppy has 10 features in its toolkit, centred on the themes of prevention, growth and care. A subscription-based model will operate on a one-for-one basis, whereby paying users will enable free access for users in need identified by partnered helplines. “Through Kickstarter we’re giving people the opportunity not just to support further expansion of the app in the coming months – which include[s] mindfulness, community challenges and gamification features through our Keepies – but to become a champion of the KeepAppy movement!” Carton told Women Mean Business.
NeuronWoods’ first product is AI-logist, an artificial intelligence assistant for radiologists. The company aims to “develop solutions to the problems which humans feel helpless in solving” using data science, AI and predictive analytics to provide services and products that tackle such challenges. Founder Rohit Kumar has just completed a master’s in computer science at Trinity and has previous experience working in applied artificial intelligence in Mumbai.
Snaggletooth has set out to “improve oral health and overall body health, while protecting the health of our environment”. Co-founder Michelle Galvin is a qualified dentist familiar with the problem of over-brushing that leads to gum recession. Along with co-founder Rebecca Gilligan, she devised a toothbrush with “new bristle technology” and a touch of artistic design. The Snaggletooth toothbrush is made with soft polyester instead of nylon bristles and the company says it is 100pc recyclable.
“The greatest challenge we have faced so far is understanding customer needs. While we have the research behind us, we must validate our idea to make sure it’s what the customer wants,” said Gilligan.
The Study.ie team has learned from travel booking platforms such as TripAdvisor and Airbnb and applied this format to the search for quality learning experiences. Rather than suffer the “analysis paralysis” that comes from researching courses online, the website offers a clear interface where searches can be refined by price, location and quality. “We want to empower people take control of their learning journey, not languish in inefficiencies,” said Study.ie’s Mykola Babiy.
Co-founder Andriy Babiy said LaunchBox has “really stress-tested” the idea, and an early presentation pushed them to move fast and learn quickly.
Two White Socks
Two White Socks wants to shake up equestrian wear by injecting some pattern and colour into this traditionally stiff and formal outfitting. Starting with a range of bright patterned riding socks, founder Katelyn Prendiville has already brought the brand to a sizeable online following, accruing almost 1,000 online orders and eight international wholesalers in year one.
The next step is the launch of a new product line moving into sports shirts and leggings. Business is largely based in Prendiville’s native Australia, but the plan is to build a global brand akin to Horseware Ireland, which sees annual sales of more than €45m.
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