What it’s like to be a teen shortlisted for a world-first start-up incubator

18 Jun 2015

Elle Loughran at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2015, where her project using graphene to help detect warning signals of a brain tumour won two awards. Photo by Connor McKenna

Elle Loughran – a secondary school student with an interest in nanotechnology, biomedical sciences and the ukulele – writes about her experience being accepted onto the pioneering Outbox Incubator programme.

On Tuesday, after a nerve-wracking period of waiting, I discovered that I’d been accepted to participate in Outbox Incubator, a programme run by the Stemettes to help young girls develop businesses. This means that I get to stay in a big house in London for two weeks with a group of other girls, all expenses (including flights to England!) paid, this August.

Exciting, right?

First, some background.

The stated aim of Outbox is to give seed funding, intensive mentoring and ongoing support to girls from across the EU, to help them develop innovative businesses in the STEM sector.

When applying for the programme, in addition to writing oodles about your achievements and ideas and plans, you could choose to do the programme for up to six weeks. I just chose to do two since I have so much on (I’m low on research time as it stands).

The Outbox application process

I heard about Outbox where I hear about most things: Twitter.

Ciara Judge and Émer Hickey had launched Germinaid at the Outbox launch earlier this year, so that was the first I heard about it, but I applied shortly after seeing Edel Browne’s tweet about it. A friend of mine from the Centre for Talented Youth, Ireland (CTYI) also heard about it through the Girls Hack Ireland hackathon in Dublin.

Anyway, I thought it sounded really cool (not going to lie, the promises of unlimited food were definitely a factor) and applied before the extended deadline.

I had to fill in a long form about what I wanted from Outbox, what I could bring to the programme, my achievements, ideas, projects, etc. I mostly answered seriously, but did add that I have a rockin’ ukulele.

They asked to see samples of my previous work, so I linked to my blogs and the conference poster for my research.

And then the wait began. I thought I had a reasonable chance of getting accepted – I’ve applied for things a lot more unlikely before – which really just increased the tension. In the meantime, I found other applicants on Twitter and got to know some of them.

When I’m excited for something, I research it, so I watched some Stemettes videos and read their Twitter feed and website. I had lots of other things to focus on, thankfully (exciting things happening with my research, mainly), so it was grand.

Looking ahead to London

Three days ago (15 June), Stemettes announced on Twitter that they were shortlisting applicants and would have the results out in the next few hours. Shortly after I stopped checking my emails every four minutes, my Twitter peeps started announcing that they’d got in, so after some hesitation I opened my email and found this. (Thanks a lot for the cryptic subject line, that screamed rejection!)

My email had this fab image, which I like for its enthusiasm. I announced the success on Twitter and got replies and retweets from various journalists and Outbox organisers, which was cool. The EU Commissioner for Research and Science retweeted me too, and I was included in a list of ‘some of Ireland’s best and brightest’ on Siliconrepublic.com.

Summer of STEM

I saw from Twitter that not everyone’s applications were successful, but all my friends who applied got in. I’m really excited to meet like-minded girls from around the EU. I’m very involved in STEM and scientific research and think entrepreneurship sounds awesome, but don’t really know where to start, so I anticipate getting guidance at Outbox on how to develop a business and actually bring my ideas to fruition. Also, I look forward to meeting mentors and investors, learning how to pitch and having fun in London. I’m really looking forward to my summer. I mean, look:

Thanks to the Outbox Incubator team, Mary Carty, Claire O’Connell, Silicon Republic and Ann O’Dea. Now I can’t wait for Inspirefest.

Elle Loughran is a soon-to-be sixth-year student in Our Lady’s College Greenhills in Drogheda. She blogs daily at frizzyroselle.blogspot.ie and is currently researching the use of graphene for cancer diagnosis. She is also a freelance writer and enjoys reading and playing the ukulele.

This article originally appeared on Loughran’s blog, and has been republished with permission.

Inspirefest 2015 is Silicon Republic’s international event running 18-20 June in Dublin, connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM with fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity.