Lightbulb: the innovation challenge

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We’re incredibly excited to announce our flagship innovation challenge: Lightbulb.

If you’re a student at the University of Aberdeen, you are invited to participate in this 3-day competition, where you’ll innovate in pairs to develop solutions to local and global challenges.
Every discipline is relevant and anyone can make a difference. You provide the ideas, we provide instant support, free food and cash prizes.

It will take place in the Old Senate Room (King’s College campus between the 29th and the 31st of March. There is no pre-registration required, but there’ll shortly be Facebook and Eventbrite
event pages so you can RVSP.

There’s a pool of £850 cash prizes (and many other non-cash prizes) and plenty of fun guaranteed.

More information, including competition rules, promotional material and RVSP sites (Facebook and Eventbrite) coming shortly. Watch this space.

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Meet The Entrepreneurs: #1

ABVenture Zone is home to some of the most exciting student start-ups in Scotland, and we are proud to provide them with the space to develop their ideas, move forward and make an impact.

We want to introduce you to some of our occupants and update you on what they’ve been up to. Let’s Meet the Entrepreneurs.


Jason Bamidele originates from Nigeria, where he got an MSc in Geology and had his first job in an IT firm which sold school management solutions. His entrepreneurial story began with visiting a school in a remote part of Nigeria, without any access to the internet. The firm felt like it shouldn’t be there and the experience was “very discouraging”. But Jason spotted an opportunity and had to get creative in order to figure out the fundamental challenges of geographical isolation. After a series of meetings, a local bank agreed to provide one-off funding to facilitate internet access.
That was a critical point that changed my life and my perspective on everything“, Jason says. “What I noticed was the enrolment in the school was massively shooting up, there were now many people who could access the school from everywhere. Before the applications were restricted by the geographical isolation and the lack of internet access“.
When he returned to that place after some time, more students had debit cards and new ATM machines were popping up around the campus. Eventually, businesses started springing up and providing sustainable internet access to the community.
It became a community thing and the community just started growing. Everything became better and more connected“, said Jason with a visible entrepreneurial spark in his eyes.

One of his main passions is driving transformative change by providing
technology.

“How much difference just a bit of technology makes to the people. If you make money on it, it’s just a bonus, but the feeling of being able to spark a change, transform a community – this is priceless.”


Making these positive, organic changes during his time with the company made him realise that this was the direction he wants to follow in life. This inspired him to start his own business, which he is currently in the stage of developing.

Naturally, business development doesn’t come without its challenges. Jason starkly admits that he “has seen how things can fail spectacularly“, but says that the good part of being an entrepreneur is learning lessons from everything, which really shapes the product or service you’re developing.

Perhaps the biggest challenge he had to face was realising that he couldn’t do it alone and that it’s essential to find the right group of people to work with. He warns that “if you’re not careful in the choice of business partner, they can drag you down in the wrong direction“. Eventually, Jason found someone whose goal and passion aren’t just profit, but also making an impact. This sense of impact has been really important to Jason, who often points out that money shouldn’t be the sole focus.

Jason heard about ABVenture Zone through word of mouth and decided to take a chance. “Sometimes it’s all by chance, but these chance meetings have resulted in something very meaningful for myself and this business“. We’re sure you’ll hear more exciting stuff from Jason in the near future!


Surakat Kudehinbu, the founder and CEO of E-LIT, says “the entrepreneurial path has always been attractive and I’ve always wanted to do something different“. E-LIT is a digital literacy company which is currently developing software equipping people with skills fit for the 21st century. His company seeks to “improve the quality of life of people by removing the barriers restricting them from partaking effectively in our rapidly growing digital world“.

He tells us that since his youth, he’s always had “a huge amount of ideas“. In fact, he had so many that he had to shortlist them and select those that were the most realistic.
During his time in Africa, he met a lot of people with very low levels of literacy, which came as a big shock to Surakat. He explains how it was “highly ineffective and unproductive when people working at universities didn’t have sufficient basic skills; literacy skills are definitely something we take for granted here“. Realising the barriers arising from the lack of basic skills, something he described as “a bit of a nuisance“, was one of the triggers for creating E-LIT.


“Today everything is becoming digital, and lack of digital literacy skills can make people fall behind.”


Surakat is currently at the stage of prototype development. It is a long and winding process, but he’s getting closer and closer to finalising it. He recently involved a person with computer science expertise, who has been highly helpful in developing the prototype.

Surakat is currently looking for a design intern to help take his exciting start-up to the next level. If you’re interested or know someone who might be, find out more here:
https://abdn.targetconnect.net/graduate/jobSearch.html?execution=e1s1

His list of successes is expanding, and one of these successes was reaching the final of the University Start-Up World Cup in Copenhagen. Surakat is full of bright ideas and motivation, and we’re convinced that his business will flourish.


Hamish Blythe is the founder of Twigd, a student-focused mobile phone network which gives users the chance to reduce their mobile bills by participating in surveys and interacting with tailored ads. Twigd was shortlisted and received hundreds of votes in Virgin’s VOOM competition for start-ups, and he’ll be hoping to achieve even more in upcoming competitions.

He is using the MVP to test the market and to see how many students would actually take part in the surveys and ads which from the commercial core of the enterprise. Having this research done will be greatly helpful to Hamish when he brings his idea to investors, as it gives the business a lot more credibility.

Hamish confidently outlines the next steps for Twigd – “when we launch the network, we will launch it nationwide, and we will engage those who took part in the MVP as brand ambassadors“. He already found one partial investor who is prepared to make a long-term investment, but he also states the scale of the challenge: “when we started, we realised that we need a lot more money than we thought we needed“.

Twigd are also looking at crowdfunding opportunities.


“The perk of crowdfunding is that you don’t give away too much equity and you can keep a clearer sense of direction”


We finished our lunchtime hangout by chatting with James Duncan from the Research & Innovation department at the University of Aberdeen. He emphasises that there are many opportunities for seed capital within the university, and that this money is readily available as a catalyst for start-ups. The university is always considering applications from student companies and the best way to access this money is to get out there, talk to people, forge connections and be bold with your ideas.

James also advises student entrepreneurs to look at collaborative project opportunities with staff. He concludes with some sentiments about ABVenture Zone.


“ABVZ was about giving a home to entrepreneurs but also enhancing these collaborative opportunities. Now it’s a lot smoother thanks to our convenient on-campus location”


Thanks for reading and look out for Meet The Entrepreneurs features coming soon! If you’re a student entrepreneur, a budding entrepreneur, or just someone who wants to talk business, we’re always happy to hear from you and conduct interviews. Get in touch with ABVenture Zone:

Navigating the digiverse, innovating in teams

Today we hosted the first in our series of themed interactive workshops and it was great to see some of you there. The theme of this event was digital enterprise and software development. We wanted to meander through the sometimes tricky paths of the digiverse and gain knowledge about the strategies, design, and processes involved.

fullsizerenderWe kicked off with a great talk by Dr Ernesto Compatangelo, coordinator of the MSc IT course and managing director of a software development spinout. His insights were helpful to those who would like to digitalise their start-ups or create new software from scratch. Dr Compatangelo emphasised the importance of meticulous testing and the need for a comprehensively planned design which is also realistic to implement.

The second part of the workshop was the informal, interactive element. We engaged the participants in a ‘speed innovating’ session, where we identified recent trends, emerging markets, and linked them to the local challenges in Aberdeen. The teams noticed the emergence of demand for local, ethically sourced produce and sustainable businesses. We also agreed that there’s a growing appetite to ‘make a difference’ and to put people in charge of their local decision-making.

This, we found, is at least partly linked to the rise in digital communication, which allows like-minded people to group together, find out more about products they consume and form effective campaigns. One of the main markets for start-ups today are the millennials, the large group of tech-savvy, environmentally-conscious young people who want to see more innovative ways of doing business.

fullsizerender-2At the end of our brainstorming and collective innovating, we came up with the rough idea of introducing ‘smart cycle lanes’ to Aberdeen.
This would tackle many of the local challenges which we identified: overcrowded roads, expensive public transport, perception of Aberdeen as ‘characterless’ and the ‘donut effect’, where large businesses and retailers increasingly move out of the city centre and into the suburbs.

The smart cycle lanes would be digitalised via a bespoke app, which would provide real-time information about cycling conditions, maps, integrate information about the local area and partner with local businesses. Not bad for a quickfire 20-minute speed innovating session!

We have more such events in the pipeline, and we strongly encourage undergraduates and aspiring changemakers to get involved in future workshops! They’re a great opportunity to learn some technical aspects of entrepreneurship, network with start-ups and come up with ideas in a vibrant, informal setting.


Make sure to follow us on Twitter to stay updated with future events, enterprise competitions and latest endeavours of our community of start-ups 🙂
https://twitter.com/ABVentureZone

And why not ‘like’ our brand new Facebook page as well?
https://www.facebook.com/abventurezone/