(l-r) Cian Forgarty and Jack Dooley of Greener Globe, participating in LaunchBox 2018, Trinity’s student accelerator. Photo courtesy of LaunchBox
All the teams chosen to participate in LaunchBox summer accelerator have two things in common, says Programme Manager Alison Tracey: an idea with the ability to create impact, and the right team to make it happen.
Hosted by the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub at Trinity College Dublin, LaunchBox has seen 122 jobs created and €6.3 million raised since its inception in 2013. The three month programme gives ten teams of Trinity students access to facilities, resources and a lecture series geared toward helping their startup succeed.
During the programme, the students’ startups will be their full time jobs, complete with weekly pay. “They’re here from 9 to 5 every day, they’re treated as employees, and they’re working very, very hard to bring their idea to full fruition,” says Michael Lynham, Marketing and Communications Manager.
The daily work the students put into their projects culminates in Demo Day each August, where the ten teams present their prototypes before a panel of judges in the hopes of being crowned winner or runner up and receiving a prize of either €3,500 or €1,600.
LaunchBox already has several successful companies among its alumni. FoodCloud, a business that seeks to reduce food waste by pairing grocery stores and restaurants with charities; biodegradable backpack company Hamal; and Artomatix digital art creation are among the teams that continued after their participation in the programme. About 50 percent of LaunchBox startups follow this trend.
The teams, which Lynham says typically consist of four or five members between the ages of 18 and 25, already have their project in mind when they apply for LaunchBox. After submitting their applications, the groups must go through a screening process and pitch their idea to a panel in the hopes of being selected. LaunchBox encourages representatives from all disciplines to participate.
“We want to encourage an art student just as much as a business student or an engineering student or a medical student, to go forward, to be an entrepreneur, to create,” Lynham says.
Beyond the practical skills needed to navigate the startup ecosystem in Dublin and beyond, Lynham says students cultivate a lot of other life skills along the way. Communication, flexibility, and problem solving are among the most valuable life skills that programme participants earn, he says.
These skills are integral for facing the challenges within the programme – such as searching for funding, learning to be professional, and working out issues with the actual prototype – but Lynham says they’ll also play an important role in each student’s future career, regardless of whether they end up working in that field.
“They can still take those skills with them and those learnings with them, whether they work for a company or not,” he says. “Entrepreneurship, I think, is going to be a key pillar for any professional in any organization.”
In addition to LaunchBox, Trinity’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub will host two similar programmes this year. As a member of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology, the university has been chosen to host one six-week programme for health technology startups and one for climate-related startups.
In 2018, more than 150 teams from across Europe applied for EIT Health Validator, the health technology programme. As with LaunchBox, only 10 could be accepted.
“Those two EIT programmes – the health and the climate – are really making a positive impact to society,” says Lynham. “Climate change and health are really, really positive innovation stories to be a part of.”
Both programmes are EU funded and will focus on pre-existing companies run by adults who already have working professional experience. Many of the programmes’ participants, says Lynham, will be developing new products for their company or working to get a company off the ground.
“We were very proud to be selected to be a part of the EIT programmes and we’re hoping that next year we’ll be selected again to host this and to be part of it,” he says. “It’s a big honor for us and we love the international element, too.”
By the end of this summer, 30 startup teams will have had access to Trinity’s expert staff and resources between the three programmes. Tracey says she looks forward to seeing another summer of LaunchBox students develop.
“At the end, they are so much more confident,” she says. “They know what they don’t know but they know they can go out and learn.”