I've always had a really strong leaning towards the 'STEM' life. From a young age I really enjoyed solving problems, doing my maths homework and spending time getting creative on the computer. The older I get the more I appreciate the environment that allowed me to flourish and ensured that any gender stereotypes never came between me and my source of joy.
The main motivations for running Outbox Incubator this summer have been three-fold: a lack of female entrepreneurs, not enough women in STEM and bringing together all of the special 'Stemettes' we've met around the country and the world over the past 2.5 years running Stemettes events and workshops. I've also had a deep seated personal motivation for running the world's first Science & Tech incubator for young women; looking back, I've always been sure of the existence of other girls 'like me', but have never quite got round to finding them.
Passing your A-level in Computing at 11 is no mean feat, but more than a decade has passed since this happened and I'm unaware of a girl who has come up behind me. I know I'm special - but I also know I'm not *that* special. And so standing on Saturday in front of the audience of about 100 gathered to hear from 29 startups many of whom had been put together and started in the 3 weeks of the incubator programme that have passed, it really was a case of 'dreams do come true'.
The groundbreaking Outbox Incubator has brought together 'Outbox Executives' aged 11 to 22 from around the EU under one roof in London: to meet each other, get sessions on running a startup from people who have been there, done that, got the t-shirt and to give them the opportunity to get funding for their businesses. Founded by myself and Mary Carty we've seen the girls live together and grow together so much in the first three weeks of the programme (here's week 1, week 2 and week 3 roundups) and still have three weeks left to go.
29 startups ranging from medtech to fashion, pets to career sites were being presented to a panel of judges comprising a VC firm, funders and a developer. With 3 minutes each to talk through their pitch decks the excitement, confidence and passion in the room was overwhelming for the judges, industry professionals and family members who had come to watch.In quick succession each startup spoke about the size of their market, revenue model and their 'ask': monetary, mentoring or both. They were all completing to win one of five categories:
- Most Investable
- Can't believe it doesn't exist
- Best use of STEM
- Finest Pitch
- Outstanding Design
- People's Choice (voted for by the audience)
Every Outbox Executive now has a year's worth of support from the award-winning Stemettes team and an expansive network of mentors and associates as well as the international support of each other. The winners of each category also have an extra boost of funding to help them on their way.
Have a look down the list of startups to see what was pitched. From the quality and development of these ideas, it is clear that with these young women running such startups now, the future is in indeed bright:
4Wardz (Hannah, London, aged 20): a social network for young people living with lifelong or lifelimiting illnesses, helping eliminate isolation and allowing patients to communicate & inspire one another in the transition between children to adult care
addict (Milly, Hampshire, aged 16): an app that supports pupils who struggle with maths throughout the leadup to their exams
Agritag (Clíona, County Mayo (ROI), aged 14): provides digitised health and other records on livestock by searching an animal's tag number
Asthma Efficient: (Michelle, Dublin (ROI), aged 15): a microchip attachment for inhalers which vibrates when the user is 100 metres away from a lost inhaler
Ducks don't quack (Olive, Leicester, aged 14): a social network site where fashion lovers from all over the world can share inspiring creations that everyone can make using the easytofollow printable sewing patterns (which are available on the site's shop)
Electricity (Amy Mather, Manchester, aged 16) a gender neutral electrifying toy, that will help teach young children the fundamentals of circuits
Envirocache (Ellora, Kirk, aged 15): an app where people can upload walking routes for children and families to see what treasures they can find along the way while keeping kids fit and in the great outdoors
Flaxim (Elle, County Louth (ROI), aged 17): a range of adjustable wristbands embossed with the name of an allergy, a switch the allergic person can push in case they've been exposed to the allergen or are experiencing an allergic reaction and are unable to communicate the situation, and a QR code bystanders can scan in an emergency to get information on the allergy and contact details for parents, friends and/or emergency services.
Free Feet (Edel, County Louth (ROI), aged 16): a laser device attached to the side of a shoe which is designed to help reduce gait freezing for Parkinson's sufferers
Hollerr (presented by Kamile, London, aged 18) an app and wearable that geotags incidents of sexual harassment around the world as a driving force to create positive social change. It uses recorded audio in conjunction with CCTV to try to create a full case of evidence against repeating perpetrators.
Jus Like Me (Alimat, London, aged 18): an insanely easy social networking site to meet likeminded people
Lawsome (Gabi, Dublin (ROI), aged 16): all the legal information and laws you would need to ensure a correct conviction and proper hearing is condensed and simplified into one app and website so everyone, regardless of background, has access to this vital information
Leanú Technologies (Catrina & Vanessa, Dublin (ROI), aged 19 & 18): bespoke apps that contain Business Continuity Plans for companies to make them easier to use and more effective, thus helping businesses excel during an IT crisis
Mixtape '94 (Aiofe, County Sligo (ROI), aged 16): a website to help people find new music. It contains a list of artists, suggestions on underground artists you might enjoy based on pop artists you like, a virtual mixtape with playlists for different moods, tips on going to concerts and charities the artists support
Modlyst (Naima, London, aged 21): an online lookbook that allows modest fashion lovers to browse the latest styles uploaded by fashion bloggers and modest fashion trendsetters
Nutricountdown (Kate, Westmeath (ROI), aged 16): an app for GAA players for meal recipes and reminders when to eat in preparation for a game
Occupus (Saarah, West Yorkshire, aged 16): an app to help you discover the perfect career path for you; simply and easily
Positivity Pack (Christine, Limerick (ROI), aged 16): a small package designed to brighten someone's day or cheer them up when they're down or suffering from depression
Project Connect (Eleanor, West Sussex, aged 15): a system that connects all main kitchen appliances (oven, washing machine, dishwasher, microwave, etc...) to an app and allow carers to change settings for appliances depending on the User's needs
PurchaseMate (Ciara, Dublin (ROI), aged 17): a barcode scanning app which brings transparency to your shopping cart. This app will give you easy access to the details of the corporation that produces it, including their donations to political and charitable organisations and their UN Human Rights rating.
reCharge My eCar (Niamh, Dublin, aged 12) an app for electric cars, it shows where all the charging points in Ireland are and whether they are in use in real time
ReviseFocus (Eleanor, London, aged 14): a mobile phone app designed to stop students getting distracted by phones during revision by blocking you from using your phone for set amounts of time
Science Rocks: (Elizabeth & Megan, Surrey, aged 15) an award winning multimedia project that encourages more girls to do triple science at GCSE
Somewhere (Joana, Oxford, aged 14): an app that allows lost pets to be reunited with their owners in an efficient and stress free way
talentworks: (Lucy, East Sussex, aged 22): a recruitment platform for talented grads with
highfunctioning autism to get jobs at startups
TOM (Paula & Sam, London, aged 18 & 15): an app to set to help women through their time of the month. Partially motivated by remarks from Donald Trump but also motivated by calls to the NHS about period pains.
What's Up Gov? (Grace, Cambridgeshire, aged 16): an app that brings together all the information from across the internet on the activities of parliament and presents it in a simple, accessible and interactive format
WILD (Beth & Molly, Essex, aged 14 & 12): a band that when worn transfers kinetic energy to electrical energy so you can charge your phone through the power of movement
Xperience go! (Lauren, Hertfordshire, aged 17): a website in which you could find suitable work experience and summer schools which were appropriate for me e.g. location, subject, date all in one place; quickly and easily
Outbox Incubator has been funded by Salesforce Foundation, has Telefonica/O2 Think Big as a funding partner and Microsoft as technology partner. Follow the fun on twitter #outboxin.
Follow Anne-Marie Imafidon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/aimafidon