Diary of a student entrepreneur 2020, part 4

This summer 10 start-ups from Trinity are taking part in the LaunchBox accelerator programme. In this fourth episode they get ready to go to market.

LaunchBox, in partnership with Bank of Ireland, and managed by experts in Tangent, Trinity’s Ideas Workspace at Trinity College Dublin, provides mentorship, funding, access to alumni and investors, and the ideal collaborative environment to launch new start-up ventures.

This is the eighth year of LaunchBox, but the first year that the programme is running online

To get a sense of the calibre of these start-ups, check out their video pitches.

Liam Lysaght, co-founder FiltraCycle, Engineering student

Red-haired man in white shirt and patterned tie.

“We plan to recycle 1m cigarette butts into plastic this September”

As with all startups, FiltraCycle has been (and is currently) in many tricky situations that could have run the company into the ground. The details of our trickiest situations are locked under NDAs backed by scary corporate lawyers.

Our luckiest escape so far was being reminded by a LaunchBox mentor at 2pm on Friday that an important funding application was due at 5pm. It was submitted with 10 minutes to spare, and we got the funding (thank you, Alison).

The founder’s story I have found most inspiring so far was Eric Risser of Artomatix. I immensely enjoyed his reverse-American-Dream story of coming to Ireland to study, and founding a business here. (I also enjoyed that his presentation consisted mostly of memes.) Artomatix was part of the first LaunchBox cohort in 2013, and it was reassuring and inspiring to hear a success story from life after LaunchBox 

LaunchBox during Covid-19 has been an excellent experience for me personally. I’m certainly disappointed to have missed out on the shared co-working space and massive whiteboards that previous cohorts had access to, and it’s tough to maintain team cohesion and division of labour remotely. But there are benefits: flexible hours, and my 10-second daily commute (bed to couch). Without LaunchBox, FiltraCycle could not have so much success this summer, and I am immensely glad it went ahead remotely rather than cancelling entirely.

FiltraCycle’s focus for the next two weeks (and the next two months) is our upcoming recycling pilot. We plan to recycle 1m cigarette butts into plastic this September. This has been incredibly stressful, as it turns out that assembling a small factory during a pandemic is actually quite complicated.

Lauren O’Reilly, co-founder of ProMotion, Pharmacy student

auburn-haired woman smiling.

“We will be making our initial prototypes ourselves, to prove the concept”

Whilst Covid-19 may not be the ideal LaunchBox experience, it has been the ideal scenario for me, personally, during COVID19. Every day I am grateful that the programme could go ahead, that we are being supported, and that ProMotion has an amazing mentor, Joe Dalton, who continues to show up for us through these strange times.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to ask some of the most amazing entrepreneurs about their start-up journey, from the comfort of my home, and they have all been so candid, honest, and willing to help. I was particularly inspired by the story Iseult Ward shared with us of her start-up journey with FoodCloud. She shared everything from making her first big phone calls with major potential customers, to her strategy for hiring, and spent time really answering the questions the cohort had for her, including my own.

We have had some challenges along the way, such as being quoted extortionate prices for prototypes, but luckily, we quickly found a cost-effective solution. We will be making our initial prototypes ourselves, to prove the concept. Then it will be time to refine the design of the ad space, scale-up and get them manufactured and sent to our wonderful cyclists for our first official campaigns. 

My co-founder, Bidemi, and I tend to set bi-weekly goals, so our focus for the next two weeks is to organise everything for our beta trial, which we will be sharing across our social media if you want to follow along the journey with us (@promotioncycle)!

David Weitbrecht, co-founder of Rezero, Creative Thinking & Entrepreneurship graduate

dark-haired man in white shirt.

“Over the next two weeks, aside from the usual paperwork overheads, we will be creating our week by week launch plan and will begin to execute it”

Welcome back – another week, another blog. I’ve been finding LaunchBox a great motivator during the COVID period. It adds structure to my days, keeps me setting weekly goals and ensures I’m continuously learning. As the billionaire Warren Buffet once said “the more you learn, the more you earn”. What’s lacking is the social aspect; the coffee chats and getting a quick piece of advice from the cohort, but needs must, given our current situation.

One of the founder stories I return to often for inspiration is probably not so well known – it’s the founder story of Samuel Zemurray. The book “The Fish That Ate the Whale” depicts Zemurray’s journey from penniless man to self-made banana mogul by working his way up from being a roadside fruit peddler to conquering the United Fruit Company. In one memorable part of the book, Zemurray is competing against another fruit company to purchase a plot of land. There’s confusion over who owned the land with two individuals claiming ownership. While the competing fruit company was busy trying to find out who actually owned the land, Zemurray went and paid both individuals thereby securing the land and moving a step ahead of his competitor. Zemurry had created a new option leading to an optimal outcome. This “option creation” is inspiring and is something we could all do more of.

Over the next two weeks, aside from the usual paperwork overheads, we will be creating our week by week launch plan and will begin to execute it. This will cover elements of marketing, branding, operations, service blueprints and partner communications and will act as our guide for the coming months – exciting times ahead!

Published: 5 August, 2020