Diary of a student entrepreneur 2020, part 6

This summer 10 start-ups from Trinity are taking part in the LaunchBox accelerator programme. In this sixth episode the entrepreneurs talk about finalising their pitches ahead of demo day.

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.

LaunchBox Demo Day is on Friday 4 September at 12pm. You can sign up to this online event here: https://lbox20demoday.eventbrite.ie

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

auburn-haired woman smiling.

“As I take the next steps in my journey, I’ll remember that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel; chances are someone has been there before you, so if you need help, just ask, and always listen more than you talk”

Before starting LaunchBox, whenever I saw an article state: ‘X startup raised X million euro/dollars’, I had the impression that that startup was very successful. As I have learned from people who have raised rounds of funding, whilst this is good validation, funding does not equal success. I also learned from other founders that it is possible to create a very successful business by bootstrapping, and without raising funding at all, if your business model permits it.

From a young age, I always thought you needed lots of experience to build a business, but you can outsource experience until you have some yourself. While I am at a relatively early stage of my career, the experience I have gotten in such a short space of time, focussing solely on the business, has been amazing. Thankfully we have great mentors with amazing experience to point us in the right direction.

Demo Day being online will definitely be different to the pitching experience I had when competing for a place on LaunchBox, and I am excited for it. We have just finished the final version of our pitch, and I can’t wait to share ProMotion’s work to date, from starting with an idea in January 2020, to having our first advertising campaigns launching in September, and so many cyclists signed up already to be rewarded for cycling. We will grow ProMotion in Dublin, and then expand across Ireland, before exporting this model across Europe.

As I take the next steps in my journey, I’ll remember that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel; chances are someone has been there before you, so if you need help, just ask, and always listen more than you talk.

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

dark-haired man in white shirt.

“We are in the final planning stages of our upcoming pilot. Over the coming months you’ll find our reusable containers in a range of well-known food outlets around Dublin”

It’s mixed emotions for us today: we’re grateful to have been part of LaunchBox 2020 and for all the progress we’ve made but we’re sad that the programme is coming to a close. The programme has been great for mentor and peer feedback and for challenging some of our previous assumptions and beliefs. I think the best lesson I learned was to continuously test my assumptions and get customer feedback and validation. We will be carrying this lesson forward to ensure we’re listening to both Rezero customers and users so we can best deliver a service which meets and exceeds their expectations.

As the programme ends, we are excited for Demo Day. We’ve had plenty of pitch practice, training and feedback throughout LaunchBox so we’re feeling confident and prepared. There are so many great teams in the programme and we’re humbled to be part of this year’s cohort. I think so much has been achieved collectively and we look forward to sharing the stage with the cohort while celebrating everyone’s progress and success.

We are using this time to reflect on everything that’s been achieved the past few months while planning our next steps. We are in the final planning stages of our upcoming pilot. Over the coming months you’ll find our reusable containers in a range of well-known food outlets around Dublin. This is a very exciting time for us and we can’t wait for you to try them! Following our pilot, we will onboard more outlets while longer term we will explore our funding options and how we can further accelerate our growth.

There are two other people deserving of recognition who often go unnoticed: Alison Treacy and Cillian Sugrue who have coordinated this fully virtual programme over the summer. In record time, they seamlessly transitioned the programme online, have built a sense of community and kept us all working hard and on track. On behalf of this year’s cohort I would like to sincerely thank them for their immense work in coordinating the programme; Thank you.

Liam Lysaght, co-founder FiltraCycle, Engineering student

Red-haired man in white shirt and patterned tie.

“I initially believed that the hardest part of business is getting started, and that once you are established, it’s smooth sailing. This is not correct – it only gets harder as your business grows”

Demo Day is fast approaching, and LaunchBox is almost over. The next step for FiltraCycle is to recycle 1m cigarette butts into plastic during our upcoming industrial pilot. 

Before the start of the LaunchBox programme, I thought I knew how difficult it would be to build a small factory. I did not. It’s actually really hard. Not only were the technical challenges worse than I anticipated, I did not fully appreciate the responsibility of managing the safety of our team in an industrial setting. Although I am proud to be one of a small handful of start-ups manufacturing in Ireland, I am sometimes jealous of software startups whose worst fear is a privacy breach. The stakes when dealing with heavy machinery are much higher.

I initially believed that the hardest part of business is getting started, and that once you are established, it’s smooth sailing. This is not correct – it only gets harder as your business grows. Luckily, you keep growing too, and so far at FiltraCycle, our team has managed to outgrow our challenges. 

Under non-Covid circumstances, I would be tremendously enthusiastic to pitch on Demo Day, as I enjoy public speaking. With an online event, the spectre of technical difficulties outside my control makes me nervous.

Before LaunchBox, FiltraCycle wasn’t a business. We had test results and an idea. LaunchBox hasn’t been a series of lessons for us, so much as a full education on how to turn our idea into an actual business. That education will carry us forward as we scale up and tackle the world’s cigarette waste problem, one cigarette butt at a time.  

LaunchBox Demo Day is on Friday 4 September at 12pm. You can sign up to this online event here: https://lbox20demoday.eventbrite.ie

Published: 31 August, 2020