Diary of a student entrepreneur 2020, part 1

This summer 10 student start-ups from Trinity are taking part in the LaunchBox accelerator programme.

This is the eighth year of LaunchBox, but the first year that the programme is running online due to Covid-19. Follow these students on their entrepreneurial journey here.

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 startup ventures.

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

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

auburn-haired woman smiling.

“Delving headfirst into entrepreneurship during an uncertain time like this has taught me the fundamentals of what makes a ‘successful’ business”

I applied to LaunchBox because I’d always envisioned myself being an entrepreneur, without any clarity as to how I’d get there, who could help me, or what my journey would look like. LaunchBox is the ideal place to begin! I believe entrepreneurship is the best way to make, and lead, impactful change in the world. Our startup, ProMotion, will change the way brands interact with consumers, while encouraging a healthier, more eco-friendly lifestyle through cycling.

I didn’t study business and participating in a programme as incredible as LaunchBox is like a hands-on degree in business and entrepreneurship, with the added benefit of connecting with other creative people in startups, as well as accomplished mentors. For example, one of the speakers I’m really excited to hear from is Claire McHugh, CEO and Founder of Axonista, who, as a successful female entrepreneur, is a role model for me. 

College education teaches you to work independently, however, working on your own start-up is another level of independence. With all areas of the business to address, the most challenging aspect can be deciding where your energy is best focused. I have learned that it is not enough to just be efficient, you also have to be effective in each task you commit yourself to.

Delving headfirst into entrepreneurship during an uncertain time like this, has taught me the fundamentals of what makes a “successful” business. I have observed that those who are able to pivot, adapt, or even use challenges to propel their business, are the ones that come out of any crisis the strongest. I’m looking forward to where it takes me.

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

dark-haired man in white shirt.

“While it is disheartening to see an influx of disposable packaging in use, it acts as a motivator to bring our solution to market faster with potential to create a larger positive impact than expected”

I’m David Weitbrecht from Rezero. Our start-up eliminates single-use takeaway food packaging through a deposit-return system. Place your order, pay a deposit on the container, enjoy and return to the Rezero network for a refill or deposit refund.

The worrying news is that most startups fail. The good news is there are a range of supports and accelerators to help and guide you along your startup journey to increase your chance of success. This is exactly what LaunchBox provides and was our reason for applying. The intangible supports appealed most to me; the mentors assigned, and joining the LaunchBox network while being part of an open and safe learning environment.

One of the biggest challenges I faced was being pulled in multiple directions at once by a host of differing opinions and advice all while trying to stay on top of an ever-growing to-do list. It can be hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. I found that sticking to a small group of trusted individuals each with their own area of expertise worked best, enabling me to see the forest from the trees.

Covid-19 has resulted in a proliferation of single-use packaging. Many food outlets have transitioned their business placing further focus on takeaway and delivery. While it is disheartening to see an influx of disposable packaging in use, it acts as a motivator to bring our solution to market faster with potential to create a larger positive impact than expected.

As an environmental initiative we are up against the challenge of creating positive behaviour change. It is a challenge that we, with LaunchBox’s help, believe we can accomplish, helping us achieve our vision of enabling sustainable consumption and eliminating single use takeaway packaging. To those considering applying to LaunchBox: it’s a no brainer, apply!

Liam Lysaght, co-founder FiltraCycle, Engineering student

Red-haired man in white shirt and patterned tie.

“I can’t wait to become the shining example of what to do wrong, and how to succeed anyway”

I’m Liam, founder and CEO of FiltraCycle. Cigarette butts are the most common item of litter on the planet, and one of the most toxic forms of ocean plastic. FiltraCycle recycles cigarette butts into plastic for the manufacturing of consumer products. 

In February 2020, my co-founder Marc and I applied for the Trinity LaunchBox programme. The mentorship, the networking, the chance to be a part of a growing community of self-driven entrepreneurs; all would have been excellent reasons to apply for LaunchBox. FiltraCycle applied to LaunchBox for something else: the Trinity Chemistry Labs. 

The challenges of running any start-up are considerable. Constant rejection by customers and investors, equity squabbles, and an ocean of emails, all on too little sleep and no pay. Dealing with all that while operating a small recycling facility in my parents’ garden was one nightmare too far.

LaunchBox was going to be our ticket out of the cold (literally) and into a proper lab. Unfortunately, February 2020 won’t be remembered as the month when FiltraCycle got into LaunchBox, but rather as the point when the COVID19 pandemic spun out of control.

The lockdown has been a double-edged sword for FiltraCycle. On the one hand, it cost us our lab access. On the other hand, Zoom allowed me to attend branding lectures on the morning of my summer exams, and bounce between events that would normally have taken place on opposite sides of the country.

Despite Covid-19 challenges, LaunchBox is providing a fantastic crash course in startup creation. I’m particularly looking forward to an upcoming talk by Iseult Ward, CEO and cofounder of FoodCloud. FoodCloud has been held up for us as the shining example of what to do right. I can’t wait to become the shining example of what to do wrong, and how to succeed anyway.