SocialStorm 2015 was a 24 hour event that took place in 14 Universities across Europe connecting 167 students in global teams that were asked to create solutions for some of the most challenging problems we face today as society described by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
For those that might not be aware, a ‘hackathon’ is a way to develop a product or service in 24 hours (or longer) starting from problem analysis towards idea generation, selection and implementation. The result has to be based on a sound business case and involves primary and secondary market research, marketing strategy and pretty much everything a business strategy must include. Manchester Enterprise Centre (MEC) from the world-renowned University of Manchester gave 14 students the chance to be part of the event at the Barclays RISE Escalator on Deansgate in Manchester on Friday 20th to Saturday 21st November with support from Tech North. MEC is an active hub cultivating student entrepreneurship and the only faculty that is University wide accepting students from any background. As the event organiser I had 3 objectives: 1) find those students that would be motivated enough to be there for 24 hours no matter of their background 2) deliver a great experience for these people so that they consider entrepreneurship as a great career opportunity 3) get one of our teams in the top 3 teams of the event. I’m very happy to say that we succeeded all three objectives! I went through a selection process of the students to identify those that had the greatest motivation and indeed none of them went home on Friday night. On top of that our ‘Team Rainbow’ won the third place among 25 teams for their idea FundWatt! (All 3 teams are now considering entering the University of Manchester’s Venture Further business startup competition).
Here’s what happened…
The event focused in creating a social business idea focusing on three of the seventeen Social Development Goals (SDGs): Diversity in Technology, Internet Access and Renewable Energies.
After the first 12 hours, close to 4am students started pitching to each other. Trying to describe your idea to someone that has never heard of it is a good way of helping you understand where you need to focus.
11am – students have finished their pitching videos and after playing them back to each other slowly start to head off as judging is going to take more than 5 hours. The results have been announced some hours later and… drumrolls!
Congratulations to our Team Rainbow who won the 3rd place in the global competition with their FundWatt idea (below) which looks to deliver renewable energy to those in need by facilitating crowdfunding – way to go!
I need to say a big thank you to the stakeholders involved. The Department of Entrepreneurship, Manchester Enterprise Centre (MEC) for their trust and for giving me the chance to organise and run the event. It was also a great pleasure to have Tech North helping us provide a great experience to the students and Dotforge Impact who let us use their space at RISE for the event (although they are currently very busy preparing for their own demo day and launching the new Dotforge Health + Data accelerator in Leeds).
Personally the best moment and reward was when all of the 12 students turned back to me as they were leaving to say ‘thank you George!’ after having a fun and rewarding entrepreneurial experience. In return I’d like to thank all of them for their commitment and to ask them to always remember that it’s only by doing things out of our comfort zone we can gain unique experiences like this one.
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