The European Confederation of Junior Enterprises – Inspiring the next generation of business leaders
What does it take to be an entrepreneur? At what age and how do entrepreneurs develop? Where can we learn more about the inspirational entrepreneurs of the future? Today Promoting Enterprise has the honour to present the success stories booklet from JADE, the European Confederation of Junior Enterprises, which aims to inspire the next generation of business leaders.
“For JADE, entrepreneurship refers to an individual ability to turn ideas into actions. Entrepreneurial competences must therefore include transversal skills and attitudes, as well as more specialised knowledge and business skills. In a broad sense, entrepreneurship should be considered as a mind-set that supports everyone in daily life at home and in society. In order to inspire entrepreneurship, we have to look closer at role-models, and learn from them. This is what Success Stories is about and this is why we have interviewed 13 former Junior Entrepreneurs about their experience within the Junior Enterprise network and how it helped them to start their own business or develop their entrepreneurial path.
Our mission here at JADE, is to encourage entrepreneurship in Europe by fostering a unique concept: the Junior Enterprise, a non-profit civil social organisation, formed and managed exclusively by undergraduate and postgraduate students of higher education. They provide services for companies, institutions and society, under the guidance of teachers and professionals with the goal of consolidating and enhancing the learning of their members. Junior Enterprises are similar to real companies, with components such as corporate governance (e.g. management council and executive board), and self-regulation.
By integrating a network of 280 Junior Enterprises in 14 European countries and supporting the growth of its 22,000 members, JADE is one of the most powerful European youth organisations that fights skills mismatch and creates great potential for a more entrepreneurial society and active citizenship. Outside Europe, Junior Enterprises are present in around 40 countries, with over 40,000 Junior Entrepreneurs across the world.
Interested in what we do? Dive in, and meet former junior entrepreneurs that turned what they learnt in their Junior Enterprise into a successful career!”
For more information: www.jadenet.org
Cécile Real is the president and founder of Endodiag, a company she set up in 2011 to develop new diagnostic tools for endometriosis, a disease that affects approximately 10% of all women of childbearing age. In a series of blog posts over the next few weeks, Cécile will tell us about her experience in setting up her business.
I was lucky to start my first company at the age of 25. I use the word ‘lucky’ because, despite the fact that it is very challenging, being an entrepreneur is a very exciting and fulfilling occupation or, should I say, way of life. You think about it 24/7, but it gives you the opportunity to meet incredible people along the way and achieve things you never imagined you would.
When I told my father that I wanted to start my own company, he had an unexpected reaction, saying: “fine, fine, but don’t stop looking for a real job”. Hopefully when I called him back few weeks later to tell him that I had decided to launch my first company, he realised I was serious about doing it and he became my N°1 supporter. Without knowing it, that was probably the first key lesson I learnt.
Trust your instinct! You have to have the confidence to go ahead and do it! There is more than one way to be successful and you have to make your own way. Just because some people do things differently to you, it doesn’t mean that they are right and you are wrong. I do feel that sometimes women have a lack of confidence in themselves. Some people will agree with you and some won’t, but that’s not a good enough reason for you not to do it. Be smart, listen to others, and then make your own decision and strategy.
As a biomedical engineer I have always wanted to work on projects that address health issues. So my first company was developing new biomaterials for patients suffering from arthritis. After eight years of successful development, we were bought by a large orthopaedics company. I learnt a lot but I wanted to see other ideas, projects, and organisations, so I decided to help others to start or develop their companies. However, after two years of this, I was definitively missing being an entrepreneur and I wanted to find a new project that could have a strong social impact. That opportunity presented itself when I learnt about endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a chronic and disabling gynaecological disease affecting 180 million women worldwide, as many as suffer from diabetes. It involves tissue that normally grows inside the uterus growing outside it and invading other organs (ovary, bladder, colon…). It is associated with a variety of symptoms, particularly severe and unbearable pelvic pain and infertility (50%).
The only reliable diagnosis of endometriosis is through invasive surgery. On average, this surgery is performed nine years after the onset of the disease. Nine years of not knowing the cause of your pain and the associated emotional distress has a tremendous impact on a person’s social, personal and professional life. Even after surgical intervention the recurrence rate is very high (approximately 50% after two years) and endometriosis patients will have an average of five surgeries during their lifetime. A lot of people think pain during menstruation is normal… but endometriosis actually affects one in ten women.
Driven by a desire to provide healthcare professionals and patients with a better understanding of the illness and better diagnosis tools, we set up Endodiag in 2011…
Cécile REAL and Helene BENY, 1st employee of the company @Endodiag Lab
Brian D. Jones is the author of the bestseller, “Over 50? Start Your Business! Build Wealth. Control Your Destiny. Leave A Legacy.” In an interview with JumpStart Magazine, he talks about his three foundations for success and sets out five steps for the mature entrepreneur to follow in setting up a business.
What do Estée Lauder, Ferdinand Porsche, and Kawasaki Shozo have in common? They were each over 50 when they started the global business named for them. In fact, founders over 50 are the fastest growing segment of new company founders. And surveys have also shown that companies with founders over 50 enjoy a higher success rate.
A combination of factors, including the Connected Economy and falling business development costs, make it possible for anyone to create their dream business. This opportunity is especially important for those over 50. Increased longevity, retirement worries, and an uncertain future for older workers all combine to spur those over 50 to create their dream business. The question is how to get started.
The three Foundations for Success
Mindset: Business success over 50 requires a new mindset. Most important is that a Success Mindset is a mindset of service.
Health: You must make health a priority to have business success at any age, but especially when over 50.
Habits: New research has debunked the old saying that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Positive habits can be developed at any age. It just takes hard work and consistency.
The five Steps to Starting Your Business
With mindset, health, and habits in place as a foundation, success in starting a business over 50 can be achieved by taking the following five steps.
It’s no longer either a choice between following your dreams or pursuing other opportunities. Your dreams can be your opportunity. Brainstorm first to cast a wide net of possibilities. Then narrow it down to the best few. Evaluate these to find the business that’s perfect for you.
Step 2: Meet Your Customer
A successful business is a business that best serves its customers. This process starts by identifying your ideal customer. Develop a customer avatar. Understand and articulate everything you can about your potential customer. Then you will be in a perfect position to serve that customer.
Step 3: How You Will Serve
Businesses in the past would create what they considered great products and services, and then hope customers would buy. Today things are different. Listen to customers. Interact with customers. Let them tell you what they want and need. Don’t guess. Give them what they want.
Step 4: Critical Issues to Consider
There are only so many hours in the day. How do you decide where to focus? You must keep your fingers on the pulse of every issue that faces the customer. The lessons learned make this too valuable to outsource. Any issue that doesn’t face the customer is a candidate for outsourcing.
Step 5: Your 90-Day Action Plan
Bring your business to life by creating and implementing your first 90-day action plan. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Your plan needs to include a series of SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely. Make sure your goals also include building positive habits, especially in the areas of mindset and health.
For more information: http://www.thematurentrepreneur.com
In his previous posts, Gerhard Dust talked about what motivated him to set up his business and discussed the personal challenges he has encountered and the issues his company has had to deal with as his business developed. In this, his final blog post, Gerhard talks about the human desire to leave a lasting legacy, and gives us his six golden rules of entrepreneurship.
This is my last blog for the time being and, frankly, I would have liked to talk more about PolyCare. How environmentally friendly our invention is; how we are able to finish houses in a few days; how it can be made using only desert sand; and how inexpensive this solution is. Of course you can still find all of this information on our website or on YouTube.
But today I want to talk about entrepreneurship and what an entrepreneur actually is. You see, I have often been asked a very direct question that goes something like this….
“Gerhard, at your age and time of life, why did you start this business?”
Some might find this quite rude, but actually it lies at the heart of what inventors and entrepreneurs are about. The simple answer is that every person dreams of doing and creating something that will stand the test of time – something great that will outlast them and benefit mankind.
Doesn’t every person with even a gram of compassion carry a dual responsibility: on the one hand towards his fellow human beings and, on the other, towards the generations to come? My partners and I founded PolyCare because we recognised that affordable housing world-wide is no longer achievable for more than a billion people through the use of traditional building technologies. We might be of retirement age, but that doesn’t mean we have lost the ability to dream and to wish for a better world. A world where an ordinary person can build their own home; where the money needed to do this doesn’t leak away into the coffers of the multinationals; and where a home is more than a shabby tent made of plastic.
Sometimes we joke and say that we are like the elderly people in the blockbuster RED. Our definition of RED is slightly different: Retired, Experienced and Dedicated. I admit that we are proud that our solution has been described as one of the most important inventions of recent times and that it could provide millions of people with quick and inexpensive housing worth living in. So far, for us this has meant endless work, many sleepless nights and often-severe worries about money, technical solutions and bureaucratic hurdles.
But we do not regret any of it. Many believe that we have transformed a good idea into reality and we have gained many supporters and friends in the process. So we are proud of what we have achieved so far, but there is still much to do.
You see, being an entrepreneur can often be its own reward and this is especially true when it is also economically successful. But an entrepreneur does not have to become rich to be happy. If we provide the means to make the world just a little bit better, then that will be reward enough. These old REDs will be able to approach the ultimate finishing line knowing that they have made a difference. What could be more motivational than that?
The last six years with PolyCare has certainly taught me some golden rules. These are my golden rules for entrepreneurship:
- Fairness – always treat employees and business partners how you would like to be treated. Friends are more valuable than enemies.
- Dreams – everyone has the right to change the world. Be brave and set yourself goals that are as big as your confidence will allow, but make sure that you are practical about what is achievable.
- Planning – don’t leave things to chance. Plan your steps carefully, review them constantly and always have a plan B.
- Develop the team and yourself – look beyond your horizons and learn from others. Invest time in networking. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on the best people you can find.
- Commercialise – the best invention is useless unless you can sell it. Everything revolves around the benefits to your customers. Make sure it provides benefits for them.
- Team – if you need staff, get the best people, share your vision with them and continually motivate them.
I wish you all success on your entrepreneurial path. Follow your dreams with courage and confidence and don´t be put off by small setbacks.
And finally…..believe in yourself.
I am grateful that you have read my blog and I am grateful for the interest that you have shown in our solution. Now this technology must reach the people in need. I ask you with all my heart for your support… please spread the word about this invention to the world. Tell your friends via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail. Let UNHCR and others know that there is a cheaper more practical and ethical alternative to the use of containers in the desert for refugees and for worldwide affordable housing.
Your words might just fall on the ears of the right person at the right time, and that could change the lives of millions.
Best of luck to you all.
To read more about Polycare :
In his previous posts  , Gerhard Dust outlined the events that led him to his current career path and described some of the challenges he has encountered as his new business develops. In this third blog post, Gerhard deals with some of the main questions that his new technology has raised and explains some of the concepts involved.
In my previous blogs I have tried to convey the huge advantages that the PolyCare system offers when building structures of up to three or four stories. However, some of the responses I have received recently have led me to understand that some of you are still struggling to accept that much of this is actually possible. How can you have a building with no real foundations, and how is it possible to build with blocks that are not cemented together? What’s more, doesn’t capillary attraction mean you still get rising damp, and can completely unskilled people really do all the building work?
These and many more questions have been continually raised and, if you think about it, with good reason. For over 2000 years there has been a standard way of building and we all understand it fairly well. The problem is that when something totally new arrives our immediate reaction is to compare it to what we know and the standards we are familiar with. Unfortunately this doesn’t always give us a clear picture.
Below I explain the building process with pictures taken on-site when my colleague Ramon Gray constructed a small Quality Control building for TATA in New Delhi, India.
The start of a PolyCare build requires a flat, level base of wet sand. This is usually accomplished by making a small 150-200mm channel in the ground, filling it with sand and then levelling it carefully. In this first picture (left) this wasn’t possible as the construction was being carried out on an uneven concrete base. However, the building system is simple and it can be adapted to practically any situation. Here, instead of making a channel, our team used some waste materials (the granite strip on the left and the steel box section on the right) to form a flat and level frame for the wet sand base.
The picture on the right shows the start of the build itself. On the right you can see that base lates have been simply laid on the sand base and bolted together with small steel plates. These continue around the building and form the base level.
Steel connecting rods are then screwed into the bases and these run right through the blocks, once they are laid on top, and connect to a similar set of plates at the top of the building. Once the connecting rods are in place work can start on laying the blocks.
The laying of the blocks continues with the blocks being placed over the rods and with the rods themselves being extended using simple screw thread connectors. Gaps are left for windows, doors etc. When the blocks reach the top of the building the top plates are added and the rods are bolted to them, giving the whole structure immense strength.
There is no sticking, gluing or anything else involved; the blocks are simply laid on top of each other. This is why our system has often been called “big boys’ LEGO” – for obvious reasons. But I’m not sure that this is an accurate description… the LEGO most ten year olds do is much more complicated!
So let me explain some of the concepts.
In this system no foundation is generally used (see note) as the structure itself is many times stronger and more resistant to bending forces than a brick or cement concrete wall. This is due to a combination of the huge strength of the polymer concrete as well as the way that the blocks lock together. This strength is further enhanced by the tie bar system that produces a very strong box-like structure. But there are further considerations. This structure is completely resistant to water, so foundation frost and capillary attraction occurs without any consequence. The wet sand technique is a copy of the system the Egyptians used to build the pyramids. While it may seem somewhat crude and primitive, no one can say that it hasn’t stood the test of time.
So, lastly, let me provide some assurances for anyone looking at this system for the first time. The Bauhaus University is one of the most respected institutions worldwide for architecture, design and materials testing. They have been working with PolyCare now for over four years, testing and officially certifying practically every aspect of what we do. They are so confident in our system of building that one of their professors recently assisted PolyCare in presenting and discussing its merits at an international exhibition. The efficacy of the system is therefore not in doubt and it is currently undergoing full building type approval in Germany.
[Note: PolyCare fully understands that, in some circumstances, extremely weak or unstable soils will need some level of foundation, whether strip or corner piles, etc. Site testing will determine where this is necessary.]
Learn more about Polycare
Previous EEPA blog post on Polycare:
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and this is particularly true when seeking investment to grow your business. In this guest post, venture capitalist, Dr David Demetrius, sets out how to write a plan that will grab the attention, and the investment, of a potential backer.
Why do so many promising ventures never get the capital they need? In the vast majority of cases, it is due to the business plan not having made a good enough case for investment. So what does a good business plan entail? Here is what I would be looking for.
It should start with an executive summary, preferably of a single page, but certainly not more than two. This summary needs to grab the potential investor’s attention in the first five lines. Don’t start with background waffle. Make it immediately clear what the products or services of the business are, or are planned to be. Make the executive summary exactly that: a summary of the whole document including highlights of the market opportunity and the team and ending with a clear statement of what you are looking for and what you are offering in return. For example, “We are seeking an investment of 100.000 Euros in return for a 30% share of the company”.
After the executive summary, you can go into more detail on the venture. Excluding appendices, this should run to about 15 to 20 pages. You need to describe the products or services in some detail, but try not to get bogged down in technical jargon which at best will bore the investor and at worst will totally put him off. Of more importance is to show clearly what the market opportunity is and what competition exists or could appear in the near future.
You also need to give profiles of the team, their skills and their experience, and indicate what finances they are themselves investing in the venture. Be honest and point out what gaps there are in the team’s background and skills. Hopefully the investor will be able to help fill these gaps.
What investors will be very interested in is what they are likely to see as a return on their investment. For that you need to have detailed financial projections. However, there is no point in burying 30 pages of financial spreadsheets into the main body of the document. By all means have lots of detailed tables as an appendix, but in the main body simply have a page or two showing the key performance indicators (KPIs), such as graphs of projected cashflow, profitability and revenue growth. Then make it easy for the investors to find the detailed backup to this information, If they so wish, by guiding them to the relevant pages in the appendix.
It is also important that the summary pages on financials includes some “What if?” analysis (preferably displayed graphically). For example, it can be very reassuring to investors if they can see that, even if actual revenues achieved are only 80% of your projections, the company will nevertheless not run out of cash. This should not be achieved by simply asking for an overly high injection of funds, but rather by indicating savings in expenditure such as administration costs that would be made in the event of lower sales. Similarly show the optimistic growth figures for the venture if revenues significantly exceed your projections.
How far ahead should you forecast? In most cases, I would recommend three years with monthly figures, but in some industries a five-year forecast can be realistic. (In the oil industry, even 25 year plans are common). Basically you should only project revenue and costs as far forward as you can reasonably see. Don’t simply take ‘month 1’ and add x% per month to it for 36 months ahead. Any potential investor will realise that you have no real idea what is going to happen. Think it through carefully. For example, will there be months of the year when revenue will be lower due to holiday periods?
I am not saying that following my advice in this post will definitely get you the investment you seek, but I am fairly confident that ignoring these pointers will not improve your chances!
David Demetrius is the founder and President of Emadin and specialises in working with companies to achieve strategic growth. He has over 25 years experience in management of and consultancy to companies (from SMEs to large multinationals) throughout Europe, the United States, Middle East, Australia and Asia. With a colleague, he founded a group of companies specialising in management support and consultancy services for complex or large programmes and projects, building it to annual sales of over $ 100 million with approximately 500 professional staff by the time he sold his shareholding in the group.
In his previous blog post, Gerhard Dust described how an international humanitarian crisis caused him to re-evaluate his retirement plans and led him down a completely new career path. In this second post, Gerhard tells us about some of the issues his company encounters as his business develops.
You will have seen from my previous blog the huge advantages that our construction system can bring, and these were naturally of significant interest to our visitors from China. The Chinese delegation was keen to see if it would be possible to use waste residue from a gold mine as the main filler constituent in our polymer concrete and if the end product conformed to Chinese building standards. We demonstrated that not only could we use this waste material but that the resultant PolyCare polymer concrete was anything from 6 to 10 times stronger than required by their standard. This advantage was further enhanced when they discovered that just 1m3 of this material actually makes 3 to 4m3 of walling. Consequently, we have made significant progress with this important Chinese company and their delegation left acknowledging that our process could make a major contribution to meeting Chinese housing needs.
Working on the world stage with a breakthrough technology like ours doesn’t always attract such commercially aware and serious-minded approaches as that of the Chinese delegation. It can be frustrating at times, and sometimes quite amusing. Practically every week we are approached by individuals who claim to be close to, or related to, or a friend of, a king or queen, the president, the minister, etc. etc. In circumstances like these, naivety soon gives way to experience and the realisation that often these people only know someone who operates the lift in a building where someone else who works for the government lives. The bottom line is always that either they want something for nothing, or a payment in order to “oil the wheels.” On occasions, of course, our contacts are genuine, but there are also frustrations in what we do. This is almost an intrinsic part of the process. When you have something new, and especially when it is a disruptive technology, files seem to get left gathering dust on desks far too often.
For us, though, the world has so many bright imaginative people who are able to look to the future and can see what is needed. In July, I was invited to the Biennale Architettura 2016 in Venice. This is a biennial meeting of architects from across the world. In his keynote speech, the Director of the Biennale Alejandro Aravena described the current world situation in terms of the Urban Age. This term is used because the current generation will build more cities than all previous generations combined. By 2050, 70% of the entire world’s population will live in cities and globally there is a desperate need for housing. Alejandro quoted some startling figures from the US government, estimating that the world needs to build 1,000,000 houses a week at a cost of less than $10,000 (EUR 8,900) each and this needs to be achieved to prevent a further global security threat. In this regard Alejandro’s opinion was insightful, and possibly goes to the core of what it is that PolyCare is trying to achieve. He said that this rate of building could only be achieved by adopting new technologies that use new materials and new building methods.
This, of course, is where we at PolyCare started six years ago. At that time we were only looking at disaster reconstruction, but the same analysis was true for that situation as it is for global housing. We needed a new technology for slum development and to build low-cost refugee housing, which is precisely why we developed the PolyCare system.
We continue to work to improve the lives of the millions of people who are currently either homeless or living in wretched conditions and continue to work towards achieving the ambitious targets outlined by the US government and described by Alejandro Aravena.
To see more about PolyCare and our revolutionary building technique go to: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hg3qujz7jj9ss1h/VTS_04_1.VOB?dl=0
This month our EiR is PolyCare CEO Gerhard Dust. Following a successful career in business, Gerhard was looking at a life of cosy retirement. However, things were to take an unexpected turn. A humanitarian crisis forced him to re-evaluate his position, with major consequences for his future. In this blog post, Gerhard tells us about his motivation, his experience and what it was that led him on his current path.
This morning I am driving from my home in Gummersbach to Gehlberg in the German Thuringian Forest. It’s 350 km and a minimum three-hour drive. It’s quite tiring but I have been doing this each week, sometimes twice a week, for 6 years. Today, we are meeting a delegation from China that is interested in our breakthrough technology for building houses. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Gerhard Dust, the Managing Director of PolyCare Research Technology GmbH. We have invented a new way of building that uses essentially waste materials and unskilled labour to make houses and other structures. But inventing something radically new, something that has even won international acclaim doesn’t automatically mean success. Success ultimately relies on being able to enter the market and having the market accept what you do. So today’s meeting with the Chinese delegation is another critical step on the long road often faced by inventors and developers.
For us at PolyCare, and for me personally, this all started six and a half years earlier. It was another bright and sunny day in Florida. The most difficult decision I had to face that day was whether to play another round of golf, go for a swim, or just walk the dog. Life in retirement looked so good then – I had previously stepped down as the General Manager of Europe’s largest book wholesaler business.
But not too far away from where I was at the time, people’s experience of this day would be totally different. There, Mother Nature would lift her head and wreak havoc for millions. By the end of that day, more than 100,000 people would die and millions would lose their homes, their jobs and many – their loved ones. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this would also be a turning point in my life. From then on I would also be inextricably linked to that disaster. Haiti and its consequences had set me on a different course.
In the weeks following that terrible tragedy I had a constant feeling of futility. I had little to offer. Moreover, it seemed that the entire international community could not do much better. Relief in these circumstances relies on food, water, medicines and a tent, if you are lucky. But for me, rebuilding lives, rebuilding families and communities means so much more. It must involve building proper homes, homes that can stand the worst of the weather, and building them quickly. Having all those people sitting around with no work and nothing to do was such a waste of talent and positive energy. And that’s when I started to think…
Why do we continue to use a building process very similar to that used by the Romans two thousand years ago? Why can’t we bring modern technology to building and do something different? What if we could make super concrete from local materials and use it to make components for houses that fit together like LEGO? Wouldn’t that enable the ‘unskilled’ survivors to build their own houses? Can’t we all build with LEGO? If we could, wouldn’t that massively improve the building speed? At the very least this would provide just a chance of motivating and stimulating those survivors who had thought that, for them, all hope had gone.
A few months earlier I had a chance meeting with Gunter Plötner, a former builder and developer who told me of his idea to turn ordinary local/desert sand into a super form of concrete. This concrete was much stronger than ordinary concrete and was completely impervious to water and frost and could be set in extremely accurate shapes.
The memory of that meeting, and my determination to do something to help those unable to help themselves, led me to the path I am now on.
The meeting I am driving to will demonstrate just such a building technique. However, it has developed so quickly and to such an extent that it is no longer destined just for disaster relief and reconstruction. With a massive worldwide deficit in housing construction it is just as relevant for ordinary housing in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK as it is in Africa, India, South America etc. It provides super strong, very fast build homes for all markets, together with schools, medical centres etc.
So far the building industry has shown ‘interest’ but not much more. Nevertheless, since becoming a winner at the recent TEDx Binnenhof EU invention competition, the world has started to come to Gehlberg to see what we are doing. The Chinese delegation isn’t the first nor, judging by the enquiries we are receiving, will it be the last.
To see more about PolyCare and our revolutionary building technique go to: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hg3qujz7jj9ss1h/VTS_04_1.VOB?dl=0
2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA). In this new feature, we catch up with former EEPA honourees who’ve gone on to do great things since winning the award.
This week, Fabrizio Barbiero (pictured) from the award-winning City of Torino reflects on the impact of winning an EEPA four years on…
|Organisation||City of Torino|
|Award won||Improving the Business Environment / Red Tape Reduction|
What was it like to win the award?
It was a big surprise, an unexpected recognition.
Tell us about your project?
FaciliTO is a model that the Municipality of Turin adopted to tackle the difficulties that small enterprises encounter in struggling urban areas. Micro and small businesses in Turin have faced particular difficulty in accessing credit, which is due to the absence of project expertise. FaciliTO attempts to meet these needs by providing free consultations to support the development of business plans as well as direct financial support. Over 200 businesses have accessed FaciliTO and 93 of them have received financial support.
How did winning the award immediately impact your work?
Since winning the award, I manage innovation projects and business services for the City of Torino. Recently, we won second prize in the Icapital award in the category of social innovation and social startups.
What response did you receive from your colleagues and peers to receiving an EEPA?
A mix of envy and appreciation!
Why did you decide to enter the national competition?
We wanted to showcase the results of the project and its innovative strategy.
How did you go about preparing your application and making it award winning?
It was the first time we’d entered the project in a competition so I worked alone in order not to create excessive expectations.
What advice would you give to others thinking of entering?
Focus your attention on strategy and results achieved.
To find out more about the City of Torino, visit www.comune.torino.it.
Haris is a 21 year old student in the third year of an Electrical and Software Engineering course at the National Technical University of Athens in Greece. Aged only 17, he won a prize for the best engineering project in the European Union Competition for Young Scientists (EUCYS) and was also one of the five global finalists in his age category in the Google Science Fair 2013. Since starting college he has developed software for Bioassist, a company focusing on applications that help the elderly with health-related issues. In this blog entry, Haris tells us about his work and his plans for the future.
My passion is inventing and combining technologies and approaches in order to solve problems of everyday life. If I see an exciting opportunity to challenge my knowledge, skills and learn something new, the challenge is accepted.
For the past three years, I have participated in the initial stages of development of a research project aiming at assisting the independent living of elderly people. We have founded a company called Bioassist, and developed an application that remotely monitors the vital signs of older people, such as glucose and oxygen levels, blood pressure etc. in their home environment. It can also remind users to take their medication, keep a personalised health record and also lets users communicate with their relatives via video conferencing.
At the same time, over the past couple of months I have co-founded another project aiming at efficient and secure management of online passwords. Our main goal is to resolve this problem by eliminating people’s need to keep track of their passwords for websites. Our solution is a mobile application called Code Pi! We have built a new way for users to access their web accounts using their mobile device as an authentication element. Essentially you connect your phone and computer under the same Wi-Fi and when you try to log in to a website, it automatically fills in your account details for you. It is important to note that maximum security is ensured for all users by securely encrypting and storing all their credentials locally on their phones, and not on our servers.
My course is considered to be one of the most challenging in my university. My modules include programming languages, control systems, high-power electronics and robotics. When I want to relax I prefer working out, by running or going to the gym, rarely reading a book and occasionally going out with friends. All of these things help me to take a break from my everyday work.
Most days, after class, I have to attend meetings at Bioassist and Code Pi or at some of my other ventures. Combining studies and work is very fascinating, because you are given the chance to apply your theoretical knowledge in practice. For example, I might have learned an algorithm during my morning class and then I have to apply it into one of my projects. However, most times it happens that I have to use an algorithm that I don’t know yet and so I need to research it. Usually I will come across this algorithm 1-2 years later in one of my classes.
What are the pros and cons of running your own business? What challenges do you have to overcome on a day-to-day basis?
So far I am not fully responsible for the day-to-day operations in any of my ventures. However, I am responsible for the majority of the technical details for each of my projects, such as selecting the new technologies that we will be implemented in new features. I like to see each project not only from a technological viewpoint, but also from a business and a research perspective.
The interesting part is when you have to combine already existing approaches and technologies or even invent some new ones to come-up with the desired solution. If the solution satisfies the problem constrains then, most of the time my team and I publish a paper or launch the feature straight into our product. I think there is definitely a distinction between open time-frame research projects and scheduled product launches, but it does not have to be discrete and watertight.
I am trying to follow this workflow for two important reasons. Firstly, as a student, I have seen multiple projects being started and then abandoned after making only a couple of publications in scientific journals. Therefore I don’t want the projects to which I commit my time to end up like this. Secondly, solving a problem following the scientific method and documenting the result has a great value for the academic community and anyone else interested in the specific topic.
How are you preparing for the next stage of your business? What advice would you give to others thinking of starting their own businesses?
Currently being an undergraduate student, I consider myself very lucky to have people who trust me and really take my thoughts and ideas into consideration. Usually, as a student, you’re not involved in the decision making process of a company, due to lack of experience and technical knowledge, especially in the tech sector.
My goal through this project is to learn as much as I can in a small and very innovative corporate environment. Since my colleagues are both older and more experienced than me, I try to be influenced by them day by day. They have already been in my position and they have probably faced many of the problems that I am encountering. I don’t know where are we going to be in the next five years, I don’t even know where are we going to be in the next three, the market is so competitive and is not as straightforward as a business plan. I am very optimistic that we will have the same focus on our products and our customers and, if this turns out to be true, then we are definitely going to be successful.
Starting your own business is an amazing journey, on which you can learn and do important things. Whether this involves managing people in a team, or making a business plan or even deploying a new feature, these are skills that drastically change the way you think and work. You have to be open to listening to ideas from your team, but you should also carve out a specific plan and lead the team to deliver your product. Many examples show that the age at which you start a company is completely irrelevant to how successful it is going to be. Success it is directly related to how determined you and your team are in delivering the promise that you have made to your customers.