Want to do something new this year? Why not start by creating something that hasn’t been done before?
It all started on a typical rainy day in St Andrews. A few friends were having an enthusiastic conversation about the future in the comfort of their student flat. Not an uncommon place for exciting business ideas to take shape. Neither of them remember the exact details, except for one: discovering their shared passion to create and do something good, something that would improve lives and inspire others in the process. What also stood out, is their belief in the element of fun. Whatever they put their heads to was only worthwhile if they were enjoying it.
Their growing circle of what one could call a bunch of “enthusiastic change-makers” contained members from various academic backgrounds who believed that university is the ideal platform to set up a business.
St Andrews in particular was an ideal candidate – a bustling town full of some of the brightest students from around the world with all the skill sets necessary: creativity, design, science, technology, business knowledge, and more. And, to top it all off, everyone generally lives within a 15 minute radius from each other.
The potential for a thriving startup scene was there, all St Andrews needed was a trigger. That’s how Kickstart Incubator was born.
KickStart Incubator was responsible for organising the first interdisciplinary innovation competition, hatch4good—an exciting, two-day, University-wide event where participants got a taste of what it takes to build a social enterprise.
The hatch4good priorities included:
A need for sustainability: there is an ever-rising array of sustainable issues and problems waiting to be solved.
An explosion of technologies: technology is advancing each day, and could be used as a tool to solve these problems
The perfect melting pot: universities have all the skill sets necessary to do so, scattered around various disciplines but are rarely given the opportunity to creatively apply them outside of the classroom.
Last semester, on Saturday 14 October and Sunday 15 October, the top floor of the Union was transformed into a Google-esque setting filled with light, music and the growing buzz of excitement.
The glass walls became mind maps, couches became think pods, students became innovators, and the entire floor was revolutionised into a playground of ideas. The scene was fascinating to experience: it felt like a fairytale makeover, where your everyday pumpkin suddenly turned into a magical coach.
The enthusiastic attitude which filled the air came from both the organising team, whose hard work was finally being realised, and from the hatchlings (participants), who were ready to tackle any challenge that came their way.
Before the weekend itself, the hatch team advertised its cause, but kept a shroud of mystery over the exact details of the event, piquing interest in all corners of St Andrews from all years of study and academic backgrounds. Some applied in teams, but most hopeful hatchlings were open to forming teams on the day.
Overall, 55 successful applicants took part in the weekend and formed well-balanced teams made up of self-designated Hackers, Hustlers and Hipsters (Coders, Business and Creative Individuals).
From sharing their life story with a complete stranger in under two minutes to presenting a completely novel sustainable business idea in front of an audience of top-tier professionals, hatchlings were pushed out of their comfort zones all weekend.
Neuroscience student and member of Team Findago, Eliska Klimentova said, “Even after nearly a week, going from a very vague idea to an al most finished product in 24 hours seems insane. Yet it is exactly what we did. Thanks to an excellent guidance from the mentors and amazing support from the organisers, our team achieved more than I would had ever thought possible.”
Hatch4good featured two entrepreneurs coming from London. First, Kim Arazi, founder of WOW Talks, set the scene with an introduction to the world of Tech4Good, referencing a variety of sustainable tech startup case studies.
The second special guest and Hatch4good event facilitator, Aga Gajownik, held a series of mini-workshops called sprints throughout the day. These provided participants with reference points to guide them on their journey towards creating a social enterprise.
Teams had 24 hours to complete their projects with plenty of guidance from the constantly circulating mentors. These mentors included two representatives from J. P. Morgan and another couple from Amazon. Gajownik and the Kickstart team all helped teams throughout the event.
The first day officially ended at 6 pm, however some enthusiastic teams continued to work hard on their projects.
The next day, as hatchlings reconvened in the Union, the excitement sky rocketed with a hint of healthy panic as pitching rounds approached. The deadline was approaching for polishing up the prototype websites/apps and practicing the “perfect” pitch.
The clock hit 2 pm on Sunday and it was finally showtime. Hatchlings, organisers, and judges took their seats in the Byre Theatre eager to hear all the ingenious ideas teams came up with. The lights dimmed and were directed towards the stage. The last mutters from the audience silenced and pitching took place.
The four judges involved were all external parties, to eliminate any bias.These individuals were Darren Kennedy (Executive Director at J. P. Morgan), Paul Adams (from Virgin StartUp) and the two mentors from Amazon.
“I was really impressed by the ideas and potential solutions presented at this well organised and fun event, the amount of thought, effort and passion demonstrated by the diverse group of students taking part was excellent,” Mr Kennedy said. “This event showcased the exciting innovative talent of St Andrews students with whom J. P. Morgan would like to support, partner with and encourage to join us in the future.”
The pitches were broadcast live on the Kickstart-Incubator Facebook page and can still be viewed today.
Hatch4good was not only unique and new to St Andrews in terms of the overall experience, but also in its ticket prices – which were completely free. The entire weekend was funded by organisations who believed in the team and their motive. Additional external supporters who shared their passion donated exciting freebies to fill up the goodie bags with.
At the end of the weekend, participants enthused about their experiences and congratulated one another on their work.
Economics and geography student Astrid de Boysson, and member of Team CeiptWave, said, “Well done, guys, for this weekend. You killed it from the amazing public speaking, to the organisation, the smoothies, the photography…I could go on and on. But seriously it was such a good event and different from what we usually get in St Andrews. It’s so impressive you managed to pull it off with so few glitches.”
The team collaborated with the Vegetarian Society, who provided a free vegetarian lunch and dessert on Saturday, and with Transition, who kept the hatchlings fuelled with smoothies powered by the smoothie-bike on Sunday.
As KickStart Society is brand-new, this semester it continues to look for students who would like to help shape the future of the society and prepare for hatch4good 2018.
“I can’t tell you just how overwhelmed I am at what an exceptional team you guys have been.., it’s only starting to just sink in now but this weekend was amazing and it was all thanks to the work that everyone did,” Ellina Knudsen, head organiser of hatch, said. “I’m so proud and thankful to be part of this incredible group of people.”
The top floors of the Union and the Byre Theatre might be back to normal, but the spirit of hatch4good lives on. Our team has been invited to speak at NACUE’s upcoming Student Enterprise Conference in Birmingham—an event where students from various UK universities come together for a weekend to share ideas and gain inspiration from leading professionals.
Interested in getting involved? Do you have any ideas of how to make hatch4good even better? Drop us a message on our Facebook page @kickstartsoc to find out more and keep your eyes open for updates.