Converge alumni launch the 2017 programme (L-R) Erika Grant, David Harris-Birtill, Chris Hughes, Victoria Hamilton, Rogelio Arellano and Anne Rushing
Converge Challenge alumni launched the 2017 programme today at the University of St Andrews, beginning a quest to find the next generation of entrepreneurs from Scotland’s thriving academic entrepreneur community.
Launched in 2011 by Dr Olga Kozlova, Converge Challenge is a pan-Scotland company creation competition and entrepreneurship development programme for staff, students, and recent graduates of Scottish universities and research institutes aimed at creating a new generation of entrepreneurs in Scotland.
Participants in the Converge Challenge take part in an intensive entrepreneurial development programme, ultimately developing a comprehensive business plan for their company, product and/or service. An expert panel of judges made up of leading entrepreneurs and investors from across the business community will then assess the business plans and select the winners that will be announced at an awards ceremony at Glasgow Science Centre in September.
Between 2011-2015, the initiative has trained 240 emerging entrepreneurs that have formed 62 Converge companies and secured over £39 million of follow-on funding. 4 out of 5 Converge companies have secured follow-on funding and 80% are still trading after three years.
Involving a comprehensive business training programme, participants and winners also receive advice from partners on subjects such as legal, finance, branding, product development and recruitment as well as networking and mentoring opportunities. Businesses established through Converge Challenge have, to date, created 175 new jobs.
In 2017, the total prize fund is valued at over £150,000. In addition to a cash prize, winning projects will receive a comprehensive business support package from selected partner organisations, including:
Converge Challenge brings together the most ambitious and creative thinkers from any Scottish Higher Education Institute and is open to staff, students and recent graduates. Ideas can be for a product, process or a service, at any stage of development and from any industry sector.
Olga Kozlova, director of Converge Challenge, said: “This year every Scottish university is tasked with uncovering the next big idea and as a female entrepreneur I would like to personally encourage more women to apply in 2017. Following an increase in applicants for both the KickStart and Social Enterprise award categories both prize funds have been increased to £10,000 encouraging entrepreneurship at every stage.
“Converge Challenge remains committed to developing ambitious entrepreneurs and helping them build a valuable network of contacts that helps them to grow their business on a global stage. We are delighted to have the continued support of our entrepreneurial partners including Entrepreneurial Scotland who are providing broader networking opportunities for our winners.”
In 2016, MindMate and MicroSense Technologies Ltd were announced as joint winners of the main Converge Challenge award. Together they join an illustrious group of businesses that Converge has successfully nurtured through their early stages – the most crucial phase of any business looking to develop into a fully-fledged operation.
Susanne Mitschke, co-founder of MindMate and a graduate of the University of Glasgow, said: “In 2015 Patrick, Roger and I had an idea and we entered Converge Challenge KickStart category. We were young, optimistic and thought that starting a business would be easy. We quickly learned there was a lot to consider and you can easily get distracted from what is really important and what makes a difference. The Converge training helped us to focus on what matters to our business.
“When we entered Converge in 2016 for the second time, we had come a long way with funding from Ignite in the UK and Techstars NYC in the US. Our Converge prize has made a meaningful difference; not only from a cash-perspective, but from the in-kind business services we’ve received. We are now getting expert branding advice from the awesome agency Morton Ward, as well as legal advice and IP services. Whether you are a start-up or you just have an idea Converge can support you.”
Marc Desmulliez, founder of MicroSense Technologies Ltd and a Professor at Heriot-Watt University, said: “The Converge Challenge has allowed MicroSense Technologies Ltd to benefit from a vast range of experts in entrepreneurship and commercialisation. The advice and training we received throughout the programme was of the highest quality and we have further made use of the in-kind business services offered, especially in legal and marketing matters.”
Converge Challenge is now open from Tuesday 7th February for applications and closes on Monday 10th April at 5pm. To enter visit www.convergechallenge.com