Sunday, 28 August 2016

20 under 20 2016

Hi all! I'm just back from a week in which I spent 6 out of 7 days gallivanting up in Dublin. On one of those days, I participated in the 20under20 event at Dogpatch Labs organised by Tom McCarthy, who's in the EmTech Global Youth Leaders programme with me. 

All photos in this post were taken by James Keating of Dogpatch Labs. 

The event featured 11 under-20s (8 guys 3 girls, and all of the girls were Outbox alumni) plus mentors in entrepreneurship and tech jobs. The young people included a Youtube manager, a mathematician (Paul, who I met at BTYSTE 2014 with his cool blackboard shortly before he won overall), app developers, one nanonerd (me), someone working on a nuclear fusion reactor (Tom) and more. 

We started with some food and table tennis (I'm very bad at this, it turns out), a quick talk from Tom, then introduced ourselves. All very impressive but sure what can ya do.

We then did the ever-present marshmallow-spaghetti challenge. Despite the number of times I've done it/seen it done, my team's structure still collapsed. Probably because we changed our plan halfway through under time pressure. Oh well!

We went down then to listen to a talk from CoderDojo Executive Director Giustina Mizzoni. She was so cool and seemed like a really interesting and genuine person. She talked about running the CoderDojo Foundation and her life story up to that point. I'm pretty sure she said she did Arts in UCD, which was cool because basically my whole friend group is doing that. It's a nice rebuttal to my friend who thinks his employment prospects are low because he's doing Arts, so I'm glad to have Giustina's example.

We then had a panel discussion featuring a bunch of different people. I knew the lovely Claire but no one else (the only woman on the panel...). It was interesting.

We then had a workshop session in which we were told to come up with a way to combat obesity using technology. One of those fast-paced whiteboard group sessions. With the requisite Post-Its. We settled on an app that uses image recognition to scan your food, compare its nutritional value to your personalised diet plans and then, still within the app, shows you the nearest shops/best delivery services to get foods to keep you on target/bring you back on target. I liked how effortless it was, because I think if I was using it the more thought I had to put into it the less likely I'd be to eat healthy. 

The fun part was when my team got me to pitch it and suddenly I was able to pitch it well. I seemed so confident, which is funny. My pitching skills have come on in leaps and bounds since BT Bootcamp and I am so glad. I think ours was pretty cool honestly.

One thing I noticed - maybe it's the scientist in me, but I'm unable to do things (project-wise) that I know other people have done before. So I'm always surprised when I see people pitching things in these imaginary sessions that they must know are already widely available. But the funny thing (and something I'm trying to get into my head), is that it's all about execution - people can get very far without being completely original. Don't think it's really my style though. 

I also noted the necessity of narrowing down your focus. Our team's first ideas were very broad - educational campaigns plus app plus wearables to track your exercise - and honestly that's the kind of thing a government, not a startup, should do (in my opinion). So I went for just the integrated image recognition and food delivery service. Narrower things can be a lot more effective.

Seen here, being the only girl on the team ... I sure am glad I'm an assertive one!

We then had another panel discussion with new panellists. I got absolutely roasted for asking a similar question of these guys as I had of Giustina earlier but hey, I wanted answers. They kept saying "ask someone who's done it before" and I was just thinking "you guys are entrepreneurs you literally are these people that's why I'm asking". I got some good advice though, and it was an enjoyable session overall :)

It was a cool event overall, and I'm looking forward to keeping in contact with some of the people I met there. Thanks to Tom for organising, to all the mentors for coming and to Dogpatch Labs for giving us that incredibly cool space to work in!

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