FEMALE-led businesses triumphed at Converge’s ‘Inside Innovation’ pitching event on Thursday, 23rd June. The occasion saw 49 of Scotland’s most exciting university start-ups and spinouts participate in a fast-paced pitching competition at Edinburgh’s Dovecot Studios, sharing their ideas with a room packed full of the country’s top investors and business leaders.
Hosted by Converge, Scotland’s largest company creation programme for the university sector, the high-speed event showcased the latest technologies, products, and ideas emerging from Scottish universities which have the potential to grow into successful businesses. The semi-finalists from three challenge categories – Converge, Net Zero, and Create Change – had just 60 seconds each to secure the votes of the 100+-strong audience.
Winning ‘Best Pitch’ in the Converge Challenge was Jodie Sinclair from Theo Health, a health tech start-up originating out of the University of Dundee. Her patent-pending smart clothing and app have been created to bridge the gap between physical injury and mental wellness. Jodie was inspired by her own personal journey, following a career-ending sports injury. Theo Health’s compression shorts include muscle sensors and provide real-time feedback, allowing wearers to measure, track and analyse their muscle development, even before progress is physically visible.
Kaia Waxenberg was victorious in the Net Zero category with her carbon footprint measuring tool, Agrecalc. A spinout from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), Kaia has created an independent, evidence-based tool for users across the food supply chain, enabling them to identify and measure the main sources of carbon emissions, monitor improvements, and benchmark key performance indicators in their business operations.
Finally, in the Create Change category, the winner was Alexandra McKenna from Sioda, an eco-conscious social enterprise emerging from the University of Stirling. The antithesis of today’s fast fashion, Sioda provides UK-wide online clothes hire service, offering a wide range of styles for women of all sizes.
Leading entrepreneur and investor, Ana Stewart, who was recently named as chair of the Scottish Government’s Women in Enterprise Review, delivered the keynote address. In it, she called on the Scottish investment ecosystem to open up to change – flexing to better include the whole gamut of modern entrepreneurs, rather than expecting them to mould their ideas to fit a narrow environment. She noted that equal support for entrepreneurs from all backgrounds is a must to drive an innovative and thriving Scotland.
Chris Hughes, Converge Challenge 2016 runner-up and founder of Estendio, creator of the world’s first accessible support app, PresentPal, for those with presentation anxiety, awarded the prizes to the winning pitch participant in each category.
Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director at Converge, said: “The innovation coming out of Scotland’s universities is astounding. Each idea presented last night has the potential to change lives and benefit millions of people. To turn an idea like that into a tangible commercial business takes determination, drive and tons of passion – and the Converge cohort delivered that, in spades.”
“I’d like to congratulate everyone who took part in the speed pitching – it is no easy task to summarise your passion project in less than a minute. Our three triumphant pitchers are in pole position to do well at our flagship awards ceremony later this year when they will compete with the rest of this year’s cohort for the main cash prize.”
Ana Stewart, partner at Eos Advisory and chair of the Women in Enterprise Review, said: “Innovation is the lifeblood of every economy, and it is fantastic to see the pipeline of talent and entrepreneurialism emerging from Scotland’s academic sector. What’s also great to see is future business leaders from a variety of nationalities, races and genders coming forward. As well as reflecting our changing world and demographics, diversity is simply good for business and critical to ensure that we’re open to new ideas to solve our most pressing challenges as a society.”
All 49 business will use last night’s experience to refine their business models ahead of this year’s finals in November, with the ultimate winners across the three categories receiving an equity-free cash prize of up to £50,000 and in-kind business support from Converge’s network of professional partners, which includes investors, lawyers and business experts.
Converge has created a digital showcase featuring summaries of all who pitched at the event last night. For more information, please visit: https://www.convergechallenge.com/inside-innovation/ .