On 21-22 November, 2015 as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Acorn Aspirations in partnership with News Academy and UnLtd organised a two-day hackathon-style event where young people aged 16-19 collaborated with University Computer Science students and mentors from the TechCity community to develop 11 tech start-ups that solve social problems in their local communities and worldwide.
AcornHack’s mission was to unlock young people’s entrepreneurial potential by inspiring them to get creative with coding, programming and digital technology. The purpose of this event was to equip young people with tools that will enable them to become change-makers and entrepreneurs of their own lives.
The 16-19 year-olds enjoyed dazzling views of London from News UK’s state-of-the-art HQ, The News Building, while learning new skills and exploring digital solutions to social problems in their city with the help of developers from Unruly, Twitter, Facebook, Swiftkey, CodeFirst:Girls, MOO, Founders4Schools and alike.
An all-female team Natural Network (made up of Sixth Form students from UCL Academy Sarah, Neila, Nohamin, Ona and Shayma) received the Most Investible Idea Award and the ‘I can’t believe it doesn’t exist’ award for creating an app/platform that allows women with curly, kinky and/or afro hair to connect with each other, embrace their locks, and find products that suit them.
Young people received a range of prizes including:
1. Demo Day in front of investors at TechHub (Google Campus)
2. Day in an office experience at Firefly
3. Virtual Reality sets
4. Free Codecademy classes in UX/HTML/CSS
5. Eligibility for UnLtd grant
6. Free pitching workshop with Metaspeech
7. Rob Fitzpatrick books
8. Free tickets to all team members to TechCrunch Disrupt – worth £800-1200 each
9. Masterclass with Will King – half a day
Sarah, captain of the Natural Network team was also the proud recipient of a Samsung Galaxy tablet which recognised her incredible effort of coding the app using MIT App Inventor.
Judges from the AcornHack competition included Mike Butcher, Editor-at-Large TechCrunch, Will King, CEO King of Shaves, Sherry Coutu, investor at LinkedIn, Nancy Fechnay, Interim Director Techstars, Neeta Patel, CEO New Entrepreneurs Foundation, Tanya Laird, CEO Digital Jam and Emily Atkinson, Senior Software Engineer from Moo.
After the jam-packed weekend where teenagers learned coding, branding, marketing through social media and pitching, as well as collaborated with developers to create prototypes, all teams will now continue to be mentored to ensure that every idea has the best chance to progress from a prototype into a viable business. The following tech start-ups have been created:
Provo: an app/platform to gamify/simplify charity donations/engagement inspired by the success of the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge.
Musinex: A platform to match people with similar music interests, to go to concerts together, rather than staying at home listening to Spotify.
Sportaneous: An app that hosts video content of ‘how to’ practice in terms of sports (football, basketball) and engages members to collaborate and also geo-locates sporting venues.
TapOn: An app for people visiting cities, helping them find out things to do, and then directing them there, taking a cut from the participating establishments.
Restricted: An app that helps prevent ‘excessive’ use of social media, helping people concentrate on the real world, rather than the social one.
WEEEdrop: An app to help people recycle their electronic gadgets and white goods.
Natural Network: An app/platform that allows women with curly, kinky and/or afro hair to connect with each other, embrace their locks, and find products that suit them.
Helpr: A free peer-to-peer visual learning platform where students can share LIVE interactive whiteboard sessions with each other
TeenTasker: Think TaskRabbit for Teens. A platform where young people can start off doing tasks at a certain level, then ‘level up’ to get better paying tasks as they prove themselves.
Clione: An app/platform allowing young people to express themselves and emotional state, ask for help and interact as part of a community. A mix of Secret/Whispr.
The overall winning team was a team of 5 girls from Tower Hamlets that came up with StudyPlus – an EdTech app for teens, ‘gamifying’ revision and helping students revise more effectively, both ‘competitively’ and ‘collaboratively’.
Judges have commented in the following ways:
“It is truly inspiring to see that so many young people have sacrificed their weekend to progress with their venture for social good. These are exactly the type of young people UnLtd wants to support, full of passion, ideas and the desire to transform the world in which they live.” – Zain Miah (UnLtd)
“I’ve been amazed by a few things this weekend. Firstly, these young people turning up on a cold wet Saturday morning and sacrificing two days to their ideas. Second, the ideas are incredible! I’m really, really impressed. Each idea has been considered deeply from both a human and impact perspective. It’s exciting to be here, there is a lot of talent in the room.” – Edmund Ovington (Percolate)
Acorn Aspirations founder Elena Sinel said:
“This is the first event of its kind and our hope is to empower young people to unleash their entrepreneurial side. It’s fantastic to have the support of The News Academy as we look to make a positive difference in the lives of those who so often miss out.”
News Academy Director, Duncan White, added:
“It is a privilege for the News Academy host such an innovative event. We hope to light a spark for many talented young people, adding to the thousands we’ve already had the privilege to work with.”