TCD encourages budding entrepreneurs to learn by doing

College launches second year of student enterprise incubator LaunchBox

Paul Mahoney, Paul Mannix and Patrick Lynch, co-founders of TCD student entrepreneurship incubator LaunchBox. Photograph:  Paul Sharp/Sharppix

Paul Mahoney, Paul Mannix and Patrick Lynch, co-founders of TCD student entrepreneurship incubator LaunchBox. Photograph: Paul Sharp/Sharppix

Wed, Jul 9, 2014, 01:00

Trinity College welcomed eight new teams of budding entrepreneurs to its student incubator LaunchBox yesterday. Now in its second year, LaunchBox supports teams of students and recent graduates of the college as they develop their business ideas over three months.

“The unique thing about LaunchBox is it’s learning by doing,” said programme director John Whelan. “It’s not a course. Universities are very good at running courses, but this is practical learning. The teams learn by making mistakes.”

The team of three mechanical engineering students at Light-house, described by Whelan as “the messiest desk at LaunchBox”, have already learned from their mistakes. Patrick Lynch, Paul Mahony and Paul Mannix, who are creating an intelligent, automatic lighting system, caused a minor explosion in their second week at the accelerator. Mahony said the team “blew up a small LED light” which caused “a bit of smoke and a loud bang”. But he said the finished product will definitely not explode.

Mahony hopes the product will be used in any situation where people need to be guided to where they’re going, including hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, ships and tunnels.

Neuroscience graduate Lydia Flynn came up with the idea for Lesson Prep after producing a number of biology tutorial videos in college. It took her about 10 hours to produce a single 10-minute video.

“When I was making those videos, I got a very visceral sense of how difficult teaching is when you really want to produce high-quality material,” she said.

With Lesson Prep, she plans to create an online platform for video-based teaching resources. Team member Ana Penalva says the group, also comprised of Raaj Zutshi, Justin Murphy, Benedict Kuester and Heber Hanly, will try to solve the “Sunday night problem” that teachers face when having to plan the following week’s lessons.

Participants will receive a small salary and between €5,000 and €10,000 of seed funding. They can also expect business mentorship.

About 80 teams applied for eight Launchbox places, but once teams get in, the atmosphere is one of learning and collaboration, not competition.