Tech ‘incubator’ nurtures women who mean business

Outbox Incubator in London provides support for talented young entrepreneurs, some of whom are Irish

Growing their Stem businesses: Mary Carty (third from right) with some of the participants in Outbox Incubator

Growing their Stem businesses: Mary Carty (third from right) with some of the participants in Outbox Incubator

 

An app to help businesses recover from software collapse, a device to help people with Parkinson’s disease to keep walking, and an online forum to help young people turn their ideas into a reality: these are just some of the business ideas that young Irish women are developing in a new technology incubator that has sprung up in London this summer.

Outbox Incubator is an incubation programme for women aged 11-22 with a keen interest in Stem, says Outbox co-founder and Irish entrepreneur Mary Carty. It is free to participants. “The idea is to provide mentorship, seed funding and support to advance their business ideas and start-ups,” she says. “There is a huge lack of diversity in Stem. We need more women in the field and we set up Outbox to support the many talented girls we met who wanted to advance their knowledge and grow their Stem businesses.”

This summer more than 110 young women from across Europe are taking part in Outbox, which is being run by the UK Stemettes organisation and supported by Salesforce Foundation.

Many of the participants live in the incubator house for several weeks during the programme, which offers sessions on leadership, marketing and fundraising interspersed with activities such as yoga, knitting, trampolining and movie evenings.

Of the 110 participants, 30 come from Ireland and range from students who have just left primary school right through to university undergraduates.

 

Emergency recovery app

Participants from Ireland include Catrina Carrigan and Vanessa Greene, who both learned to code at CoderDojo in Dublin City University. Carrigan built an app to help hospitals to implement an emergency recovery plan if IT systems fail, and she has teamed up with Greene in Outbox to build a business that makes such “continuity plans” more accessible within organisations.

“I adore working with technology but I’d also love to be a part of my own business in the future,” says Greene. “We are hoping to launch our own business to help other businesses in their toughest times.”

Edel Browne’s idea, Free Feet, is a laser-based device on shoes to help people with Parkinson’s disease overcome “gait freezing”. The prototype won the Best Individual Award at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in 2013.

Galway-based Browne is hoping to build up a network of contacts in the Outbox incubator and ultimately to raise funds to bring Free Feet to the clinic. “I have already met really talented people here who can help me achieve my goals.”

And in an interesting twist, 2013 BT Young Scientist award winners Ciara Judge and Émer Hickey are in the Outbox technology incubator to develop an online technology incubator called Project Zilkr.

“It is a online site and one-stop shop for all young innovators,” says Cork-based Judge. “Young people with big ideas can create an account, log their ideas and be given step-by-step guidelines on how to carry out those projects, ideas or startups. ”

Judge is just back from an intensive entrepreneurship programme in Boston called MIT Launch, and she is using her fortnight at Outbox to bring some ideas to fruition. “So far it has been a great experience; the Stemettes have put together a lovely programme with many esteemed guests and speakers, and of course [it has been] a lot of fun too.”

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