Accenture student start-up competition ‘a rite of passage’ into business
Leaders of Tomorrow competition extends numbers and reach in its 10th year
The Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow competition is now established as one of Ireland’s leading launchpads for innovative student start-ups. Originally conceived as a programme to complement Accenture’s graduate recruitment efforts the competition, now in its 10th year, has become something very different.
“Leaders of Tomorrow is now a student start-up programme and is part of Accenture’s suite of programmes to encourage more start-ups in Ireland”, says Accenture country manager Alistair Blair. “Looking back over the past 10 years it’s very interesting to see how the competition has changed and evolved.
“At the outset we were looking for leadership characteristics in people who were either still in college or had just left but now it is very much about start-up businesses. We have also seen a change in the type of entries. We are seeing a lot more physical product ideas whereas in the past entries were predominantly in services.”
The competition has also grown in numbers and reach. “Last year, applications increased from 88 to 143 – that’s a 60 per cent rise. We are also starting to attract non-Irish innovators and we are getting people from Europe, Berlin and Amsterdam particularly, joining up with Irish collaborators in areas like medtech, fintech, social entrepreneurship and so on. There is also huge interest in the competition from the whole start-up community.”
The Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Award aims to identify, foster and recognise leadership potential and innovative thinking among aspiring entrepreneurs in Ireland. It is open to all third-level students across Ireland as well as those who have graduated in the last year. The competition format prepares contestants through a series of development days on the themes of leadership, digital innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition, guest speakers and one-to-one mentoring help them nurture their idea and their business skills.
Trip to innovation hub
The overall winner will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to one of Accenture’s global innovation hubs – previous winners have been to France, India and New York – a place on NDRC’s acclaimed LaunchPad programme and the option of a six-month “ideas internship” with Accenture.
The LaunchPad programme is a three-month accelerator programme for digital start-up ventures. Participants receive expert mentorship, weekly workshops and more to turn their ideas into their future.
The competition takes place over three rounds. The first round sees applicants submit their business ideas online. The closing date for these submissions is December 4th next. Those who make it to round two get to develop their ideas into business plans which they pitch to Accenture senior management.
These business plans are then narrowed down to the best 18 which go forward to the final. The finalists then participate in a series of development days and pitch their proposals to a panel of Irish business leaders who select the overall winner.
During these development days, which take place in NDRC’s office in the Digital Hub and Accenture’s main office in Grand Canal Square, participants will benefit from one-to-one mentoring and take part in a series of workshops hosted by top business leaders. These workshops allow participants to hone their business ideas and prepare them for their final pitches.
Competition for the top prize is sure to be intense once again this year given the calibre of previous winners. “Last year’s winner, Vincent Forde, had an idea that allows bubbles to be taken out of IV lines. He has had an idea which solves a potentially life-threatening problem and he has developed a business plan to take it to market,” says Blair.
“2015 winner Groopeze reinvented the whole process of online group bookings making it easy and hassle-free to plan, manage and pay for groups booking online,” Blair adds. “We brought the two founders out to the west coast of the US and it was incredible to see how they just lapped up the experience. They don’t see Ireland as the end point, it’s just the beginning and they now have 16 people working for them.”
Norma O’Mahony, a 2014 finalist, has also gone on to success with Effy, which has just launched its online staff-scheduling solution. “She has built her business with support from Enterprise Ireland and others”, Blair notes. “This has the potential to go global. The entrepreneur of tomorrow is the graduate of today. The big thing is that they have no fear. These people are going to build businesses and if it doesn’t work out they will go and start another one.”
“We used to think Leaders of Tomorrow was a rite of passage into Accenture, now it is a rite of passage into the business world,” he adds. “The quality of the applications is just amazing. They go to such trouble to bring their ideas to life on the videos. We just provide the vehicle – it’s the quality of the graduates and their innovative ideas that makes Leaders of Tomorrow successful.”
For more information see accenture.com/ie-en/Careers/leaders-of-tomorrow-award