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Attendees from across the UK and Europe joined the Techstars Startup Weekend event organised by the University of Plymouth last November. Ambitious entrepreneurs collaborated with mentors and peers conceiving ideas to solve social, environmental and financial issues.

A digital platform for older citizens to decrease social isolation, a certification designed for restaurants to reduce their impact on the environment, a network for vulnerable adults to engage better with the arts and a VR app to encourage healthy exercise - these are just some of the ideas which came out of the innovation-packed Techstars Startup Weekend Plymouth Online. Taking place between November 13th and November 15th 2020, the event welcomed people from across the country and abroad, connecting ambitious Startup founders and entrepreneurs with local and valuable mentors and investors.

Organised by the University, as part of the iMayflower project, and the Techstars Startup Weekend movement, the event was focused upon supporting the local entrepreneurial community and certainly delivered on its promise, attracting attendees not just from the South West but on an international scale.

"What a weekend. Intense. Challenging. Insightful. How rewarding it’s been to learn from some inspiring mentors, speakers, entrepreneurs and judges. Over the moon to bring home the win!! Great fun and lessons learnt with the team, so happy and grateful to The Bridge [University of Plymouth] for hosting this important event."

'Commenting on their win, Charlie Fortune, attendee and part of the winning team'

During the event, inspired attendees took part in a collaborative challenge whereby seven teams each worked on a complete concept for a product or service that addressed a social, environmental, financial or organisational issue. 

The winner of this accolade was George Shelton, a PhD student from the University, with his team and their brainchild the ‘Companion Pass’. The Companion Pass aims to make retail and public spaces more accessible to the nine million dog owners across the UK. The business model would see dogs complete a behavioural test and receive a ‘smart collar’ and certificate (to form the pass) as proof they have completed the test. The Pass would then grant owners access to local venues for one year. With such a strong population of dog lovers and dog owners in the UK, the team saw this as a prime opportunity to improve the world for this potentially profitable market.

As the triumphant team, they were awarded special prizes to help them in their future startup endeavours including a free Real Ideas Organisation Connect Membership, which includes mentoring and use of space and facilities, free tickets to the South West Innovation Expo and complimentary consultations with creative businesses like Bull & Wolf Film Co.

Special Mention was also given to ECO Badge, the eco-conscious accreditation for local food vendors, who impressed judges Lindsey Hall and Stuart Elford so much that they also extended their companies’ prizes to them; they will be receiving a Real Ideas Organisation Connect Membership and a membership to the Devon and Plymouth Chambers of Commerce.

Best Health Idea was awarded to Agemotion, the digital platform designed to combat social isolation for older persons, and Best Product Idea went to the VR app Virtually Healthy, which is designed to inspire an uptake in virtual exercise packages.

Given special recognition, The Best Health Idea has been awarded support from the University‘s EPIC project, an EU-funded research project seeking to nurture eHealth businesses and improve health.

Judging the awards was Stuart Elford, Chief Executive, Devon and Plymouth Chamber of Commerce; Ben Mundy, Director of Fab Lab Plymouth, Plymouth College of Art; and Lindsey Hall, CEO, Real Ideas Organisation.

Some of the ideas which came out of the event were truly inspiring, and it is clear that the next generation of entrepreneurs have people at the forefront of their minds instead of profit. What we saw was lots of very timely examples of people getting their heads together on how we can make our population happier, better connected and healthier. Events like this have the power to really lift the spirits and bring out the best in people!

Emily Barrett, Knowledge Exchange Officer at the University and lead organiser of Plymouth Startup Weekend

This activity is led by the University and is part of the iMayflower project. iMayflower is supported by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport through the Cultural Development Fund which is administered by Arts Council England. Find out more about the University’s activity.