IXD302 Co-Founders by Catalyst

Co-Founders poster

This week we received a talk about Co-Founders an entrepreneurship programme. Co-Founders is a start-up programme that helps candidates to build teams and develop a product that customers really want. The programme is aimed at people with ideas for products and services that have high growth potential. There are generally three different types of applicants: people with an idea for an innovative product/service, people with skills that a start-up would need or a team that wants to add further expertise to their team.

If you have an idea for an innovative product/ service it needs to have high gross potential. You do not have to have a fully fleshed out idea however if you are in a position where you are working on an idea this will put you ahead of others coming into the programme.

Others that come into the programme don’t have an idea. They are interested in getting involved with a start-up, learning more about what the ecosystem is like moving into entrepreneurship. They also have skills or experience that a start-up would benefit from. These people can be a very helpful addition to a team.

Alternatively, some people come into the programme as a team and want to bring someone onto their team to provide help in a specific area. Teams of up to four people can apply and do not need to bring additional people onto their team if they feel the team is complete.

This is a great programme for the people in our course as we are gaining a core understanding of the entire design process involved in creating a product through our course. We can then bring the skills we have learned along with an idea if we have one and bring someone on board to help us e.g. a developer. We also have the opportunity to bring that skill set to another team.

The first stage of the programme is a Hot House Weekend. During this stage, everyone with an idea will pitch their idea to the group. Everyone with a skillset will share their background and experience. This information is also provided in a document so that you can formalise yourself with everyone in the group, this is generally about 100 people.

Once you have identified an idea or person with a skill set that you’re interested in you can team up and become co-founders of that project. It is noted that you are not tied to your team so if you come in with an idea and the team does not work out this can be changed and worked around later in the process.

The Design Thinking Bootcamp is run by Big Motive. It runs through the different core tools that will be used throughout the core programmes and there is also a strong focus on teaching design thinking, how to conduct a sprint etc.

The Core Programme runs on Monday evenings 6:00-8:30pm. Different facilitators come in for the Core Programme. During this programme, you work on different ways of testing out and validating your idea. By the end of this stage, you want to have established that there is a demand for the product/ service you are proposing. You should also have a rough prototype in place and will want to have established that you are happy with your team. If you are happy with each of these areas you would move forward and apply for the £10,000 start-up grant.

One of the benefits of this programme is that you’re not tied in. If at any point your feel the programme, the product you’re working on, the team you’re working with etc. is not the right fit for you, you can step out. Due to the fact that people will drop out throughout the process, there will only be around 20 teams competing for the £10,000 grant which is awarded to 10 teams. This means the chances of winning the grant money are fairly high. It was also noted that even if you are successful and find after being awarded the grant the project is not for you, you can still walk away, the money just gives you the opportunity to test it out.

Phase 2 of Co-Founders, Co-Founders+ is the more practical testing phase. At this point, you learn how a company is set up and how to identify positions within the company. You will also learn about brand and marketing as well as the legal side of setting up a company particularly if you want to work internationally. At this stage, you also look at manufacturing options if relevant and mentors are assigned that would be industry experts and current entrepreneurs. These mentors will coach you along with invest NI and the hope would that you would be able to progress your start-up as a full-time source of employment so the focus would be on looking for further sources of funding etc. The aim of Co-Founders+ si that you would leave with a minimum viable prototype and a pitch deck ready for investors.

I think this is a really exciting opportunity and definitely something I would consider applying for in my final year. I would be particularly drawn to a programme like this if I had an idea for a product in mind. However, I also love the idea of having the opportunity to network with different people from industry and even just people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences as I feel there is a lot to be learned from others.  I also love the idea of gaining the experience of actually working on a project with the goal of launching in the real world and developing teamwork, collaboration and pitching skills.

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