Invent Student Awards finalist urges young entrepreneurs not to be afraid of failing - ‘just go out there and do it!’

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  • This year’s Invent Student Awards, run by Connect at Catalyst Inc, saw eight companies pitching business ideas to a panel of industry experts.

    Brought together by Generation Innovation, finalists pitched to 170 pupils at the Belfast Campus of Ulster University.

    The judging panel included: Director of Research and Impact at Ulster University Tim Brundle; and previous Invent Winners Michael Budden of Locate a Locum, Rachel Gawley of AppAttic and Leona McAlister of PlotBox.

    In the first of a series of interviews with the finalists, we caught up with Adam Flanagan - a 17-year-old pupil from Methodist College in Belfast. Adam’s innovation is ‘Fetch’, a cashless mass-catering app which aims to help customers get their drinks more quickly at big venues whilst also slashing bar waiting times.

    The app is in development at the moment with a pilot anticipated for roll-out early next year. Adam says the idea for Fetch came to him at a Six Nations game last year.

    “I found that I had to queue up with my parents for almost 20 minutes for a soft drink. I thought there has to be a better way of - surely, there’s a decent digital solution to eliminate this problem,” says Adam.

    “We looked at a few other popular apps like Deliveroo and Uber, and what we really want to do is blend those seamless experiences into a one-stop solution.”

    Users will be able to order drinks from the comfort of their seats and with just a few taps on the Fetch smartphone app. Bar staff receive the order via a vendor iPad app and prepare the drinks. Once the drinks are ready, the customer receives alert and collection will occur "in a matter of seconds”.

    As well as overseeing the development process, Adam is already receiving interest from venues and sporting organisations.

    “We're about 90% of the way to having a functioning minimum viable product. On top of that, we're currently talking to Ulster rugby at Kingspan and a couple of other venues.”

    On the business strategy for Fetch, Adam says: “Our model relies on scalability and growth, so that means we want to lower the barrier of entry for venues. That means we make the app free to all venues with revenue generated for us on 60p flat commission for each order. Whether you order one or more drinks, the commission is always 60p.”

    Revenue can also be generated through ad placements on a sponsored section in the app menu.

    Reflecting on the Invest process, Adams says it's been "incredibly helpful" and the competition encourages entrepreneurs to “think about different considerations and problems that you may run into, and how to mitigate those problems”.

    For Adam, the support young entrepreneurs receive from Catalyst Inc’s programmes - including Connect and Generation Innovation - “is just immense”.

    “The Invent process offers a huge amount of exposure and connection to Generation Innovation which we’re very lucky to have. We should use that to our advantage as much as possible,” he says.

    Adam is also working on a few other projects - one of which is organising a teen hackathon called ‘Future18’ slated for March next year. According to Adam, young entrepreneurs with business ideas should back themselves and be positive.

    “The advice I would give is not to be scared of failing," he says. "The Number One thing is to go out there and do it! If it ends as a failure, that doesn't matter. Every project you do, you learn more and more, and eventually you will find success.”

    The overall winner of the Student Invent competition will be revealed at INVENT 2017 Awards ceremony which takes place at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall on Thursday 5th October 2017. Tickets are available at www.invent2017.co

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