Evy - the smart bag that never forgets - on a year that the team will never forget

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  • It’s finally arrived - this year’s INVENT 2017 Awards ceremony takes place at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall on Thursday.

    It’s been a great year for the competition yet again, with another cohort of innovative, exciting start-ups putting themselves before the Invent judging panel.

    Every year Catalyst Inc invites back the top scoring students from the Invent 2017 competition to a student final which has been held at Ulster University for the past two years. On the day of the Student Competition, the audience of year 11 pupils turned into judges and voted Evy as the ‘Pupils Choice’ winner. We will find out on Thursday whether they have won the overall Student Award too!

    Evy is the smart bag that never lets you forget. (Check out the previous story from Techwatch here.)

    The team comprises Niamh Tohill, Andrew Cunningham, Vince Kearney, Matthew Whiteside and Nathan Steenson.

    We put our questions to Andrew Cunningham...

    How did it feel winning the Pupils Choice award?

    It felt amazing! We were worried that we were going to offend the pupils by implying that they were forgetful but thankfully it was not the case and they saw how many people could be helped by Evy.

    What did the pupils think of your idea?

    I think the prospect of not getting detentions for forgetting things really got their attention.

    How have you benefitted from the Invent process?

    The Invent process has helped us get Evy in front of so many more people and create a network to help take Evy from prototype to reality. We have received workshops from pitching to legal issues and the team involved in Invent have been nothing short of supportive throughout the whole process.

    How did the idea for Evy originate?

    Evy came from a university module that was to create a product and business that could demonstrate commercial success. As a team, we wanted to create a product that would truly help people. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what other people needed… but not a lot of time on what we needed. I had talked about how forgetful I was and between Matthew and Nathan, they came up the perfect solution: Evy.

    You've secured support from manufacturer O'Neill's. Have you trialled the product with a retailer? Do you have a retail partner on board?

    We can't discuss this publicly at the moment.

    When will Evy's product be available to consumers?

    We have to do some more product development to perfect our technology but we hope to be retailing at the later stages of 2018.

    Did you design the RFID tags? Is the Evy product patented?

    At the moment, we have put our efforts into getting the perfect range for our RFID scanner. The tags will be encrypted to only work with our scanner. Because we are still in R&D, we don't want to patent the wrong implementation. But it's coming soon!

    Are you worried the Evy product can be duplicated? What's your business strategy?

    It is always a worry but the Evy team have the energy and the tech knowledge to push past a copycat. A product can be duplicated, but energy and passion can't.

    Parents with school kids will love the concept. Is that your ideal buyer? Who do you think will be an Evy customer?

    We don't want to sound like a cliché but Evy really is for everyone. We have had a 'positive problem' in that every time we talk to a person about Evy applying to one market they start to ask about expanding it towards people like themselves.

    Have you secured the help of a designer to make the product an attractive fashion proposition?

    One of our goals is to partner with well-known fashion brands, putting the Evy technology into their designs. Being able to work with other companies who understand the fashion market will be incredibly beneficial while we focus on the technology.

    Can we have a sneak peak/idea of what the new designs will look like?

    I'm afraid that's coming soon. But believe me, you'll want to buy one.

    You're finalists at Invent, you've won QUB Dragon's Den, you're a finalist at the Ireland Funds Business Plan competition. What have you learned from these experiences? What advice could you offer to a student considering going out on their own and building their own product?

    Coming from an engineering background, it's easy to get into the mindset that there is a three-step plan to getting success. There isn't. You have to allow yourself to be creative, to sometimes decide against someone else's advice and to go with your gut feeling. My advice would be brave, be open and have fun!

    What's coming up for Evy in 2018?

    All going well, the big release!

    Has the response and success of Evy to date surprised you?

    I think we are most surprised at how many people are willing to admit that they are forgetful! We have loved the response to Evy so far, and we hope it continues!

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