Startify7 - training Europe’s future ICT entrepreneurs

— 03.11.15

by Simon Spode

During the summer academics from the Management School have been heavily involved in a pan-European project aimed at training young future ICT entrepreneurs in Europe.

Startify7 is a Horizon 2020 project from the European Commission which will eventually see seven thematically focused summer academies in seven different European cities that follow a lean-training structure and emphasise strong team-building as well as learning-by-doing processes.

This year Sheffield played host to the first academy on Digital Health, with other academies held on Cyber Security in Trento (Italy) and the Internet of Things in Nuremberg (Germany). Next summer further academies will be hosted in Spain, Greece, Poland and the Netherlands.

The project is part of the European Commission’s response to the comparatively small number of ICT start-ups across Europe and the untapped potential for growth in this sector. Events were supported by a range of high profile entrepreneurs and experts, who supported and mentored the students to develop enterprising skills and entrepreneurial ideas.

Dr Tim Vorley of the Management School said: “The project team brings a wealth of expertise and experience which will see Startify7 make a meaningful contribution to supporting young ICT entrepreneurs across Europe.”

Dr Robert Wapshott added: “What makes Startify7 different is our lean and dynamic approach towards facilitating entrepreneurial learning. The two-week long academies will be intensive and enjoyable, supporting young entrepreneurs to thrive in the dynamic environment facing ICT start-ups today.”

“The project team brings a wealth of expertise and experience which will see Startify7 make a meaningful contribution to supporting young ICT entrepreneurs across Europe”

Dr Tim Vorley

Following a successful summer of digital academies around Europe, the Startify7 project gathered teams with potentially successful ideas in Brussels at the start of October.

The nine winning teams of young digital entrepreneurs from the three Startify7 academies participated in a three-day acceleration boot camp by fine-tuning their business models, setting up their start-up profiles and finally pitching to high profile investors at the event.

Supported by experts and mentors, the selected participants followed an intensive programme enabling them to improve their business models and sharpen their business plans in order to become venture capitalist (VC) ready. They received advice from a former VC on funding, discussing everything from how to find the right investor to establishing a good term sheet. They also had targeted and professional mentoring to enhance their pitch decks and pitching abilities.

Each Startify7 academy focused on a different entrepreneurial subject. The Sheffield Digital Health Academy identified entrepreneurial solutions to healthcare challenges and supported participants in pursuing their own ideas. The three winning Sheffield teams came up with digital business ideas; one to support healthcare in rural Africa, a second which is an asthma detection aid, and finally a digital microscopic aid that one of the judges commented ‘could revolutionize healthcare’.

Dr Wapshott, who supported teams at the Brussels event, commented: “The Sheffield teams were awarded first, second and fourth positions in Brussels – a fantastic result which reflects very well on the successes of the digital health academy.

“Breathar, the asthma detection aid, took top spot and so the team has been awarded a presentation slot at the European Venture Summit in December.”