A technology that transforms textile waste into agricultural produce. Furniture that sparks children’s creativity and is made of 100% sustainable and biodegradable materials. An easy-to-use template for stories on social media developed at reduced cost that had more than 600K downloads in less than a year, with zero investment in marketing. These are just some of the impressive pitches I was invited to judge on behalf of Fahrenheit 212 at the recent 2018 Fellows’ Midway Pitch, an event hosted by the Entrepreneurial Lab (ELab), at the Parson School of Design.

Parson’s ELab is a design-driven incubator and open innovation space that offers a 12-month fellowship program to enable the new ventures to develop a minimum viable product and gain traction. It aims to support and strengthen student evolution from academic to applied practice, and that is precisely what 7 teams pitched to a panel formed by experts from innovation consultancies, accelerators, and investment companies. We helped them understand how to strengthen their go-to-market propositions as well as grow their ideas into sustainable businesses. These teams –Threadcycle, Pulpmade and Unfold in the examples above–had turned their ideas from paper into testable prototype within a mere 4 months!

Two things caught my attention: that participants were unafraid to tackle big, hairy social problems, and that they all proved to be very resourceful, seeking partners and enablers where possible to help them get to market. This was a hidden reminder for innovators pursuing driving ideas at any level. 

The reason amazing, breakthrough innovation can come from brand new up-starts is because they’re often not weighed down by the fear of failing; they have passion, faith and conviction to fly that rocket. It all starts with identifying the right problems.

Kudos and best of luck to the ELab fellows! We hope to remain part of this dynamic, fast-paced world of startups, helping them answer the questions that make things better and make better things.

 

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