We know the solution
We’ve known the solution for quite some time. The solution to the lack of (young) females who founded and are running their own start-ups, that is. Take a girl, any girl with a passion for making her mark on the world, doing things a little bit differently and willing to work as hard as it takes to get there. Offer her three things: support, opportunities and space to develop. And that girl will find herself with all the tools and possibilities she needs to launch her own startup. We’ve provided exactly all of that, plus top quality learning sessions run by inspiring female entrepreneurs and women in industry, and we have seen technology and science start-ups born and flourish within three short weeks. Like I said, we’ve known the solution for quite some time. Now we have the proof through Outbox Incubator.
We saw a huge difference with the apps that our girls have been developing
It may be true; the startup market has become increasingly over-saturated over time, with entrepreneurs selling us solutions to problems we didn’t even know we had until someone made an app for it. Order your drinks before you get to the bar. Find out where to stand on the tube platform to get off directly opposite the exit when we finish our journey. Or an app that tells you where the nearest ghosts are loitering in your immediate vicinity. I kid you not.
We saw a huge difference with the apps that our girls have been developing. On Saturday 15th August, it was the Outbox Incubator Demo Day. This summer we have been running the Outbox Incubator in a large house in London for girls aged 11-22 who wish to be young female entrepreneurs in STEM startups. Demo Day provided 29 startups the opportunity to pitch to a room of investors for investment and business support. The 100-strong audience was blown away by the quality of the pitches and products. But perhaps even more interesting than this was that every single one of our Outbox execs (what we call the girls in the incubator) had designed an app that focused on socially good or environmentally focused issues. And that wasn’t in the Outbox Incubator brief; our execs were free to create purely profit-making, consumer focused start-ups if they wanted. But strangely, not one of them wanted to.
Or is it strangely?
Perhaps not. Research shows that “twice as many women run social enterprises than lead small businesses, which also puts the FTSE 100 to shame – where there are only three female chief executives” (Guardian). If we give girls the tools and opportunity, they will naturally lean towards socially and environmentally focused projects. Just a selection we’ve seen come out of the Outbox house:
- reCharge My eCar: an app for electric cars, it shows where all the charging points in Ireland are and whether they are in use in real time
- Agri-tag: provides digitised health and other records on livestock by searching an animal’s tag number
- Hollerrapp: an app and wearable that geo-tags incidents of sexual harassment around the world as a driving force to create positive social change. It uses recorded audio in conjunction with CCTV to try to create a full case of evidence against repeating perpetrators.
- Electri-city: a gender neutral electrifying toy, that will help teach young children the fundamentals of circuits
- Free Feet: a laser device attached to the side of a shoe which is designed to help reduce gait freezing for Parkinson’s sufferers
- Positivity Pack: a small package designed to brighten someone’s day or cheer them up when they’re down or suffering from depression
- Envirocache: an app where people can upload walking routes for children and families to see what treasures they can find along the way while keeping kids fit and in the great outdoors
- Science Rocks: an award winning multi-media project that encourages more girls to do triple science at GCSE
- Asthma Efficient: a microchip attachment for inhalers which vibrates when the user is 100 metres away from a lost inhaler
- 4Wardz: a social network for young people living with life-long or life-limiting illnesses, helping eliminate isolation and allowing patients to communicate & inspire one another in the transition between children to adult care
- talentworks: a recruitment platform for talented grads with high-functioning autism to get jobs at startups
If we want to see solutions to some of society’s most serious problems – which are growing by the year, sadly – then surely we need to give these girls the platforms and support they need to express their innate sense of responsibility when it comes to protecting the environment and society we live in. Like I said – we need not even plant the socially responsible seed, our young female founders have done that all on their own, as will many others in decades and centuries to come.
Why not involve them in coming up with the solution, instead of being victims of the problem?
So, what next? The Stemettes will continue to run their Outbox Incubator every year, hoping to grow bigger and better and create talented young female entrepreneurs who will have the opportunity to win funding to get their idea off the ground. But the government has a strong focus on environmental sustainability, with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) working to make sure the UK has secure, clean, affordable energy supplies and promotes international action to mitigate climate change. DECC wants to see the private sector play its full part in shaping the solutions to climate change through innovation, technology, enterprise and competition. And these girls could be the answers to doing just that, so we all need to do is involve them in coming up with the solution instead of being victims of the problem.
Why not run a nationwide “hack the environment” to see what the girls can come up with using their science, technology, engineering & maths skills? If you’re interested please contact us as we’d love to run this with you. And let’s see if we can create female enterprise to create a better society, a better environment and a better world. The Stemettes will be the first ones to sign up.
A list of the 29 start-ups that pitched for investment on demo day can be found in this article.
Jacquelyn is Cofounder & ‘Managing Stemette’ at the Stemettes, a social enterprise that encourages girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM). This year the Stemettes launched the OutboxIncubator to tackle gender imbalance and create young female STEM entrepreneurs and female-founded start-ups.