From Acorns To Oaks. Helping The Aspiration Generation Code (OK, Hack!) Future Success.

“From Acorns Do Large Oaks Grow…”

Earlier in 2015, I was a guest speaker at a Guardian Masterclass event, which involved me in opening the event, and playing a role in advising/mentoring the attendees. One of them was Elena Sinel, who was founder of Acorn Aspirations, a platform designed to inject some entrepreneurial and tech smarts into young people, alongside their normal educative curriculum.

We met again in the Summer, where she sought my advice on the platform and its objectives. I suggested she meet Sherry Coutu, and try and build out some physical infrastucture around the platform, both experiential and in terms of people, support.

So, I was delighted a few weeks back to be asked to judge an event hosted at News UK and supported financially by UnLtd. and many others, where 11 teams would compete in a hackathon over the weekend, drawn from schools in and around London. I had no idea what to expect, in terms of event, quality of ideas from the students, and overall.

Boy, was I impressed! Held on the 17th (Executive) floor of News UK (publishers of The Times etc.) I arrived mid-afternoon on Sunday, to see teams of young people coding and collaborating together, fuelled by lots of coffee and Coke. Shortly after I arrived, Mike Butcher, Editor-at-Large of TechCrunch arrived (he has 117K followers on the twitter) and alongside others from a variety of sectors, judged the 3 minute (OK, more like 5–7 minute) pitches and chose a selection of winners. I list below the incredible projects undertaken by teens, aged 13–17…

  • Provo: an app/platform to gamify/simplify charity donations/engagement inspired by the success of the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge.
  • Musinex: A platform to match teens with similar music interests, to go to concerts together, rathern than staying at home listening to Spotify.
  • Sportaneous: An app that hosts video content of ‘how to’ practice in terms of sports (football, basketball) and engages members to collaborate and also geo-locates sporting venues. Could easily be picked up on by Nike or Adidas.
  • TapOn: An app for people visiting cities, helping them find out things to do, and then directing them there, taking a cut from the participating establishments.
  • StudyPlus: An EdTech app, for teens, gamifying revision and helping students revise more effectively, both ‘competitively’ and ‘collaboratively’. Nice. (All girl team)
  • Restricted: An app that helps prevent ‘excessive’ use of social media, helping young people concentrate on the real world, rather than the social one.
  • WEEEdrop: An app to help people recycle their electronic gadgets and white goods.
  • Natural Networks: An app/platform that allows women with curly, kinky and/or afro hair to connect with each other, embrace their locks and find products that suit them. Unilever should be interested in this one. (All girl team)
  • Helpr. An app/platform similar to StackOverflow, where students post questions to problems they struggle to solve, others help them. Nice idea.
  • TeenTasker: Think TaskRabbit for Teens. A platform where young people can start off doing tasks at a certain level, then ‘level up’ to get better paying tasks as they prove themselves. Think ‘Bob-a-Job’ for Scouts, in the modern age.
  • Clione. An app/platform allowing young people to express themselves and emotional state, ask for help and interact as part of a community. A mix of Secret/Whispr.

In short, all the presentations were great, some better than others of course — and it was incredible what these young people achieved in the space of 48 hours, with the help of developers, mentors, coders and supporters. Huge thanks are due UnLtd., to News UK, to Moo, to Mike Butcher (who personally invited attendees to attend TechCrunch Disruop) and many others.

The biggest shout-out is to Elena though, who from a standing start, and under her own steam, has started growing her own acorn of an idea into an Oak which I hope in the future will have many branches. I’ll continue to support her where I can, as I’m sure will many others.

The overall winner of the #AcornHack was StudyPlus, a team of 5 teenagers I’ll be hosting a 1/2 day ‘Entrepreneur-in-Residence’ bootcamp for, where I hope to have a couple of interested partners along too. And, Elena!

Here’s to nurturing Acorns into Oaks. Tomorrow’s Unicorns, being grown today.

Will King