Anyone who has worked in an early stage startup will know how much can change in such a short space of time. Product development, team formation and funding negotiations all take place while simultaneously trying to ascertain the greatest value that you can provide to customers. We caught up with some of the Leaders of Tomorrow finalists 4 months after their pitches to understand what has happened over this time, what they have achieved and the challenges that they are now facing as they begin to scale.
Ekaterina Kislova of Appytoy was a two-time applicant to the Leaders of Tomorrow competition. Making the finals for the first time this year, Appytoy provides parents with a marketplace where you can give away your child’s pre-loved toys and get the ones they really like in return. During the Leaders of Tomorrow programme, Ekaterina conducted market research through an actively engaged Facebook group to understand her market, with little cost. iOS and Android apps are now ready for launch while the team around Ekaterina has grown to four. Appytoy has also recently secured 15k funding through phase 2 of Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme and is just in the process of launching their first app.
Ekaterina Kislova, Appytoy
Mistcalls, founded by Des Dolan, was well used to startup competitions before LOT, having won the regional IBYE finals earlier this year. MistCalls is a mobile call manager that saves time and money by organising and adding context to missed calls. Des has also secured a slot on GMIT’s New Frontiers programme since completing Leaders of Tomorrow. The 15k grant will be used to complete the development of his iOS and Android app and launch to market.
Des Dolan, Mistcalls
As the winner of Leaders of Tomorrow 2017, Ailbhe and Izzy Keane of Izzy Wheels looked to challenge negative associations with wheelchairs and let users celebrate their individuality by personalizing their source of independence. They aimed to show the world that wheelchairs can be more than a medical device, they can be a piece of artistic self-expression. Upon starting the Leaders of Tomorrow programme, Ailbhe was already on New Frontiers in Galway and receiving orders. Over the past 3 months however things have accelerated for Izzy Wheels at phenomenal speed. Winning LOT in May secured Izzy Wheels a place on Ireland’s leading accelerator – NDRC. They have launched two new collections with world renowned artists such as Orla Keily and Brosmind and entered a viral spiral being featured on Tech Crunch, Insider and also Instagram Stories.
“Our video on Insider attracted 11 million views and as the main story on Instagram we were being pushed out to a quarter of a billion users.” – Ailbhe Keane, Izzy Wheels Co-Founder.
Dealing with so much publicity was something Ailbhe admitted she wasn’t 100% prepared for. “We started to get the same number of orders in a day as we had previously received in a month”. Izzy Wheels is now focusing on refining their supply chain and distribution to handle mass scale operations.
Why take part in Leaders of Tomorrow?
The Leaders of Tomorrow Finalists 2017
The reasons for taking part in Leaders of Tomorrow vary greatly between competitors. Throughout the process of Leaders of Tomorrow, whatever the stage, the goal of Accenture is to develop both the idea and the founder. For Ekaterina, the development day on pitch formation and presentation skills was one of the biggest benefits of taking part in the programme.
“Now I never am nervous to get on stage and pitch my idea and am confident in the structure of my presentation” – Ekaterina Kislova, AppyToys.
This was the 10th year of Leaders of Tomorrow and our alumni who have completed the programme act as essential mentors to the new participants. As Des from MistCalls noted - “Meeting the companies who completed the programme one or two years ago was a great help. They were really easy to relate to as they weren’t too far removed from where we are now”.
Another feature of this year’s programme was a focus on diversity. We actively structure the lead up to the application deadline to include numerous events that would appeal to a wide variety of applications from different backgrounds.
“Along every step of the competition there was a clear effort to empower and encourage female entrepreneurship which made a huge difference in taking part” – Ailbhe Keane, Izzy Wheels.
Ailbhe and Isobel Keane, Izzy Wheels, Winner of 2017 Leaders of Tomorrow
As with all our Leaders of Tomorrow participants, we will continue to follow the progress and success of AppyToys, Izzy Wheels and Mistcalls. If you are interested in being kept in the loop about the programme going forward make sure to follow @Accenture_Irl on Twitter where we will announce the newly formatted competition for 2018.