The Art of the Start Student Pitch Competition

Written by: Philip Smyth
Written on: Thursday, 01 May, 2014

On Tuesday evening the students pursuing the MSc in Biotechnology and the MSc in Biotechnology & Business from the School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science (SBBS) taught Masters Programmes assembled to deliver their final elevator pitches as part of their Professional Career Development module. This module has very successfully integrated with “The Art of The Start” entrep‌reneur series organised by Systems Biology Ireland (SBI) under the direction of Dave Kavanagh, Entrepreneur in Residence with SBI. This collaboration is the first of its kind in the University and in Ireland, and represents a powerful way to introduce the professional biotechnologists of the future to the world of business and entrepreneurship through the experiences of the course’s dynamic guest speakers from a range of Irish and international start-up companies.

The Director of SBI, Professor Walter Kolch and the Head of SBBS, Dr Keith Murphy presided over a very experienced judging panel that included Helen McBreen, Venture Leader at the NDRC; Darren Cunningham, Founder and CEO Inflection Biosciences; Jeremy Skillington, Founder and CEO TriMod Therapeutics; Professor Jan Rosier, Elan Professor of the Business of Biotechnology, UCD; and Dr Claudine Kearney, UCD School of Business. The 60 students had formed seven teams at the beginning of their course last September and this evening was their final 5 minute pitch to secure investment for a business proposal based on early stage research projects with commercialisation potential from the laboratories of SBI. The teams had developed their pitches based on the Lean Canvas Model and were mentored by Dave Kavanagh and star researchers from SBI, including Dr David Gomez and Dr Jens Rauch. The judges were tasked with a difficult decision as all teams delivered very high quality pitches, with a phenomenal effort made by all teams to keep within the 5 minute pitch limit despite the challenging and complex research based proposals. In the end, the novelty of the proposal put forward by the Hydroscientific team, presented by Jonathan O’Keefe Aherne, won the day and the prize of a final team assignment of lunch in Kielys of Donnybrook.

The enthusiasm and support of the academic contributors and entrepreneurs alike helped create a unique occasion and was really well supported by the community of researchers and staff from SBI. The students have learned first-hand the nature of disruption, a concept that was widely illustrated over the course of the year from the contributors and may have been best explained by the Irish Nobel Laureate George Bernard Shaw, renowned playwright and founder of the London School of Economics:

“I hear you say 'Why?' Always 'Why?' You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?”

Photos from the event can be found HERE whilst videos of the presentations will be posted on the SBI YouTube channel.