The Young Entrepreneurs Challenge

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2020 Winner

Rowan Armstrong

We caught up with our 2020 Grand Prize Winner Rowan Armstrong. Rowan blew the panel away with his company BioLiberty’s idea for an assistive robotic glove aimed at helping millions worldwide who struggle with long term conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and arthritis.

Rowan fought off strong competition from across Europe to win the grand £10,000 of funding prize, plus a business mentor package provided by Unloc and Verizon Business, as well as entry to the One Young World Summit.

Click here to visit the BioLiberty website and find out more about their work.

Rowan congratulations! You really blew us away with your pitch during the 2020 online final. How did you find out about the Young Entrepreneurs Challenge, and what made you decide to enter?

“Thank you so much! We found out about the challenge from our advisor at the University of Edinburgh. EW’d also been following the progress of the team at Conglomerate Games (last year’s winner) and recognised how much they seemed to benefit from the funding and support that Unloc and Verizon Business gave them and their mission. When we saw that the competition was running virtually, we jumped at the chance to be a part of it!”

We’re so glad you did! Did you find the application process easy, and did it make you consider aspects of your business that you hadn’t thought about previously?

“Personally, I did find parts of the application challenging because some of the questions were totally new to me. For example, one question asked how our company tied in with UN Sustainable Development Goals. I went onto the UN website and thought about each goal individually and how we tied in with it so it actually turned out to be a really insightful exercise! However, the most challenging part of the application process by far was cramming our pitch into a 1-minute video. There’s so much you want to say and explain about what you’re doing, you don’t want to leave anything out, because that could be the clincher for why you win! I had to be absolutely ruthless about the content of the pitch. This was another useful exercise for future elevator pitches!”

Obviously our Grand Final is usually held as a physical event, and for the 2020 final we had to hold the final digitally due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. How did you feel on the night of the event, and what did you think about the other finalists pitches?

“I was ridiculously nervous on the night; I had never pitched in front of so many people before (albeit virtually!) The nerves got even worse when I heard the other finalists pitch – honestly they were absolutely fantastic. I love how many different industries were involved: transport, agriculture, e-commerce, recycling, and health tech all in one competition. Everyone smashed the questions as well – I didn’t envy the judges!”

How did you feel when you were announced the winner?

“Shocked, excited, confused, thankful and a whole multitude of other feelings! The organisers of the competition did such a great job at creating suspense. It was a proper nail-biting moment. I found it quite overwhelming as I really didn’t expect it after hearing the other pitches, the standard was so high.”

It’s a very deserved win. What do you think being the Challenge winner will do for you and BioLiberty?

“The main takeaway I can see is working with Unloc and Verizon Business to help develop BioLiberty as a business and develop our product. Verizon is leading the way in digital health data management – from 5G to IoT technology to help safely process patient data. This is very closely related to our digital therapy platform which will accompany the glove. Working with industry experts could save us months of development time! Also, Unloc are experts in supporting young entrepreneurs and we have a lot to learn from them. The whole team at BioLiberty is so excited for these potential collaborations and all that we can absorb and learn.”

How do you plan to spend/invest your £10,000 Grand Prize winnings?

“We are going to try and make this funding stretch to help multiple areas of the business: IP, prototype development and consultancy. We need to file patents to ensure our design is protected, and there are a lot of costs associated with this. We will also use a portion of the funding to purchase equipment which will allow us to continue developing our prototype (we believe this funding will get us to TRL 5). And finally, we need to continue receiving consultancy for both product design and medical regulations strategy. We’re a young team and need to make sure we work with experienced professionals in the medical device industry to fill any knowledge gaps!”

What advice would you give to anyone planning on entering the next Young Entrepreneurs Challenge?

“100% do it!! Whether you have an idea of a full-blown founding team and prototype – APPLY for the Young Entrepreneurs Challenge! The application will really make you think about your business proposition. The team at Unloc are a great bunch and so supportive and helpful – so make sure you ask them any questions if you aren’t sure about the application. Also feel free to add me on LinkedIn and reach out! Good luck!”

Rowan thank you so much for taking the time to catch up with us, we’ll be following all your progress closely and can’t wait to see all the future success that you and BioLiberty achieve!

Click here to visit the BioLiberty website and find out more about their work.

Click here to visit the Konglomerate Games website and find out more about their work.

Click here to visit the Lilypads website and find out more about their work.