Who are our ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’? Green-tech project Hydro scoops Accenture entrepreneur award

Business, startups | Thu 29 Aug | Author – Business & Finance
The Hydro team - LOT winners

A team of five students and graduates from UCD, UCC and TU Dublin are behind an innovative green-tech project that has just won the prestigious Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Award 2019.

Hydro, a ‘keep cup’ cleaning contraption with ambition to make the sustainable workplace convenient and profitable, is the brainchild of Meg Brennan (UCD), Harry Shanahan (UCC), Sophie O’Rourke (TU Dublin), Daniel Izquierdo Hijazi (TU Dublin) and David Furlong (TU Dublin).

Designed to fit alongside the office coffee machine, Hydro effectively steam cleans an upturned reusable cup within five seconds; encouraging the continued usage of the cup and saving on electricity bills and water usage by decreasing dishwasher traffic.

Ms Brennan, who specialises in bioengineering and biomedical engineering at UCD, is responsible for the company’s technology.  But her teammates come from quite diverse education backgrounds, pulling the overall business together effectively.

Taking care of finance is Mr Shanahan, a student at UCC, while Sophie O’Rourke, who has a background in product design, manages the team’s operations. Daniel Izquierdo Hijazi, meanwhile, is the commercial lead and is studying business & sociology at TU Dublin; and David Furlong who focuses on all things design and is studying product design at TU Dublin.

Leaders of Tomorrow

Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT), Accenture’s early stage entrepreneur accelerator, was originally designed to foster entrepreneurship in third-level students and recent graduates.

The program helps to connect this talent with other enterprising people, assisting them in transforming early-stage ideas into thriving marketable businesses.

Managing Director and LOT sponsor Graham Healy said that the summer programme, which has been running for over a decade, has evolved substantially over the last two years.

Graham Healy

Graham Healy (right) with one of the Leaders of Tomorrow finalists at the final showcase

“We started out looking for people in universities to pitch individual project ideas but over the years it has grown into a team based project. LOT takes the team right from the team forming stage to the creation of validated, valuable prototypes at the end of the program,” he told Business & Finance.

“From 50 submissions from 11 colleges when the program started out, we received over 500 applications this year. We made it very clear that we wanted people from multidisciplinary backgrounds so we could create teams based on skill, vision, and shared value.

“Accenture initially used this program as a tool to hire great people, but our preference now is to help bring innovation to the marketplace, taking latest technologies and applying them in the real world.”

This year’s programme ran from March 2019 until the final showcase competition on Wednesday, 28thAugust, where Hydro was awarded the main prize of €10,000 in seed-funding. Accenture take no equity in return for the prize funding.

The winning team will also receive a stand at Dublin Tech Summit 2020 as part of the Start-Up programme, Vision X, and a workspace at WeWork Labs for one month to continue working on their business.

The process

Over 100 candidates selected from the applications were invited into a two-day team forming and ideation event which was held in April this year.

The strongest five teams – JustOne, Clockwork, Hydro, ExRent and TeddyCare – were then brought onto a summer accelerator programme which ran from May until August.

JustOne is an eco-conscious health start-up creating the world’s first tablet-refilled deodorant; ClockWork is a HR web-app designed to measure soft skills more efficiently for employers; EzRent is a property-tech start-up providing personalised accommodation search using AI and medial-tech start-up TeddyCare is developing fun, child-friendly allergen testers.

During these months, all teams participated in workshops and sessions with Accenture leaders, guest speakers, mentors and industry experts. The sessions were tailored to provide the best guidance, opportunities, and resources to the teams.

Leaders of Tomorrow

Participants received advice, insights and mentorship from Accenture’s global collective of innovators, from a variety of diverse backgrounds and experiences. For example, Design, Software Engineering, Business and AR/VR.

Accenture also hosted six full day workshops, spaced out every one to two weeks in areas like Ideation, Design-Thinking & Rapid Prototyping, Sales, PR, & Marketing, Customer Research & Business Strategy and Presentation Skills & Pitch Training.

Each team presented at the LOT Final Showcase Day in front of a panel of judges, potential investors, interested parties from the start-up community, friends and family.

The panel of judges – Mr Healy, TU Dublin’s Michelle Moloney, Alan Coleman Founder and CEO at Sweepr, Labs Manager at WeWork Victoria Almazovaite, and Sean Judge, Entrepreneur in Residence at Accenture & Director at UpStarter – ultimately chose Hydro as the winner.

“What made Hydro stand out was that it was a good working prototype, backed by substantial research, it is very much on trend, and it ticks the boxes on being eco friendly and sustainable,” said Mr Healy.