It will allocate 83,000 euros in prizes and provide participants with training, support, and mentoring for five months
A growing number of young people are being driven to design and implement business projects, with which they want to provide solutions in a wide range of fields and, while doing so, earn a living and create jobs. Fortunately, despite the great difficulties involved in such an enterprise, there is an increasing level of support from initiatives based on the collaboration of public and private entities.
An example of this is the Explorer ‘Youth with ideas’ programme. Promoted by Banco Santander through Santander Universities and coordinated by the International Santander Entrepreneurship Centre (ICSE). The coordinated work of more than 40 universities and multiple institutions will help, until May, more than 1,200 entrepreneurs to develop more than 900 projects in high-performance centres, with personalized advice and training in innovation and business models.
Work began in mid-January at the 52 Explorer Spaces located throughout Spain and Portugal. This year more than 2,900 candidates applied. The Explorer Space that the programme is running at the University of Buenos Aires will start to operate in March.
This year, women are heading one-third of the projects submitted, boosting the participation of women in the programme. On the other hand, with regard to candidates’ qualifications, 35% of those selected come from social sciences and law and 30% from the fields of engineering and architecture. Although to a lesser extent, there are also young people with studies in the fields of health (9%), science (8%), arts and humanities (7%), and others (11%).
The selected initiatives, more than 900 ideas, seek to solve problems connected with the environment, health, education, tourism or industry, and incorporate the latest technology, such as machine learning, big data or virtual reality. Among the innovative projects that will be developed over the next few months, we can find one named smartwatch, which automatically administers dermal medications to patients with chronic conditions, a therapy designed to cure phobias through three-dimension virtual spaces, a robotic arm that applies makeup perfectly through facial recognition, or an electric car driven by wind energy, among others.
The young people selected may attend design-thinking, creativity, finance, leadership, negotiation, marketing or communication skills practice sessions and workshops – 30 hours of specialized training – delivered by more than 150 experts that belong to the Explorer programme network. Each project will also receive personalised support from a mentor.
Funding for the best projects
At the end of the training, 52 entrepreneurs will be selected – one from each Explorer Space -, who will travel to Silicon Valley, where they will attend lectures at leading technology firms, receive advice on internationalization and meet investors. In addition, the three best projects will receive 30,000, 20,000 and 10,000 euros to contribute to their development.
Explorer also includes a Woman Explorer Award, thanks to the collaboration with the EY Foundation, which contributes 20,000 euros to the best project headed by a female entrepreneur. And a prize for innovation, the Disruptive Technology Explorer Award – promoted by INDRA – worth 3,000 euros that also provides advice by experts from Indraventures for the most innovative business project.
The Explorer programme is part of the Santander X global community and represents the evolution of Santander YUZZ, an initiative that, in the past eight editions, has promoted the ideas of more than 4,200 young people and has generated hundreds of businesses.
“Being able to meet other ‘crazy people’ like you, makes you stronger”
Borja Cembrero and Sara López designed Naiz Fit, the second prize of the Explorer program in 2017
“The vast majority of people who buy on the Internet do not know their size; not an easy task given the number of sizes and terminology used by the various brands. So, in June of 2016, we started to assess technology that could make this idea come true”. Finding a solution to a problem. This is the philosophy that encouraged Borja Cembrero and Sara López, both aged 25, to launch Naiz Fit, an application that, since August of last year, has helped iOS and Android users to buy clothing online. “You take two pictures of yourself using the mobile application and our algorithms can calculate the measurements of your body and tell you the size you need. Naiz Fit helps you make a good purchase, avoid returns and makes online shopping a pleasant experience”, stressed Borja. With a catalogue of over 88,000 products, the application displays the garments that match the size and redirects users to the websites of the stores, where they can complete the purchase.
This was one of the hundreds of projects that received support and training in the last edition of the Explorer programme. The idea of these Basque entrepreneurs won over the jury, which awarded them the second prize worth 20,000 euros, so that they could continue to develop the App. “The jury takes many aspects into account, such as innovation and the disruptive quality of the project, its scalability, the involvement of the founding team and their experience, etc. In our case, we believe that the duality of a project that is capable of generating a profitable business model almost from the beginning and, at the same time, propose a very ambitious project was something that fit very well with the jury”.
However, for Borja and Sarah, the end result was a surprise. “After becoming familiar with the other projects that went to Silicon Valley with us, we didn’t expect to be second because the level was very high. It was a joy and a boost to our moral. We have proudly hung the prize certificate on the wall in the office.” In addition, Borja stresses the “intangible” value of this type of initiative for entrepreneurs. “Being able to meet other ‘crazy people’ like you, makes you stronger, provides support, enables you to learn, and encourages you. Learning how other people overcome problems, how they provide value for their projects enriches yours very much. And, you have the time of your life!” he acknowledges.
The 20,000 euros of the prize will be allocated to further developing the product. At the end of February, they will launch a new version of Naiz Fit that incorporates some improvements that have been proposed, such as the possibility that another person can take the photographs, offer personalized recommendations based on the type of body and tastes, a catalogue filter by brand, product type, colour… and a new design and structure of the app to make the experience more satisfactory.