An innovative project aimed at reuniting people with their lost property via an app has taken top spot in ORT’s leading entrepreneurial competition for students.
Teenagers from the ORT Liceo Renzo Levi school in Rome devised the ‘Find Me!’ app, which works as a virtual lost and found center, providing free, printable labels for users to stick to their high-value belongings. Using a QR code, it allows users to report the loss of a specific item and make contact with the person who has found the object.
The team’s effort saw them collect first prize in the 2020-21 World ORT Taub Young Entrepreneurship Program (YEP) Final for northern hemisphere schools. YEP sees teams of students design a product or service which solves a social problem, with milestone presentations and pitches to judges throughout the course.
Our teachers around the world deliver a 30-week curriculum, providing students aged 14-16 with a thorough introduction to the world of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship. The course simulates the real-world process of developing an initial idea through market research, analysis of risks and opportunities, defining product specifications, selecting the optimum business model, designing a marketing strategy, manufacturing a product prototype and, finally, the presentation of a business plan and sales pitch.
Due to the Covid pandemic, this year’s YEP was adapted for remote working. In the live final on May 26, most students took part alone at home in front of their computers rather than with their teammates in their classrooms.
Ten teams from eight countries joined the event, each giving a four-minute presentation of their project before answering questions from the judges. The teams were all well prepared, with excellent ideas to solve local and global problems, and demonstrating how the program contributes to the students’ development.
Opening the event, Robert Taub – lead program sponsor and an experienced entrepreneur – told the students: “I believe the ORT mission is to educate you to open your mind and provide you the skills you need for your future. I became the lead sponsor of the program because I want to give something back, and the best reward for me would be if one day, one of these projects that you are presenting would actually be a concrete business plan and even open to commercialisation.”
Mr Taub ended his message with advice for the students: “You go to bed with the dream, and you wake up with the purpose.”
The judging panel for the final included Shawn Kimel, a Canadian entrepreneur and investor; Brian Hermelin, a Detroit-based investor in technology businesses; and Annette Kurer, global leadership consultant and motivational speaker, who is also Chair of ORT UK’s Board of Trustees.
Their scores helped identify the winning team, but the judging panel also helped the students think about their presentations and the solutions they were offering via their pitches.
The winning team included students Ginevra Di Porto, Giulia Limentani and Martina Spizzichino. During the live final they explained about the current market for such an app, their intended users, likely competitors and even about the behavior of people who lose items. They explained how they want to create a sense of community, where people help each other find items in a cheap and easy way.
Daniel Tysman, Head of World ORT’s Education Department, congratulated the winning team and told the students: “To all of the teams who participated today, this is the end of a 30-week journey with your teachers in the YEP course. You have worked together, worked with the judges, and I hope you have learnt a lot.
“I’ve seen the development since your first, nervous presentations in English, to hearing you present confidently today and answer the judges’ questions with a lot of expertise. I can see a big change and I hope you have picked up a lot of new knowledge and experience of working and communicating on a global stage. We appreciate how well you have done despite all the challenges this year.”
Following the announcement that their team had won, Ginevra addressed the teachers, judges and advisers, and said: “Thank you for everything you have provided us with, and for all the work the judges and teachers have put in to inspire us and help us find the best ways to improve ourselves, thank you.”
For their prizes, the winning team collect iPads for the key members of the group, plus up to $100 to spend on certified online courses for all team members.