Interns and Competitions Galore
We work in terms in Cambridge. So much of our product development is based in the University that our work style is very much intertwined with the university terms. After returning from Uganda, we had so much new information about the conditions under which the chlorine injector would be working. Tom had a eureka moment and started on the design of a pressure feedback system, meaning that we’d have better control over the flow rate of the chlorine. We hired two technical interns to support us with our work in the engineering lab at Cambridge – the Blue Tap team is rapidly expanding.
Now we were back in Cambridge we wanted to spend some time raising awareness for the water access issues that the world faces – not just in low-income countries, but also here in the UK. People are buying bottled water in the UK at a staggering rate. Despite awareness raised by the BBC’s Blue Planet on the impact of plastic waste on the oceans, sales last year of bottled water rose by 7%. At Blue Tap, we sell reusable water bottles to fund our development work in Uganda and the research that goes into designing the chlorine injector. We also use the sale of these bottles to help raise awareness about the work that Blue Tap does and to encourage people to cut down on their plastic waste. We’ve hired two media and sales interns to help build our social media presence and to connect with the Cambridge colleges as potential customers for our Blue Tap bottles. The main thing we look for when hiring at Blue Tap is people with a proactive work ethics, an honest desire to create environmental and humanitarian change, and most importantly, people that make us feel excited about working together. We’ve certainly got that with our new recruits. Check out the team page here: https://www.bluetap.co.uk/our-story
At Blue Tap, once every term, we sit down for 2 days straight as a team and we work on our goal-setting and priorities for the coming term. We’re really excited to share the process of building a start-up social enterprise with other students that want to follow suit. You quickly come to realise with a start-up that funding and administration are a high priority. When we began in 2017, we started entering competitions to see if our idea could get any traction. Were we crazy to think our approach to social enterprise, low-cost water technology and international development could work? Getting to the finals of the Shell360 competition and the UCL/LBS Cleantech competitions helped us to see that we were onto something that could gain traction.
Then we started to win competitions, the Cambridge University Entrepreneurs £2k and £10k competition, National Geographic got behind us and gave us a grant and O2 supported Tom with funding for technical development. This funding helped us to carry out our first field trial in Uganda and to purchase the tools we needed to build our tech. At the beginning of 2019, it struck us that in order to Blue Tap to go full-time with a team of at least 6 employees, we’d need a significant amount of funding. For social enterprise start-ups there are quite a few avenues to explore; equity-investment, grants, government funding, competitions. We decided to spend the first part of 2019 focusing on competitions and grants because they also came with feedback from experts, which we love.
In March, Becky and I travelled to Paris for the European final of the Global Social Venture Competition https://gsvc.org/, an international competition to turn ideas into impact. We spent two intensive days in La Defense, Paris competing against other student-based social enterprises for a place in the global final at Berkeley, California.
Pitching is one of the most exhilarating, and nerve-wracking part of building a start-up. You have a tiny amount of time to get an audience or judges to believe not only in your idea, but also in you as a team. In just a 10-minute slot, can you show them that you can make your plans succeed, become financially sustainable and actually improve the quality of life for your customers and beneficiaries? With some passion, dry-wit and Becky’s incredibly detailed financial planning, we were able to do just that – Blue Tap was selected as one of two teams to go to the global GSVC finals in Berkeley to pitch again in April 2019 https://gsvc.org/2019-global-finals/