Finance Minister holds reception for teenage entrepreneur set to revolutionise travel industry
The Minister for Finance and Personnel has held a special reception at Stormont for a young entrepreneur whose travel app saw him scoop a £10,000 innovation prize aged just 18.
Jack Wallace, the winner of the Generation Innovation Internship Prize run by the Northern Ireland Science Park, met with Arlene Foster at Parliament Buildings on Monday.
Following an eight week paid internship at NI Science Park which saw six young inventors developing their ideas through a specially customised Springboard programme, (a personalised accelerator process), the interns pitched their business models to a panel of judges.
Jack Wallace from Dungannon was awarded the overall prize which included a £10K award for use in further developing his innovative business idea in the area of personalised travel.
The prize was developed by the NI Science Park in collaboration with Northern Ireland entrepreneurs Tom O’Gorman and Jim Finnegan and was funded through their philanthropy.
Jack’s business Travellise is a tool that allows users to plan a personalised travel experience, especially for those tourists looking for an ‘off the beaten track’ experience without endless pre-planning.
Since winning the prize, Jack has started a MEng in Computer Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast and is continuing to develop his business. In November, Jack completed the pre-accelerator Lean Launchpad programme, run jointly by Ulster University and Queen’s. This has enabled Jack to better understand the needs of his potential customer base and help to accelerate the development of the product. User trials have started with the first prototype of the product and the first release of the product due to go live imminently.
Jack spoke to the Minister about his experience on the programme and how this was a catalyst to enable him to bring his idea to life. He said, “In the last six months I have seen my business idea come to life and it was great to be able to speak to the Minister about my experience on the Generation Innovation Internship programme and my plans for Travellise. I would encourage any young person with a business idea to apply to the programme in 2016. It has been a life changing experience for me. ”
Finance Minister Arlene Foster said, “It is inspiring to hear how Jack has maximised the opportunity he was given through taking part in the Generation Internship programme and winning the £10,000 prize. This programme is a great example of how philanthropy from those in the private sector, applied through the professional expertise of the Science Park, can have a real impact on the lives of young people, giving them the confidence and most importantly the support to unlock their inner entrepreneur.
“Rebalancing and growing our economy will require ever more of our young people to be inspired and enthused about the many opportunities there are in Northern Ireland. I look forward to watching the progress of Jack’s business and wish him every success with the development of Travellise. I am pleased to hear that the NI Science Park plan to continue with the programme in 2016 and I hope that others, like Tom and Jim, will step up to the plate to help more of our young people to develop their latent talent and wish them every success with growing the Generation Internship program over the coming years.”
The internship program was structured on the Science Park CONNECT’s highly successful Springboard programme, which is known for its success in preparing early-stage start-ups in Northern Ireland into business-ready companies.
Attending the meeting with Minister, Joanne Stuart Director of Development at NI Science Park said, “We applied our proven formula to young people, and it has been a rewarding experience to see the impact the programme has had not only on Jack but all the young interns. Actually, we discovered that this age group learned faster than any, how best to use the facilities and networks we have to offer. We have so many talented young inventors and innovators; so we are planning to continue with the programme to help catalyse their development.”
The programme wouldn’t exist without the philanthropic support of local entrepreneurs Tom O’Gorman and Jim Finnegan. Speaking to the Minister about his motivation to support and develop the program, Tom said, “The reason Jim and I set out to develop this prize with the Northern Ireland Science Park was to encourage more entrepreneurship among our young people and to support the best ideas. All six interns have shown real entrepreneurial talent and exceeded our expectations in what they have achieved. This has been a personally rewarding experience and I would encourage other philanthropists from the business community to get involved in the 2016 programme.”
For more information on NI Science Park CONNECT, please visit http://nispconnect.org/