Pooling Great Ideas at UCD Start-up Stars Programme
24th June 2019
MLN (pronounced ‘Melon’), an early-stage University College Dublin (UCD) student venture, has been declared overall winner of the 2019 UCD Start-up Stars Programme and has won a €3,000 cash prize. Many employees of medium-to-large organisations are unhappy with their daily commute. Over 50% live outside a direct form of public transport to work, affecting employee retention levels. Such organisations are also reducing the number of parking spaces they have available to staff due to rising costs.
To address this issue, MLN is currently developing a secure and real-time in-house carpooling app for medium-to-large organisations to reduce the number of cars on the road, to improve the commuter’s experience, and to increase employee retention levels.
The MLN app will enable users to act as both passengers and drivers on their daily commute. The app will use gamification to attract and retain users by providing incentives and rewards for carpooling participation. The MLN dashboard will provide customers with visibility of their carbon footprint reduction, productivity increases and cross-team collaborations. The MLN box uses GPS to automatically detect the user’s commute and an accelerometer and gyroscope to detect collisions and perform vehicle diagnostics.
The founders of MLN are Manal Mukhtar, an undergraduate student in the UCD Lochlann Quinn School of Business and UCD Sutherland School of Law, and Ellen Le Bas, who has just completed a postgraduate degree in the UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
Manal Mukhtar said: “We have thoroughly enjoyed our last 4 weeks at NovaUCD during which we have further developed our start-up idea and we are delighted that MLN has won the 2019 UCD Start-Up Stars Programme. We believe that we are at the cusp of a carpooling revolution and that MLN can be at the forefront when it reaches the tipping point.”
Ellen Le Bas said: “We are excited to continue working with NovaUCD to develop MLN further. The network of mentors and fellow entrepreneurs at NovaUCD is a valuable resource to have as an early-stage start-up.”
The UCD Start-up Stars programme, now in its 5th year, provides a framework to support UCD undergraduate and postgraduate students who want to work together to develop and grow start-up companies. It has been developed by NovaUCD, the UCD Innovation Academy and UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.
Seven (7) early stage ventures, with a total of 16 team members, participated in an intensive mentoring programme which took place over the last 4 weeks at NovaUCD.
The aim of this mentoring programme was to assist the students in refining their start-up ideas through a series of structured workshops, including taught content from industry experts, interactive workshops and regular pitching sessions. In addition each team also received a cash stipend and office space at NovaUCD.
Tom Flanagan, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation said, “I would like to congratulate the founders of MLN on winning the 2019 UCD Start-up Stars Programme and I would like to commend all the students who participated in the programme.”
He added, “During the last 4 weeks at NovaUCD this group of talented and entrepreneurial students leveraged our start-up expertise and network to further develop and refine their start-up ideas. I now look forward to seeing these early-stage ventures move forward to successful market launch.”
He concluded, “Our ongoing €6.5 million project to develop NovaUCD’s eastern courtyard, which will increase our capacity to house start-ups by over 50%, will be completed very shortly. When opened it will help us to meet the significant and ongoing demand from ambitious entrepreneurs, such as those who have just completed the Start-Up Stars Programme, who want to locate at NovaUCD to leverage our ecosystem to help them grow and scale their businesses.”
Following final pitches to a judging panel, MLN was selected as the overall winner as it was considered to have the most commercial potential and the founders received the cash prize of €3,000 sponsored by Xilinx. The six runners-up, also received a cash prize of €500 each sponsored by Xilinx.
Professor Suzi Jarvis, Founding Director, UCD Innovation Academy said, “The students have worked very hard over these past few weeks on venture ideas they are passionate about. The final pitches are a testament to the work that is being undertaken at UCD to foster entrepreneurial mind sets and the ambition of our students to tackle big problems. This programme is a fantastic opportunity for them to develop an idea and explore its viability in the real world.”
Majella Murphy, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School said, “There was a great mix of students from multiple disciplines on the 2019 programme who brought with them diverse ideas and perspectives which are very beneficial to early stage start-ups.”
The members of the 2019 UCD Start-up Stars Programme judging panel were; Kevin Cooney, Senior Vice-President and Managing Director, EMEA, Xilinx; Dr Eimear Gleeson, Investment Associate, Atlantic Bridge; Bryan O’Higgins, Manager, AIB Branch, UCD and Tom Flanagan, Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation, UCD. The sponsors of UCD Start-up Stars Programme are; AIB, Arthur Cox, Goodbody Stockbrokers and Xilinx.
A total of 30 early-stage ventures and over 75 students have now completed the UCD Start-up Stars Programme over the last 5 years. #UCDstartupStars.
Pictured at NovaUCD are Manal Mukhtar and Ellen Le Bas, founders, MLN, winner of the 2019 UCD Start-Up Stars Programme. (Nick Bradshaw, Fotonic).