Jacobus Challenge

The Jacobus Challenge is a business plan entrepreneur competition for students, held every year in Bremen, Germany. Hosted by Jacobs University, it is open to teams of 2-4 students, giving the top three the chance to win a prize of up to €3000.

The challenge fit perfectly with a project I’ve been working on with Jake and Jeppe, two other second year computer science students here at Queens’. Our project is called Localgag, a website which allows sharing of photos and stories with other people nearby. Visiting the site or opening our app shows you all of the content that has been posted by others nearby to your location.  We came third overall and won a prize of €1000.

Having submitted our business plan, we were soon informed that we had reached the last 10, and were invited to the final event which meant spending an all-expenses-paid weekend at Jacobs University.  After a short one-hour flight, we were met at the airport by a member of the organising team and driven to the campus, situated on an ex-military base.

The next morning, we explored and took the opportunity to post pictures on Localgag, to help demonstrate our project by having some local content for Bremen. The afternoon started with each of the ten teams showing their one minute “elevator pitch” video to the panel of four judges and rest of the audience. This was intended to be a short promotional video demonstrating the potential of the product. Jake did a great job making our video, with people telling us afterwards how impressed they were by it.

Following the elevator pitch, each team had two minutes to present their idea verbally. Jeppe succinctly described the motivation behind our idea and why we believe there is a market for it.

Once each team had finished presenting, we made our way into the foyer where a large A0 poster submitted by each team was waiting for us. Jake, Jeppe and I discussed our project with the judges, members of the university as well as the press. Along with answering questions about our idea, we also had the opportunity to take a closer look at the work of the other teams.

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The audience watches as the teams present their ideas

Dinner was provided in the foyer, after which was the announcement of the five teams that would progress to the final stage the next day. Having found it difficult to gauge whether the judges liked our idea, we were very pleased to find out we had made it to the final round, along with a joint team from MIT and Columbia and three teams from Jacobs. Their ideas included a handbag that can charge mobile phones using a fuel cell and a pair of glasses with vibrational feedback to help blind people. We hurried back to our room to prepare, as progressing meant that we would need to deliver a 20-minute detailed presentation of our business plan the following afternoon.

Our presentation was divided between us, and I would be delivering the middle portion of slides. We waited nervously, watching two teams before it was our turn and we went up to the front in our matching shirts. Our pitch was followed by a ten minute question session, in which we were asked how we expected to generate revenue from our product, and how it differed from existing services such as using location hashtags on Twitter.

Having discussed the projects between themselves, the judges were ready to make the announcement of the winners shortly before dinner. We were delighted to hear “Team Localgag” announced as finishing in third place, being presented with a novelty-sized cheque for €1000 to spend on advancing our project.

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Localgag receive their prize from one of the judges

The weekend concluded with an invitation to attend the annual talent show at Jacobs, which was great fun and featured performances from many of the students.

I thoroughly enjoyed our weekend in Bremen, and can’t thank the organising team enough for putting together such a great competition. Sadly we were far too busy to have any time to look around the city of Bremen, but I would really recommend entering next year to anyone who has a great business idea of their own.

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