The initiative – which helps staff, students, and recent graduates from Scottish universities to launch businesses – is instead highlighting the impact that founders can have through their companies, both for people and for the planet.
This year’s Converge challenges – Converge, Create Change, KickStart, and Net Zero will help innovative start-ups and spinouts to create products and services that go beyond simply making a profit but also have an impact on people’s lives.
£320,000 in funding and support is available to the winners and runners-up, along with access to the advice, events, and training that make Converge one of the most-effective company creation initiatives in Scotland.
Since it began in 2011, the initiative has helped more than 600 people to launch more than 300 businesses, creating in excess of 800 high-value jobs and raising £280 million in follow-on funding along the way.
Companies launched with its support have a 69% survival rate after 3 years, compared with a UK average of 40%.
“Words like ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ are off-putting for lots of people, especially women and impact-driven individuals.
“Converge wants to help overcome this ‘entrepreneurship’ image problem by broadening the language we all use when we talk about setting up businesses to tackle problems.
“It doesn’t matter whether you call yourself an ‘entrepreneur’ or a ‘founder’ or a ‘creative’ because we don’t care about those labels.
“If you want to make a difference to people’s lives or to the planet then Converge can help you gain the skills and the tools that you need to make it happen.”
Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director of Converge
News of Converge’s 2023 launch and ambition to dispel myths around “entrepreneurialism” comes as one of last year’s winners, LU Innovations, prepares to raise seed funding.
Erin Reid, 25, an Edinburgh Napier University graduate, created the LU hygiene kit to help adventurers reduce the risk of infections, infertility, and toxic shock during their periods.
As a passionate outdoors enthusiast, she became frustrated at the lack of products and support for women when they have their periods in remote locations.
Her kits are designed for women who find themselves in places without toilets, bathrooms, or hand washing facilities, where good menstrual hygiene would otherwise be difficult.
They enable the storage, application, cleaning, and disposal of menstrual products in a safe, hygienic way, and help to reduce waste.
LU Innovations won last year’s Converge Create Change Challenge and the Rose Award, a standalone prize sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland to help women start businesses.
As well as a £40,000 cash prize and £10,000-worth of business support, Erin won a one-to-one mentoring session with NatWest Group chief executive Alison Rose. Now, Erin is preparing to raise £200,000 in seed funding and bring on board both a business partner and a non-executive director to help her grow her company.
Dr Cavalluzzo added: “Erin and her LU Innovations are great examples of the drive that lies at the heart of Converge – to give everyone the chance to solve a problem, no matter their background or gender.
“Erin spotted a problem that she wanted to fix and teaming up with Converge and our university partners will help her to make a difference in the lives of women around the world.
“Inclusion sits at the heart of Erin and LU’s mission and we want to make this year’s Converge even more inclusive and diverse because everyone deserves the chance to turn their ideas into innovations.
“You don’t need to think of yourself as an ‘entrepreneur’ in order to tackle a problem – Converge can help you to develop the skills you need to set up and run a business.”
As well as the support from Converge, LU Innovations has been helped on its journey by the Bright Red Triangle enterprise skills team at Edinburgh Napier University.
Converge’s mission is to empower the next generation of innovators, creators and ground breakers turn their ideas into commercially viable businesses to improve lives, safeguard our planet and help Scotland’s economy thrive.
Funded by the Scottish Funding Council, Creative Scotland, all 18 of Scotland’s universities, and a network of ten corporate partners, the programme is designed to springboard new businesses through intensive training, networking, 1-2-1 support, generous equity-free cash prizes and expert advice from a roster of business and investment experts.
Find out more and apply for Converge 2023 by 29th March, 12 noon.