Innovation Challenge – An update on the winners’ progress

Earlier this year, we announced the launch of our inaugural Innovation Challenge, with the two winning projects having been unveiled in August. The pilot initiative, run in collaboration with Accenture and the IDB Lab of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, challenged YBI members to propose innovative ways of improving the support services offered to young entrepreneurs in four different areas of implementation: mentoring, training, access to finance and access to markets.

The entries were judged by an expert panel and member vote, based on problem validation, compelling solution, viability of implementation, sustainability and scalability and impact.

Who are the winners?

Aliança Empreendedora: Mão na Massa

Mão na Massa is an application that provides practical, gamified guidance to young entrepreneurs in the early stages of their businesses. The app will give entrepreneurs access to practical and simple management tasks and challenges, share technical knowledge and tools, and track their progress.

Futurpreneur CanadaYouth Business Germany and Youth Business Spain (consortium): My Youth Business Market

My Youth Business Market aims to create a support system for entrepreneurs and smaller businesses attempting to access new markets and establish relationships for cross-border cooperation, with an emphasis on building trusting relationships between international collaborators.

What have the winners been up to?

The projects are now over halfway through development and implementation. We asked the winners to share with us some highlights so far.  

Mão na Massa

The team at Aliança Empreendedora have been working hard to develop ideas and features for their application. Through online consultancy sessions with Lean Innovation and Customer Development expert, Bob Dorf, they have expanded on their initial ideas and collected real user feedback to adapt the tool to entrepreneurs’ needs. They decided the application overall needed to deliver an experience beyond knowledge training, and that a practical toolkit is crucial to guide the users along the entrepreneurial journey.

What they have learned so far:

  • After testing different landing pages with 50 users, the favourite design was a playlist of challenges and tasks, inspired by Netflix and Spotify.
  • Video content is useful, especially seeing real interactions with other entrepreneurs.
  • Gamification was successful in the prototype.
  • Users requested a feature for real-time guidance – e.g. ‘Ask the Specialist’.
  • New content needs to be easily shared with users – an option is push notifications.
  • A customer acquisition strategy is needed – this will focus on social media.

Aliança will be launching the application in November and gradually releasing functionalities for further user testing. There will be time to address any issues before the official launch in early 2019. They hope to reach 1,000 young entrepreneurs through downloads of the application.

Helena Casanovas Vieira, Research and Development Director at Aliança Empreendedora, said:

“Being one of the two winners of the inaugural YBI Innovation Challenge has provided our organisation the opportunity to learn more about the best ways to reach young entrepreneurs and above all, to understand the need to test our assumptions directly with users. We strongly recommend this approach from the start of any application project.”

My Youth Business Market

The YBI member consortium of Futurpreneur Canada, Youth Business Germany and Youth Business Spain, have already reached out to entrepreneurs and mentors to learn more about their interests and willingness to take part in the project. They want to create a community of practice where entrepreneurs can exchange experiences and build a trusting and communicative relationship.

What they have learned so far…

  • A clear entrepreneurial profile is needed to match entrepreneurs from different countries.
  • International markets and the available products/services must be well-analysed.
  • A library of relevant content will be useful, e.g. how to conduct transnational business.
  • A digital tool is essential to connect participants with mentors – a prototype is being tested.
  • More mentors and business owners need to be invited to the platform, allowing them to either request goods and services or find support opportunities.

A sense of community will be especially important for this project, allowing a real sense of connection and conversation between the participants. Throughout the process, My Youth Business Market have been engaging with young entrepreneurs and will continue to facilitate transnational communication to understand the best ways to create collaboration opportunities.

Joerg Schoolmann, Director of Partnership Development at Youth Business Germany, commented:

“Through the valuable support we have received through being one of the YBI Innovation Challenge winners, we have learned that entrepreneurial profiles are the key to successful collaborations. These speed up the matching process and make it much more straightforward, allowing these partnerships to flourish.” 

 Bob Dorf, Innovation Challenge consultant who has worked with both teams, said:

“It’s been quite an intense, exciting journey for me: working with two smart, energetic teams from four countries and trying first of all just to stay ahead of them and their passion for serving entrepreneurs. It’s too early to declare victory with the long term battle, but we have two incredible teams passionate about building great tools for the world’s young entrepreneurs. And it’s been an honour to be asked to help.”

 The two 2018 Innovation Challenge winners are both great examples of the forward-thinking mind-set of YBI’s members, with effective collaboration at the forefront of their solutions. We will continue to share updates on the outcomes of these projects and hope to inspire even more approaches to innovation within our network of members in over 50 countries worldwide. Look out for the 2019 Innovation Challenge to be launched next year!


The 2018 judging panel consisted of Hannah Mansour, Innovation 4 Society Lead at Accenture, Maritza Vela, Project Specialist at IDB Lab, Bob Dorf, Lean Innovation and Customer Development Expert and Dianne Cornes, Director of Network Members at YBI.

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