To a somewhat nervous atmosphere, Özge Özen Zink – responsible for SEB's entrepreneurial collaborations, Strategy & Offering – entered the stage in the auditorium of the bank’s Solna office. She proceeded to kickstart the pitching event through a … relaxation exercise. After some deep breaths and mindfulness, Özge put her business hat back on and said something along the lines of:
“Among today’s participants we find national backgrounds from 18 different countries. In addition, 18 universities and 33 different fields of study are represented. This is true diversity – and I am more than convinced that better ideas are born within heterogeneous groups!”
One person nodding a little extra in agreement was Sofia Pettersson Herfindal, who has fronted the camp together with Özge. Sofia is responsible for SEB's cooperation with universities.
And so, the pitch competition began. A new inventory management solution to reduce food waste in stores and a digital concept to facilitate trade in locally produced crops, were two of the ideas presented. But how come we ended up here?
Entrepreneur camp is a crash course in entrepreneurship aimed at university students. During five days, the participants get to work on a business idea, in teams, while immersing themselves in topics such as sustainability and financing. All through, they are guided by experts, and it ends with – you guessed it – a pitching event. It’s a concept that, without a doubt, has become very popular.
“This year's camp has broken all previous records. We stopped recruitment at 120 applications and then selected about 70 participants”, says Malin Brant-Lundin, head of Employer Branding at SEB.
“The high number of applicants does not only show how great the interest in entrepreneurship is among young people, but it also underlines how well we have succeeded in reaching out with our answer to their eagerness to learn more”, Sofia Pettersson Herfindal adds.
And the winner is…
After a long afternoon with a total of 16 presenting teams, it was time for the jury to deliberate, before crowning the winner. As already mentioned, the vote fell on Prelink – consisting of Amanda Voss Åkerström, Ann Abeysekera and Elias Afrasiabi.
“I was really surprised! We only came up with the idea on the third day of the camp, and it’s been brilliant to discover how far you can get, in such a short amount of time”, Amanda says.
The team pitched a platform where small business owners can purchase business-related services from various suppliers.
“We did our best to find a scalable idea and a solution to a problem that many small business owners struggle with, administrative work. I hope that our idea will make it easier for people to run their own businesses”, Elias says.
“We complement each other in a good way. Amanda is studying to become a development engineer and I am studying to become a civil engineer within computer technology. This gives us good knowledge of the possibilities and limitations of the technology. Elias, on the other hand, studies economics and contributes with other relevant perspectives”, Ann says.
The trio behind Prelink was rewarded with a SEK 10,000 start-up grant, an opportunity to participate in various networking events, as well as business coaching for a year. They will also be celebrated in connection with SEB's The NEXT Awards.