Monday, 16 November 2020

Finding and Managing Opportunity

Matthew Bate, SELA Cohort 2018

Hands together around single buttercup flower on stem
If I were to give you one piece of advice, I’d say remember this: opportunity doesn’t just come to you, it’s something you’ve got to find.

In September 2019, myself and a team of five began work on a new form of Assistive Technology: we called it U Calm.

As we began the year, we were coming off the back of our success at Workwise’s Get Up to Speed Event and we had the drive to make a difference.Regrouping, we began our second year in SELA with a brief that focused on the use of data in healthcare. We agreed that we wanted to do something real; we wanted to take this project the whole way and to be able to deliver and contribute a solution to the real world.

U Calm logo
Over the next few months, we began developing the concepts at the core of U Calm. Wanting to create an infrastructure that helps support communities in educating, understanding and managing the effects of wellbeing, we decided that the project would be launched in higher education with our unique experience of academia.

As we move forward, U Calm will strive to benefit both students and universities with its unique ability to provide an insight into the wellbeing of the student body, guiding of students to support services to maintain their wellbeing, and its supporting of universities in responding more effectively and in recognising where and how campus activities impact student wellbeing – both positively and negatively.  U Calm has two main goals:

  1. To bridge the gap between students and the community support services available to them; and
  2. to provide a space for students to learn and monitor their own mental wellbeing.

By striving to meet these aims, U Calm hopes to transform wellbeing on campus.

Portrait photo of Matt Bate, SELA Graduate and one of the founders of U Calm
Progress was good, the ball was rolling but I don’t think we need to tell you what happened next: in March 2020, the UK went into lockdown as a response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and as we returned home to all corners of the country, we were faced with a challenge – how were we going to realise our project?

Simply put, we took it step-by-step.  We built a framework and a strategy that allowed us to make the most of any opportunity we faced.

We quickly learnt that the benefit of living in such a connected world meant that people were able to move their services and their lives online with relative ease.  Following our final year exams, we enrolled in Sheffield Start-Up Summer, a two-week workshop and enterprise event, run by The University of Sheffield, that focused on developing a start-up business idea – where we already had the idea, we needed the framework.

For two weeks we would login, catch up and progress with the work we were doing on our project and by the end of it, we had a concrete plan for how we would move forward with our project, but most importantly, with the business mindset we were previously lacking.

Moving into the validation stage of our project and with the aid of our partners in the NHS, we were put in contact with The Cooper Project (Sheffield Tech Parks) – a non-profit accelerator program for projects and start-up’s just like ours and as I am writing this blog post now, I can confidently say that I am proud of the progress we have made.  Progress that was born of our determination, our support for each other and our ability to react and make the most of the new opportunities we faced.

As a team, we are now looking to substantiate and evidence the assumptions we have made.  Creating a questionnaire and hosting it on our website, we ask that if you have ten minutes to spare, you please consider sharing this blog post and clicking this link where you will find our questionnaire along with more information about U Calm’s story and our mission.

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