Innovative ideas are not solely from the big cities

Bob Schukai, Head of Advanced Product Innovation at Thomson Reuters reflects on the Apps for Good Awards 2015. 

It has been a week since the Apps for Good Awards ceremony, and I wanted to write a few thoughts in the aftermath of a wonderful day and school term.

Nearly 23,000 kids, from 700+ academic institutions completed the Apps for Good course this year, and 18 of the very best teams were selected as finalists for the Apps for Good Awards London. Each team that was in the Awards finals experienced the same thing that a startup faces: how does one convey an idea clearly and convincingly in order to get funded, which in this case, is the funding to have your app built and put into the Google Play or iTunes store.

Bob Schukai with One Click Politics - winners in Thomson Reuters Information category - at last week's awards
Bob Schukai with One Click Politics – winners in Thomson Reuters’ Information category – at last week’s awards

I don’t personally work for Apps for Good, but I feel as if this is my other “work family.” I’ve seen this grow from a small startup idea into something that has broadened my own view of the world.  And it is a great reminder of something we all need to keep in mind. The diversity of our schools and children breeds incredible diversity in ideas and teams which come to the finals. Can anyone genuinely believe that a school from Wick, Scotland has produced winners for three consecutive years? Try to get to Wick sometime from London: you fly to Inverness and drive for 2+ hours or take a flight via Edinburgh. It’s not easy. Wick is about as far away from London as you can go in the United Kingdom, in a very remote part of the country. And yet, they win. Innovative ideas are not solely from the big cities but can come from small communities like Wick.

I often mention this about Apps for Good, and I love repeating it. This is a programme that has achieved something rare: a 50/50 split of boys and girls taking part. That is breaking the mold for the startup and technology scene that is highly dominated by men. We won’t change the scene unless we change the game early on. It makes me exceptionally proud, as the father of a teenage daughter myself, to see an all-girls team win like I’m Okay did back in 2014. And what kind of confidence boost would a team like that get when people like Stephen Fry and Richard Branson talk about them and their project on social media!

This is such a remarkable program, and for me personally, it’s even more rewarding to see some of the kids come and join my team in London on work placements and internships. Their enthusiasm for apps and mobile products reminds my team and me once more about the joy we get in building great solutions for Thomson Reuters. I also can’t thank Thomson Reuters enough for supporting this initiative, especially now with the Fellows Programme: an opportunity for kids to stay engaged with Apps for Good after they graduate, so that they can tell their own stories to the next group of future entrepreneurs.  It’s one thing to hear it from a guy who has been doing it for a long time, but I think it’s even more powerful for new students to hear it from someone who has been there, completed the course, and can reflect on what it personally meant.

Emily & Alex who won with I'm Okay in 2015 attended the Awards as Fellows
Emily & Alex who won with their app I’m Okay in 2014 attended last week’s Awards as Fellows

With that, I’d invite you to consider the many ways you can become a part of the Apps for Good community.  Perhaps you might just want to get a feel for it by becoming an Expert. It’s easy to sign up and deliver helpful mentoring sessions in areas such as design, idea generation, marketing, business models, and pubic speaking.  They can all be delivered via Skype or Google Hangouts; or you can be a little crazier like I am and go visit schools personally. I do a bit of both and just find it immensely rewarding.

Perhaps you’d like to take a bigger role in corporate sponsorship. I would be thrilled to talk to you personally about the benefits we have seen at Thomson Reuters; you can reach me on Twitter via @iammobilebob or simply send me a LinkedIn request.

Congrats again to this year’s winners of the 2015 Apps for Good Awards and see you in the new 2015-2016 school term!