On November 22, 2023, ICUBE collaborated with Nobellum to present the Ideation Lab Innovathon Pitch! Eight participants pitched their small businesses to compete for four different Awards, chosen by a panel of judges and an audience vote. In anticipation of the event, we discussed the benefits of participating in both Nobellum and ICUBE’s startup programs with two Innovathon participants – Ruffin Lumbala and Michelle Mukonyora.
Lumbala is the founder of Multivent, an event management platform connecting planners and vendors. He has been aiming to solve the inefficiency of event planning, connecting with possible users who have told him how valuable this goal is. Outside of his business, Lumbala is a soccer coach for Rush Football Academy and teaches coding with Black Boys Code.
Mukonyora’s startup focuses on affordable and accessible personalized medicine and hair testing services. She has found that hair is much more accurate for testing for disease and predispositions than blood is, allowing for earlier intervention by medical professionals. On the side, she formulates for a small cosmetic beauty brand.
What is Nobellum?
“Nobellum is a social enterprise that has the goal of building 100 black owned businesses in STEM by 2025,” explains Lumbala. “They try to empower, inspire, and develop entrepreneurs and equip them with the business experience they need to be successful.”
He recounts his time spent with Nobellum as especially fulfilling, and was particularly pleased that the program gave him “a slingshot moment” – a moment where he realized he was about to launch into a new realm of success. Lumbala says that Nobellum allows a new generation to get chances that their predecessors never did.
Mukonyora echoes Lumbala’s thoughts, highlighting that Nobellum provided a space for her to work in the STEM industry. The program connected her to a mentor in a major company, giving her the platform to network on a global level. She highlights that, in this way, working with Nobellum expanded her worldview and made her realize her startup had the potential to be global.
Indeed, Nobellum has many perks that both founders experienced – including access to mentors and consultants, as well as support and advice on developing minimum viable products (MVPs). The program offers online courses for those in different timezones or locations, and Nobellum also has a large degree of collaboration with ICUBE, attested to by both Mukonyora and Lumbala.
Mukonyora says that working with Nobellum and ICUBE taught her to “hype herself up”. Coming from a culture where modesty was valued, she made a mental switch to help herself show off her skills and grow her confidence. She cites mindset as one of the most important things during this experience. Mukonyora is also grateful for the opportunity to participate in pitch competitions, saying that it helps one “speak like an entrepreneur.”
Lumbala states that the program showed him the importance of developing and working on your own ideas early, even before one has funding. He says that he came to Nobellum with “just an idea,” and since then, he has come close to finishing his MVP. He stresses that the most valuable lesson he has learned is that prospective founders should take action for themselves; programs will support them, but they need to put in work on their own.
ICUBE’s Ideation Innovathon Pitch Competition
The recent Ideation Innovathon featured eight competitors tackling a diverse range of problems: Pawniverse, Verinova, StemTEST, Homnics, Med Melanin, Remedius Mobile Health, Tidy Money, and Sundry Software. These startups competed for a total of $10 000 in prize money. Competitors were assessed based on several judging criteria: did they have a clearly defined problem? A clearly defined user base? Expertise to back it up?
The 1st place Nobellum STEM Award was won by Med Melanin, a telemedicine provider poised to reduce misdiagnosis rates and improve the experiences of women of colour. The ICUBE Excellence in Ideation Award was won by StemTEST, which assists skincare brands in providing a personalized experience to their customers. Finally, the ICUBE Stellar Innovation Award and People’s Choice Award were both earned by Verinova, which provides insights and recommendations for organizations to improve their workplace strategy.
Participation in ICUBE or Nobellum gives ventures easy access to compete in events like this. Also, even just watching a pitch competition has significant value – viewers get to see how these entrepreneurs conduct themselves and present their businesses to potential investors and customers, learning valuable lessons in the process.
For interested participants, ICUBE’s Winter Ideation Lab will be open for applications this December, so keep on the lookout for our announcement!