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Proof of Concept funding

Great news for the Columbus team, who have secured funding from Invest NI under their Proof of Concept (PoC) funding scheme. This will aloow the team to spend the next 9-12 months developing the Columbus concept, building demonstrator capability, and developing a compelling go-to-market strategy for the offering.

Watch this space for ongoing updates on the progress of the PoC.

Just two more sleeps…

It’s only a couple of days until the 25k Awards Dinner (and announcement of the winners!). The Dinner is being held in the iconic Titanic Building, and with 500 guests from the Northern business community attending, it should be a great night. It’s great to see all of the finalists getting some good local media coverage.

Firstly, the Ulster Business published an article at the start of the month unveiling the ten finalists. You can read it here. They also used a picture of our very own Philip Mills in action during the Quick pitch stage of the competition, which you can see below.

Then, last week we were privileged to have Radio Ulster’s Colletta Smith visiting ECIT to talk to us about Columbus, and our colleagues at Liopa. Colletta interviewed both teams, and had a little wander around our offices while doing so. You can hear some short snippets of the interviews here.

So, some nice exposure leading in to what is sure to be an exciting night for everyone involved. Good luck to all the finalists, it’s been a great competition which has revealed some fantastic ideas. No matter who the winners are, all the teams can be very proud of what they have achieved so far, and what they are all sure to achieve in the future.


In the hands of the gods (well, the judges, at any rate!)

So, the 25k Awards competition is drawing to a close. Having created our initial entry, delivered a 3-minute Quick Pitch to a public audience, and written a detailed 25-page Business Plan, the final stage of the competition this week was to deliver a 15-minute Big Pitch to the judging panel, followed by a 15-minute Q&A session. The team spent some time on Monday finalising the pitch, including the addition of some time lapse video which perfectly illustrated one of the problems we are trying to solve – the time wasted every day by people waiting at bus stops!

On Tuesday morning, we finalised our thinking on some of the tricky questions that the judging panel might throw at us, an exercise that turned out to be extremely valuable!! Then, just after lunchtime, it was time for the Big Pitch. 15 slides in 15 minutes to tell the story of Columbus so far, and then some interesting questions from the panel, most of which related to the areas we had discussed that morning. We were well-prepared, and the questions were fielded well by different members of the team.

So, it’s now all in the hands of the gods. We face massive competition in our own Digital Media and Software category from fellow ECIT venture Liopa, who have developed a new mobile biometric authentication solution which could see the end of traditional passwords. Whoever wins the category also faces serious competition from the other categories (Bio Tech, Clean Tech and High Tech), and whoever wins the overall competition will have done a wonderful job, and can truly claim to be The Next Big Thing!!

And a wee pic below taken at the start of our pitch….


Some inspiration

In the lead up to the Big Pitch next week, the 10 finalists for this years 25k Awards were brought together to meet the winner of the 2013 innovation Founder Award. The winner was Dr Peter FitzGerald CBE from Randox Laboratories who shared some of his experiences of growing a global company from humble beginnings. His words of advice included maintaining a strong sense of self-belief, not letting the failures get you down, and making sure to think on a global scale.

The guest speaker was Ulster Rugby Captain and British and Irish Lion, Rory Best. Rory shared some of his experiences of being a player and captain in club and international rugby, and how proud he was to represent Ulster, Ireland and the Lions. He talked of the vision that Ulster Rugby has to be the best in the world, and how important it was that that vision was driven from the top. The buy-in of senior players, and the early visibility of progress helped ensure that the vision was shared by the entire organisation. On the subject of innovation, he described how training methods have changed in recent years due to the increased use of technology, particularly for tracking players movement and monitoring their performance.

Rory was kind enough to pose for a photo, and chat afterwards.

PM and RB

The Big Pitch

Excitement is brewing in the Columbus team!!! Our Business Plan was submitted on 31st July, and we are now entering the final phase of the NISP 25k Awards for 2013. Work has started on preparing the Big Pitch, which will be delivered to the judging panel on Tuesday 10th September.

This is our opportunity to take our Business Plan, and bring it to life, to really engage the judges and get them excited about our venture. We’re discussing several ways to communicate the excitement we have for our offering through multimedia, story-telling, and creating a vision of the future. All set against the reality of what we believe is a huge business opportunity.

So, it all comes down to a 15-minute pitch and trying to share the vision. Then we can relax and look forward to the Awards Dinner on Thursday 26th September, when we find out whether we have done enough to win our category, and the overall competition!

Details of the Awards Dinner can be found here.


Business Plan Mentoring

An exciting day for the Columbus team on Thursday 20th June, as we met our Business Mentors to discuss our business plan. Over a couple of hours, they dissected our plans by asking some very probing questions about our technology, business models, market opportunity, potential customer base, and development plans. Not only did they ask some hard questions, but they also helped us find some of the answers and strengthen our proposition.



Columbus is a real-time personal travel assistant which provides public transport users with dynamic, up-to-the-minute information about their travel plans. Traditional journey planners rely on static route maps and timetables, and take no account of services being impacted by external factors like road works, congestion and weather conditions. Using powerful new mathematics and network analysis, Columbus bases its route planning on the real-time status of the network, presenting real-time updates as conditions change, and continually providing the user with the most efficient route to their destination.

Columbus – the future of public transport.