Helping to turn young ideas into an app-reality
Have you heard of Apps for Good? In a complex start-up ecosystem of government, private sector and not-for-profit, its an organization that really shines through.
Founded by Iris Lapinski in 2009, Apps for Good aims to turn young people from those who solely consume technology into those who help make that technology.
Iris claims that many youngsters are let down by traditional teaching methods that leave them poorly equipped for the real world. Whilst schools generally lag behind, many teachers want to better use technology to create more exciting ways to learn.
So what does that actually mean? In short, the organization partners with teachers to deliver the Apps for Good course in schools. As part of this, Students research the needs of a market, and then design a mobile application that addresses those needs.
Apps for Good then pairs successful students with developers to turn those concepts into reality.
Their proven program has already produced some able and confident Fellows, with applications that are launched and thriving.
Where does 123 Reg come in?
123 Reg has been working with Apps for Good since 2015 as part of their Fellowship program. This includes sponsorship of the Fellowship prize, and the opportunity to hold workshops for Fellows.
At 123 Reg we focus all our efforts in helping people turn their ideas into a thriving business. It’s a natural extension to support Fellows on their journey from app idea to app store.
This morning at The Barbican Centre we ran a session designed to help Fellows on their entrepreneurial journey.
To start, we talked about how to come up with a good name for a business or application. This follows the same advice you can find within our Online Business Training.
Brand names can be either descriptive or abstract. Descriptive names make abundantly clear what the business does, and have traditionally been easier to rank on Google. But they can be a bit unimaginative.
By contrast, abstract names are memorable. But they require investment to explain to potential customers what your business does.
The students were given example business types and asked to come up with names.
Having brainstormed both descriptive and abstract, the names were then refined. This involved checking that the name was still available in a popular domain extension; and searching Google for other company names whose similarity might risk trademark infringements.
Students completed the exercise by selecting the short (and therefore memorable) names, and those without ambiguous sounding letters.
A gym chain called ‘Bulk Me’. A niche but strong brand name!
A coffee shop in the Barbican called ‘Ababican’. Abstract but with a story – linking Addis Ababa (the origin of all coffee) to the Barbican.
An electric bike e-tailer called Electrobikez. A strong suggestion considering how competitive this space is.
The second part was to plan a website for the example businesses. A well-planned site is so much easier to create since everyone involved has a clear idea of the goals.
The starting point for this exercise is to understand the website objective, and that all begins with the business objective.
If the business objective is to make £50k per year and it needs to make 50% of that through the website, then the website objective is to make £25k.
Alternatively, for a local business where all customers are met face to face the website objective is to help people searching online to find the website and the physical location.
In planning a website its important to focus on how to deliver the website objective.
Going back the examples above, if the website objective is to make £25k in sales then finding products and checking out smoothly is a priority.
For the local business the priority is highly visible contact details, address, directions and a map; and a clear expectation of what visitors should expect to experience at the premises.
Having defined the website objective, students were asked to write down a checklist of must have features, and to give each a page. They were then shown how to organize these into a logical order to focus on the overall website objective.
To demonstrate their thinking students were asked to layout their planned pages and tell us why and how they all linked together.
Who came to the course?
We were lucky to work with 12 passionate, exciting Fellows. Whilst all their stories deserve to be told, here’s a couple to give you a flavour.
Ellora James, Wick High School
Ellora has enthusiasm and persistence in spades: when her team’s app concept failed to reach the finals, she went ahead and did it anyway.
She taught herself HTML and CSS to build the website; and learned to programme Python on her Raspberry Pi.
The output – Envirocache – knocks many paid-for apps into a cocked hat. Not bad for a 15 year old.
The app tempts youngsters to try local walks by gamifying the discovery of plants and wildlife.
After completing the Apps for Good course and joining the Fellowship, Ellora was selected to attend the Outbox Incubator. Her Envirochache concept bagged the Outstanding Design award, and some seed funding to boot. A tech star of the future.
Katie Griffiths, Stratford Girls Grammar School
Katie Griffiths is the CTO of Team I’m Okay. The App helps young people navigate issues connected with being lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and queer (LGTBQ). Users are invited to share their story to help others who might be feeling alone.
They were selected the 2014 Apps for Good Awards and 2015 Tech For Good Awards.
On top of being technical lead, Katie is keenly pursuing a career in software engineering and has already taken steps to master Python and Java.
Her skills don’t stop there. She has also helped the team realize coverage on the Virgin Unite blog and Wired. I can count on one hand those entrepreneurs whose strengths span technical and business. Katie’s future looks pretty bright from where I’m sitting.
What’s next for Apps For Good?
In only its fourth year, the program continues to gain both strength and depth. And the team has big ambitions. Helping youngsters turn their ideas into a technical reality is just the beginning.
They see themselves as part of a global movement to use tech to help youngsters learn in better, more productive ways. They envision a worldwide platform for creative learning. Where teachers can find courses and developers; and where mentors and peers can support the roll out of exciting new tools.
123 Reg are proud to have supported the 2016 cohort.