Those of you that follow my content will know I’m a long-time fan of Red Bull and their approach to marketing and always being ahead (ok, way ahead!) of other companies in the ideas, projects and initiatives they support.
As such I was delighted to meet of the Joanna Power and Paramveer Bhachu, founders of the startup ‘Lava’, who won the final global innovation workshop run by Red Bull Basement in December. The Red Bull Basement was founded with the aim to connect and inspire students globally to challenge status quo by coming up with ideas and disruptive technology that can lead to a better tomorrow.
Fitting then that Lava won it with their plans to design and manufacture Aqua X – a water-saving washing machine that saves natural resources, time and money by collecting and recycling shower water to clean clothes.
I met with the founders at an exciting time as they work to get the Aqua X to market. The process of designing and creating the product alongside their continuing studies in the midst of a global pandemic has been interesting to say the least – especially to learn that lockdown has actually has helped them speed up the process of bringing product to market.
“Although the pandemic has had a negative impact on socialising professionally to share knowledge and discuss ideas, there are a few benefits which have led to an increase in students starting businesses alongside their education. One advantage we have found is a reduced need to travel, leading to additional free time and greater access to mentors across the world who we can bounce ideas off through video calls. We’ve had more access to people virtually that we would simply not have had before.”
Like many other student entrepreneurs, Lava have found this added time was incredibly beneficial to developing their ideas, forming Lava during lockdown whilst on industry placements and taking advantage of the extra time created to make progress on designing the Aqua X.
“We’ve found that the restrictions we’ve all been facing have forced student entrepreneurs to think outside the box when it comes to starting their business and developing their ideas, especially if that is a physical product. For Lava, we’ve had to think differently when designing our product. Where we would ideally be creating physical models in a workshop, we are now creating digital CAD models and renders – this type of software allows anyone to design and produce a product, so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing other students entrepreneurs take advantage of this situation to create something unique. It is very exciting to see”
Impressive stuff, as is how the two founders have managed to balance education and founding a start-up.
“Most University courses are pretty intensive and demanding, and we’ve both found our Product Design Engineering course to be no different. Add to that forming a business and developing a product, all since the first lockdown, there are some key factors to think about when planning out our time. Something we’ve found to be helpful in blocking out time to focus on either our business or our coursework, depending on which deadline is coming up closer. It really helps that we’re both in the same position and on the same course. Communication is so important and having someone there to share the workload with and bounce ideas off is so important.”
The founders first came up with the idea for Lava in the first lockdown at home, using the time created away from travel and in-person meetings to thinkg how things can be done differently – nowhere more relevant than sustainability as a critical topic area of focus.
“The pandemic has been an entirely new experience, and for many people has highlighted the desperate need to take action. People are looking to the future and are concerned about the safety of the world for future generations, from a COVID perspective as well as an environmental one. Before the pandemic, we made great strides in the movement to reduce plastic packaging, however due to COVID, more single use plastic masks and gloves are being thrown into landfill than ever. On the other side, everyone is travelling a lot less as they adhere to restrictions, lockdowns and no longer take a long commute to work, reducing carbon emissions. This has given many the opportunity to really assess the necessity of their habits before the pandemic and think about how they can cut carbon emissions.”
The pandemic has of course been a double-edged sword in this sense – increasing quantities of single-use plastics and but also changes in our lifestyle that are making a more positive impact. With more people now taking the issue of climate change more seriously, younger people are now a growing a sense that things need to change. Lava was born out of the need to support young people to make a physical impact on the way we live and implement permanent changes.
“While we’ve always felt a sense of ownership, young people in particular are getting more and more passionate about the environment and are worried about the future of our planet. Greta Thunberg’s work in particular has definitely highlighted the severity of the situation and the power of one voice to stand out against previous mistakes that we’ve made as a society. Using her platform, she has helped to raise greater awareness of the issue and reach a more diverse group of people, not just the younger generations and put into perspective the severity of the environmental crisis we are now in. This is what drove us to start Lava and create the Aqua X – looking at a way to reduce water wastage as well as providing a cheaper alternative. This was reflected in all the amazing student entrepreneurs we met through Red Bull Basement – they all have such inspirational ideas that will make a real difference in the world”
2021 is proving to be an exciting year for Lava as it seeks to develop the internal workings of the machine and start mass-production, as well as focusing on developing the business through plan creation and marketing.
“Our main focus right now is getting the Aqua X on the market. Winning Red Bull Basement Global Workshop was the sounding board we needed to bring our ideas to life. The team at Red Bull Basement has been incredibly helpful in providing the mentorship and tools, such as 3D printing machines, to kick-start the business. We’re starting the year by looking for funds to put together the final working prototype, finish the design for manufacture and batch production. So far, we’ve created cardboard, CAD and look-like models, and are very excited to get a real version worked up.”
It is so inspiring to see what companies such as Lava and others in the student start-up landscape are achieving. Marketing professionals have much to learn from here; adapting to changing circumstances, a focus on prototyping and using new ways of working as an opportunity to reach people who can help drive your idea forward and having a clear purpose to help address the concerns of their generation for all of our benefit. I’m excited to see this idea come to market, and I’m sure it’s the first of many from this founder team.