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One year on reflections from 2012 Pitch 2 Rich winner, Dan Watson

25 June 2013

One year on  reflections from 2012 Pitch 2 Rich winner, Dan Watson

Virgin Media Pioneers recently hosted the 2013 Pitch 2 Rich contest which saw four talented entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to Sir Richard Branson. Last year I was in their shoes, pitching my SafetyNet project to the panel of judges. One year on, I found myself sitting on that panel so it feels like I’ve really come full circle. And so, when Virgin Media Sustainability asked me to be a guest blogger on their site I welcomed the opportunity to share my reflections - on green tech, sustainable innovations and the support that the Pioneers community can offer young entrepreneurs.

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Dan Watson

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In the world of design and innovation, ‘sustainability’ has become a great buzz-word. But in the end, what it really comes down to is common sense. If what you’re designing has any element of waste then you try, where possible, to design it out. And this is exactly what I’ve tried to do through the SafetyNet project.

The problem I’m trying to solve: waste and inefficiency in the fishing sector

Currently half of all fish caught in the North Sea are thrown back, usually dead, due to quota laws. 40% of the global population relies on fish as its primary source of protein, so when fish are thrown back dead, they aren’t able to produce the next generation, which could ultimately lead to the extinction of a vital food source.

The beginnings of a solution:

After reading an article on Scottish fishermen who had been arrested in Norway for illegally throwing fish back into the sea I was inspired to look at ways to make trawls more selective, and therefore more efficient. That sparked the idea for SafetyNet and I’ve spent the last 3 years developing devices that, when fitted to existing trawls, aim to allow small fish and non-target species (known as by-catch) to escape from the nets.

Pioneering support for innovation and entrepreneurship

Last year I entered SafetyNet Technologies into the Virgin Media Pioneers Pitch 2 Rich competition and I felt very privileged to make the final 4. Meeting the judges and getting to show them what I have been working on seemed like a pretty rare opportunity. I think the timing of my pitch was a good fit with the work that people like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall had been doing to raise public awareness of overfishing, and my pitch went down really well with the judges.

Winning Pitch 2 Rich provided me with the funds to build 30 prototypes for use in sea-trials. These are now complete and we’ll be taking them out on a trawler to test them in the real-world environment later this year. It’s daunting, but also very exciting! Besides this, the exposure generated from the competition, the contacts it gave me, and the endorsement from Sir Richard Branson have given the project a real boost in terms of credibility.

This year I was invited to be a member of the Pitch 2 Rich judging panel and that was just an awesome experience. It was a bit mind-blowing to be on a panel with such successful entrepreneurs and it made me think of my own experience over the last year and the type of advice I could give to other entrepreneurs out there looking to make a positive change in the world.

My advice for fellow Virgin Media Pioneers

I think if you’ve got something genuinely new and exciting, people may be afraid of it and may try to challenge your thinking. As an innovator for positive change, you must always remember your goal as it will keep you going. Surround yourself with a good support team – like the Virgin Media Pioneers network - and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people out there who can and will help you - but they’ll never know to offer if you don’t ask.

Click here to find out more about SafetyNet Technologies, or for more information on Virgin Media Pioneers and the Pitch 2 Rich competition check out these links:

Pitch 2 Rich 2013

Virgin Media Pioneers