What has your journey with InnovationRCA been like so far?
Debra: It’s been great because we’re coming from these institutions, the RCA and Imperial, that are really good at supporting people with their entrepreneurial journey. It has also been a massive learning curve, we have networked with a lot of different people and have been in touch with good advisors and mentors.
Shefali: I agree that it has been a good experience and a big learning curve. We have had a lot of conversations with women themselves to make sure that we are interacting with our future users on a regular basis. Every decision we made had input from them. We have always placed them at the centre, and that has been instrumental in the development of Dotplot.
What inspires you as designers and entrepreneurs?
Shefali: Interestingly, Dotplot didn’t start because we have a close relationship with someone who developed breast cancer, but from wanting to make an impact in the community. We observed that women were asked to do self checks and most of us do not know what to do. We had a few conversations and decided to create what then became Dotplot as part of a class project.
Debra: The women we’ve spoken to have been a massive source of inspiration and validation. What we’re creating isn’t just for one person but consistent for a group of people, and that is crucial. We have also sourced inspiration from other start-up founders as we have learnt from their journeys and the solutions they have found for any issues encountered.
What have you valued the most about being part of InnovationRCA?
Shefali: InnovationRCA has played a big role in our journey. When we started, Dotplot was just a university project, we then took it to Work-In-Progress 2022. And even though we were a bit sceptical because there is nothing like it in the market, InnovationRCA encouraged us to patent it. They believed in our project when we still didn’t and gave us the support we needed to make it a reality.
Debra: InnovationRCA’s mentorship was also massively useful, especially as neither of us come from a finance background. The community at InnovationRCA has also been great, being able to sit in the incubator and talk to people who are ahead of you to learn from them is always fruitful.
What advice would you give to students at the RCA thinking of starting their entrepreneurial journey?
Debra: I would say that one of the most important things is to make sure that the idea you’re creating is viable. Take your project to your patentability review and understand what it takes to take your idea from concept to launch. Remember to talk to other founders and potential users. Also remember that you don’t need to know everything before you get started, there’s so much that you can learn along the way. You’ll need to be flexible with your own design and be ready to pivot if an idea doesn’t work.
Shefali: Always challenge your own idea, be your own competition and keep a grasp of what’s happening in the sector. Always verify your design based on how much you like it, keep in mind that it is your users who validate the product as it’s meant to be a service for them. A good question to ask yourself is ‘how else would I do this if this product wasn’t going to exist?’, that will force you to think outside of the box.
Also of interest
For World Water Day, we spoke to InnovationRCA Co-Founder, Beren Kayali. Alongside her partner, Paul Mendieta, she runs Deploy Tech.
They make inflatable concrete water tanks that can be folded, packaged and shipped anywhere in the world – a feature never before seen in the sector. Once arrived, the tanks can be rehydrated and ready to use in 24 hours.