Budding Rockstars 2017 - Malta's brightest youths turn tech entrepreneurs for a day

The 2017 edition of Budding Rockstars, was held today at the Hilton Malta Hotel, St. Julian’s. The event was attended by 150 Form 5 students and more than 50 educators hailing from 40 schools in Malta and Gozo.

Budding Rockstars is an innovation event by the Malta Communications Authority (MCA), forming part of a wider set of activity undertaken by the Authority, aimed at exposing young persons to technology entrepreneurship. The event targeted the highest academic achievers from across all public, church and private schools in Malta and Gozo.

The event provided students with an opportunity to interact with emerging and established tech entrepreneurs and to gain valuable insights on the key characteristics of entrepreneurship. Moreover, participants were encouraged to learn about and consider tech entrepreneurship as a career path.

Various speakers shared their story with the attendees. Erik Bergman spoke about the emotional journey of co-founding Catena Media, a company nowadays valued at €500 million. In a frank discussion, Dr Angelo Dalli, serial entrepreneur, Keith Fenech from Revulytics, and Peter Grech, CEO and co-founder at BRND WGN, discussed their experience of starting up and growing a successful venture. Despite the different trajectories in their entrepreneurial venture, all agreed that perseverance plays a key part in success. Rachel Cachia and Martina Zammit, co-founders at V Squared Media, noted how strong teamwork is essential in any entrepreneurial adventure. Mark Brooks, CEO at Courtland Brooks, stressed the importance of building one’s network, and how having strong connections is critical to the entrepreneur’s success.

Other speaking contributions were made by the students from Flair and Intact, winners of the JAYE Company and Start Up Programme respectively. Both teams recounted their successful Junior Achievement Young Enterprise experience and encouraged the attendees to learn entrepreneurship hands-on. In another contribution, Zach Ciappara, spoke about his experience launching FreeHour, a MITA-backed startup providing an app that helps student connect with each other on campus during their free time.

Throughout a hands-on workshop, coordinated by the Edward de Bono Institute, students were exposed to creativity and innovation techniques aimed at facilitating idea generation in a business context. Students worked in groups to develop novel business concepts that applied ICTs and addressed a problem. Ideas were afterwards exhibited, voted upon and the teams with the best three ideas were invited to pitch on stage in the final phase of Budding Rockstars.

Visiting the event and meeting students working on their ideas, the Hon. Silvio Schembri, Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation, stressed that both parents and educators must instil in the young generation, a culture in which those who fail will get up and try again. The Hon. Schembri remarked that the young generation must be encouraged to risk and convert their thoughts and imagination into commercial ideas. Finally, he stressed that more efforts are required to further nurture the idea of setting up a start-up amongst the young ones.

In a video message, the Hon. Minister for Education, Evarist Bartolo, encouraged the young audience to stop fearing failure, dream big and pursue adventure, whilst accepting that hard work lies ahead of any success. Other messages to the students were sent by the MEPs Hon. Dr Miriam Dalli, Hon. Roberta Metsola and Hon. Marlene Mizzi. The MEPs called for further entrepreneurship whilst each reserved specific words of encouragement for more ambition amongst girls. In view of the low participation of women in tech, girls were encouraged to step forward and aspire to become leaders of tomorrow’s digital scene.

Judging for the final ‘pitch competition’ was handled by Dr Leonie Baldacchino, University of Malta; Jarek Bialek, Startup Weekend Malta; Alex Borg from MITA Innovation Hub, and Julian Azzopardi from Junior Achievement Young Enterprise. The judges noted how the business idea is very important, but it is ultimately the execution that matters the most. Whereas a strong idea could help the business to grow quickly in the early stages, it takes a strong team to sustain such growth and secure the business long-term.

Dr Edward Woods, Chairman at MCA, thanked all speakers, partners and educators for making the event yet another success. Whilst highlighting the Authority’s efforts in digital skills, he stressed the importance of inculcating from a young age a mindset that defies the status quo and that seeks new opportunities through technological innovation.

Budding Rockstars was organised by the MCA in collaboration with the Edward de Bono Institute and the Directorate for Educational Services. The event was supported by the Secretariat for Catholic Education, Junior Achievement Young Enterprise, the BeSmartOnline campaign, and ZEST Malta.

The MCA has set up a Facebook page for Budding Rockstars to serve as a platform for further engagement.