Social Innovation

6 tips to help you turbo-charge your career as a social entrepreneur

© Red Bull Russia
The path to becoming a successful entrepreneur is a long one. Ahead of Red Bull Basement, Canada's 2019 winners share their advice for students hoping to make a change.
By Rachel ColemanPublished on
Last year, Julian DiVito and Karan Ballal created the idea for Sightly -- a program that empowers students with anxiety through Virtual Reality, which they submitted to Red Bull Basement and came out as the Canadian national winning team.
After a year of refining the concept with a group of mentors, and with advice from a panel of experienced project developers, they’re now working to take the next step and make Sightly available through Virtual Reality headsets in campus wellness centres across Canada.
This year, Red Bull Basement is back and applications are now open! We sat down with the social innovators behind Sightly, to get their advice for students hoping to bring positive change to their campus and wider communities. Check out their top tips for success in the world of social entrepreneurship below.
Το Red Bull Basement
Το Red Bull Basement

1. Believe in the difference your idea could make

The idea for Sightly was born out of need. Julian and Karan both struggled with their own mental health and had become comfortable being isolated and more anxious in social situations. Knowing that something had to change, and having found nothing on the market that suited their needs, the team was inspired to create their own solution.
Their passion lies in the idea that your university years are supposed to be the best years of your life, but if you're not comfortable expressing yourself in social situations then you’re much less likely to enjoy your time there. Sightly hope to provide a fun and engaging way for young adults with social anxiety to build confidence and self-esteem.

2. Don’t let fear hold you back

If you have an idea that you truly believe in, the best thing you can do is to not overthink things, and just go for it.
"Don't let the anxiety get the better of you," says Sightly. "It was hard for us, given our history with social anxiety, but our passion for Sightly overpowered everything else.
“Once you put yourself out there you’ll notice how other people perceive your idea and the feedback you get from a platform like Red Bull Basement can help you go places. It’s hard to predict the future, so the best thing you can do is make the most out of the present moment.”
Athlete Will Gadd hosts a keynote at Red Bull Basement.
Athlete Will Gadd hosts a keynote at Red Bull Basement.

3. Immerse yourself in the problem you’re trying to solve

According to Sightly, the most important thing in becoming a successful social entrepreneur is to ensure you immerse yourself with the problem you’re trying to solve and learn as much about it as possible. You need to constantly look at how you can improve the problem, and how it affects people. Of course, if you’ve followed the advice above and are passionate about your idea then this won’t feel quite as daunting. As the saying goes; Find a job you enjoy doing, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.
"We are both really interested in emerging technologies and this led to the idea of combining virtual reality with a self-guided therapy program," says Sightly.

4. Focus on how you deliver yourself when you're pitching your idea

How you deliver yourself in your pitch is one of the most important things to remember, but can be easily overlooked with everything else you’ll have going on. Take the time to prepare and practice until you know it inside out. Know what you stand for and be able to communicate to people like investors and startup accelerators why they should care. “You must clearly present yourself and your idea as you’ll need help from others to bring your idea to life,” says Sightly. “Try your best to show your passion for your idea and how important it is to you.”
Red Bull Basement participants take to the stage in Canada.
Red Bull Basement participants take to the stage in Canada.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you feel like you don't have the right skills or abilities to get your idea where it needs to be then you must look for advice. There are many accelerators that help startups with resources, connections, and skills to help take your startup to the next level. Speaking to people and asking for help is key to helping you grow.
Moving on from there, obtaining external funding to grow your project will be essential and crowdsourcing is a huge part of that. “Build a simple version of your idea and put it in front of people as soon as you can. You need to test if you're actually solving the user's problem,” says Sightly. “Don’t be intimidated -- you must be relentless in getting feedback from potential users if you’re going to obtain the necessary funding. The chances are your initial idea won't be the one people want in the end," and it’s best to find out sooner rather than later!
"Having confidence in yourself and high self-esteem is so important to your mental health and quality of life. Sightly will allow students the ability to comfortably express themselves and be more confident tackling new situations," they say.

6. Squeeze the most out of every opportunity

Big opportunities to bring your idea to life don’t come around often for young entrepreneurs, so it’s vital that you and your business partners make the most out of every situation and opportunity to keep moving forward.
The biggest advice Sightly has for someone taking part in Red Bull Basement 2020 is to feel proud of yourself and use that as motivation to compete in the competition. “Everyone who participates in Red Bull Basement is in the same boat, a great batch of students who are learning alongside you. Don't be afraid to speak with all the mentors or other students, to get advice on how to make your pitch more effective, or how to articulate your idea better,” says Sightly. “There are also several opportunities for you to network with tech giants and startup accelerators, to get your idea well known amongst the individuals who can help you take the next step.”
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Apply to Red Bull Basement 2020 before October 25 for a chance to bring your innovative ideas to life.