As part of Acorn Aspirations, a summer tech accelerator for teens, MBA students at the London Business School (LBS) acted as mentors for young people aged 12 to 18, helping them develop tech and business skills. The half a dozen MBA students who participated in the program met with their teams of mentees at various venues around London to help them identify a social problem and come up with a tech solution along with a viable business plan. The program was conceived in response to the digital skills gap that is costing the U.K. economy £63 billion a year in lost income.
The MBA student mentor opportunity started with Tosin Sulaiman, a second-year LBS MBA student, who discovered Acorn Aspirations when she met its founder, Elena Sinel, at a tech conference. The goal of Acorn Aspirations is to give young people, particularly from under-represented communities, access to technology and entrepreneurship education while also preparing them for jobs that don’t yet exist. Since its launch a year ago, already more than 600 teenagers have been helped.
Seeing the organization’s good work, Sulaiman spread the word about the mentorship opportunities to her fellow MBA students, and five others decided to join her in giving back. In a press release, Sulaiman said, “I was surprised by the number of people willing to help. It says a lot about the LBS community.”
As mentors, the LBS MBA students helped their teams come up with a variety of ideas such as a virtual-reality mindfulness product for stressed out professionals as well as an app that tackles body image issues and depression among teenage girls and another virtual reality project to teach math in a more fun and interactive way.
“It’s exciting seeing kids develop the skills and confidence to be tech entrepreneurs,” said Sulaiman. “Solving problems through technology is something many of us at business school aspire to do, but these kids are getting an early start—it’s inspiring seeing 12-year-olds coming up with impressive ideas.”
The Acorn Aspirations accelerator program culminated with a Demo Day, where the teams of teenagers pitched their ideas to a panel of judges. To learn more, visit the website.