Design Thinking + The Next Generation: Our Partnership with Catapult


At verynice, design thinking informs the way we problem solve in all areas of our work; it’s at the core of our practices, whether we’re advising on business strategy or forming a brand identity. We do this not only because it improves the outcome of our work, but also because our clients find takeaways to add to their own practices. When we interact with clients who are unfamiliar with design and its processes, part of our responsibility is to show them why good design matters and how it can make a difference in all areas of business. Spreading the word is how we can make what we do sustainable— although we know that true sustainability comes from sharing our knowledge with the next generation, so they can not only do what we do, but value what we value.

That’s why we were thrilled to partner with Catapult, a program created by Ashoka that provides aspiring young entrepreneurs with the skills and mentorship they need to develop their start up ideas. Through an intensive, four-month startup incubator, Catapult provides participants with an immersive experience during which they must build, pitch, fund, and launch a venture. Their support comes from three sessions that take place across the US and weekly virtual meetings with their team’s professional advisors. verynice was proud to partner with Catapult in order to support the students’ design and strategy needs through instruction and mentorship.

Through a series of six sessions, verynice volunteers took Catapult entrepreneurs through the visual design process. We also worked on strategy with participants, providing instruction on business plans and an overview of other strategy pieces such as user experience design to help take them through the start up phase of their companies.  

Here are some samples to demonstrate our work.  We supported each team in creating their logos, business cards, and introductory pages to their presentation decks. You can find a one of the presentation decks by Ripple right here

We couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome of this partnership. The entrepreneurs we worked with were exposed not only to many parts of the design process, but also to some of the different ways that good design can shape a business— especially in its early stages. By turning their ideas into engaging, dynamic brands, they were able to see that design is at the core of a business’s identity and can also help shape its future. We were pleased to hear that Catapult program leader, Joshua Collins, expressed an equally positive view of our partnership:

"Catapult relies heavily on unique partnerships to build and develop the ecosystem necessary to support our students and their ideas. The support of verynice over the past six months, and the commitment of verynice volunteers, has been nothing short of outstanding— and critical to our ability to truly develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

After the program, we talked with two program participants who gave us perspective on what it’s like to be a high-school aged entrepreneur in 2015: Disha Shidham and Adrian Wisaksana. Read on to see what motivates them, what challenges them, and why Catapult was an experience integral to their development as entrepreneurs.

Hi Adrian, Hi Disha!

When did you first realize that you wanted to become an entrepreneur? Were you motivated by a specific idea?
A: In the fantastic summer of 2014, I visited the United States for the first time to take part in a summer program called Leadership in the Business World (LBW). I was a part of LBW West alongside with seventy talented high school individuals. We were based in the great city of San Francisco and there, we explored the world of business together. We learned from great entrepreneurs and their amazing stories as well as from visits to tech giants such as Google and Ebay. Towards the end of the program, I was simply thrilled to explore the world of business even more.

In that very summer, I also met most of the amazing people who I am working with today—I met the team. The team was and still is what motivates me the most when it comes to entrepreneurship. We have come a long way, from Menerva seven months ago to College Hive today. We have combined our unique skills and talents together to build exciting things. I’m looking forward to accomplish more great things together.

D: I actually didn’t realize I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship until after I completed the MIT Launch Summer Program. I just happened to apply for the program, thinking it would be great to spend four weeks in Cambridge during my summer, and I ended up falling in love with the start up world. MIT Launch really introduced me to the core concepts of entrepreneurship and I realized then and there that these fundamental ideas were also the core concepts of my personal philosophy. Entrepreneurship is a perfect fit for who I am and who I strive to be in the future.

What aspects of your Catapult team’s business did you develop with the instruction/guidance of our volunteers?
A: We were working with Elana to develop the core design aspects of our venture which included our logo as well as our brand image. It was a crucial step for us as we were still maturing our new venture, College Hive, after a significant pivot. We also spent time imagining the user experience and creating a mockup for our MVP. The mockup was a key tool for us to demonstrate to other people how we envision our service.

D: Marlon’s input on our logo and advice on branding was absolutely invaluable. First and foremost, I want to thank you all at verynice for your support. Marlon really helped us solidify what TacBoard’s mission was, helping create a “brand dictionary”. He reflected our precise mission in the new logo he created for TacBoard.

What were your most useful/memorable takeaways from working with our volunteers?
A: Working with Elana was an absolute privilege for our team. It was very fun and it felt as if she was actually a part of the team. Apart from all the exciting Google Hangouts, I remember sharing a board on Pinterest and just pinning down ideas together for our design. We shared color schemes, design styles and patterns we liked and eventually combined them together to finalize our brand design. I had never thought Pinterest could be such a useful tool in the idea sharing process.

Elana also introduced us to InVision, an awesome tool for teams to collaborate on design work and create mockups. When she showed us what she had done for the mockup, we were in awe. “Wow”, I remember our excitement when we saw it. The mockup was spectacular. It later became a key piece in our pitch as well as the Q&A session on Demo Day. We cannot thank Elana enough for her help and guidance!  

D: The most useful takeaway from working with Marlon was this: to make sure that everyone in the team had a clear idea of the one, district vision for TacBoard. After that, we would have to make sure that every task and every idea formulated within TacBoard aligned with our vision. This idea of knowing exactly what your brand is now, how you see it growing in the future and developing a plan to get from now to the future was a really important concept that my team and I learned during the sessions with Marlon.    

In your view, what are some of the main challenges that young (high school age or below) entrepreneurs face today?
A: Two things: experience and mentorship. Experience relates to learning by doing, whether it be doing things such as surveys or pitching. I think that sometimes it can be intimidating to actually go out and see how people perceive your idea as well as how they perceive you. This also relates to having the courage to fail, to embrace failures and quickly learn from them. I used to be a fan of ‘playing safe’, but looking back, I found that by avoiding risks, I was not making the most out of my potential for growth.

I think mentorship is crucial for young entrepreneurs, or even entrepreneurs in general. Listening for advice from experienced entrepreneurs and passionate people has been such a valuable learning experience for me and my team. I think that the lack of mentorship limits one’s ability to see a bigger picture. Sometimes that can either mean success or failure. Both experience and mentorship are only some of the great things that Catapult provides to us young entrepreneurs and I will be forever grateful for that!

D: In my view, the biggest challenge for high school entrepreneurs is bringing an idea to reality and I believe that Catapult really fills this need. Catapult not only lays the groundwork for ideation and development of start ups, but they provide specific deliverables that bring business ideas into realities– particularly the design consultations with verynice employees and the free legal services from DLA Piper.

Has participating in Catapult affected your approach to entrepreneurship and/or your goals for the future?
A: Catapult has transformed my lifelong aspirations completely. It has taught me to believe that we as members of the younger generation can actually make a difference in this world. It is a thought that I had deemed preposterous not too long ago, but today is a different story. Today, I’m not afraid to experiment with new ideas and to learn more from new exciting entrepreneurial adventures. My goal for the future is to work with passionate people to create solutions to real world problems. Catapult will always be a great source of inspiration and motivation in my journey to achieve my goal. I am very excited to see where my experience at Catapult will take me in the future!

D: For me, Catapult itself was a form of an MVP to see if I really wanted to be an entrepreneur in the future. It was a low risk way to see if I really enjoyed entrepreneurship or not. Now that the program is over I can say with certainty that living and breathing the start up life is definitely what I want my future to be. Not only do I enjoy actually building something from the very beginning and watching it grow, but the people that are involved in entrepreneurship are the kind of people that I want to be around– they’re inspiring and passionate about everything that they do. I absolutely thrive in that kind of environment.

Thank you to Catapult for an amazing partnership and the privilege of working with such bright entrepreneurs. Find out how design can shape business and learn more about our work here