StartUp Sussex, the annual student enterprise competition delivered by Sussex Innovation, reached its halfway mark last week with the announcement of the ten teams that will go forward into the second phase of the programme and the chance to win prizes worth up to £10,000 in business support and services.
39 teams were given two minutes each to pitch their ideas in front of judges and fellow students at the University’s Careers and Employability Centre on 12th December, having participated in a series of workshops throughout the autumn term designed to help them progress from an initial idea towards a real business opportunity.
Each of the ten finalists will receive £500 from Santander Universities, to cover early-stage start-up costs during Phase 2 of the programme. Services including branding, website development, or legal advice often prove to be a hurdle to getting enterprises up and running pre-income. The new Santander Entrepreneurship Awards have replaced the Santander Junior Associate Entrepreneurship Bursaries, which were awarded separately to the StartUp Sussex programme in previous years.
"Having seen the success of the StartUp Sussex programme in recent years, we're delighted to become more closely involved with the scheme," said Holly Price, University Relationship Branch Manager at Santander Universities UK. "Our renewed partnership with the University of Sussex enables us to make a difference earlier in these student entrepreneurs' paths, and have an even greater impact. These are the business leaders of tomorrow, and it's impressive to see so many students and graduates demonstrating a great deal of skill and initiative."
One finalist was chosen by a peer vote, with the remaining nine decided upon by a judging panel comprised of Mike Herd, executive director of Sussex Innovation, and Andrea Wall, joint acting director of the Careers and Employability Centre. The successful founders and their enterprises are:
- Julian Bourne (BSc Finance, 4th Year) – Waffle, a chatbot for real time discounts at restaurants near you
- Portia Cronje (BSc Finance & Business, 4th Year) – Beauty By Me, a web application booking platform for salon treatments and self-employed beauticians
- Dinda Jelita (BSc Economics & Management, 3rd Year) – Vorteil, a solar-powered bike light
- Joanna Kmiec (MA Project Management) – Deadline.Live, a website and app linked to a Bluetooth bracelet that acts as a ‘dead man’s switch’ for those with dangerous illnesses
- Tammy Littlejohns (MA Strategic Innovation Management) – Hector for Projectors, developing creative content and access to it, designed for immersive home projection
- Cristina Loma (MSc Management of Information Technology) – Smart Fashion, a service to help online fashion buyers get the right size in every shop
- Molly Masters (BA English Literature, 3rd year) – Books That Matter, a monthly subscription box for women and girls to empower and inspire them
- Hlanganiso Matangaidze (BSc Economics & Finance, 1st year) – RED, providing low cost wind turbines to rural communities in Zimbabwe as an energy source
- Rosie Robinson (Anthropology, graduated 2017) – CliC, a mental health toolkit, developing sound design workshops for wellbeing in the workplace
- Simon Spencer (MSc Robotics & Automation Systems) – Rushboard Technologies, a modular wearable for head-mounted displays, improving virtual, augmented and mixed reality for disabled users
"Every year we seem to see more students pitching at this stage, and the whole field gets even stronger," said Mike Herd. "It was a very tough decision, and there were several more worthy ideas that we could have sent through to phase two. As always, we looked for the ideas that we felt had the best chance of becoming sustainable and delivering social or economic impact, as well as those that we felt best positioned to help on their journey."
This is the sixth StartUp Sussex competition, and the fifth year in its current, year-long format. Previous winners have gone on to win the regional Young Start-Up Talent and Opportunity Knocks competitions, as well as Graduate of the Year at the Sussex Business Awards.
In a change from previous years, an additional four places for 2018 were made available to finalists competing for the Social Impact Prize. This offers a £10,000 award for enterprises delivering social benefits, and was launched earlier this year.
Phase two of the programme will see the teams begin an intensive eight-week course of mentoring in the New Year, based at the Sussex Innovation Centre. This mentoring is intended to help them shape their formal business plans ahead of a Dragons' Den-style pitch to local investors and entrepreneurs in April.
As well as earning the title of Sussex’s Student Entrepreneurs of the Year, one team will receive a prize worth £10,000 in business support and services, with second and third place winning packages with a value of £8,000 and £6,000 respectively.