Startup Lab 2021 Contenders Announced

Startup Sussex has changed! The Startup Sussex and Social Impact Prize competitions for student and graduate entrepreneurs from the University of Sussex have continued to run through 2020-2021, with the core of the programme now operating under the name 'Startup Lab'.

This year there is more of a focus on experimental learning via testing ideas in the real world, alongside workshops filled with knowledge and advice within phase one. Following on from this stage, 10 selected participants enter phase two, which allows them to gain from support with business planning, mentoring from the Sussex Innovation’s senior staff members, and a range of other benefits.   

The competition has necessarily been very different to previous years due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The sessions have had to be over Zoom rather than in person, at the Careers and Employability Centre in the Sussex library, which is unfortunate, but we have adapted accordingly. The turnout has been amazing with between 40-50 participants joining the weekly workshops and a similar number of students re-watching the workshops at their convenience.

The competition this year has been amazing. At the pitching event on Tuesday 8th December our two judges were Helena Jevons, Head of Sales and Marketing at Sussex Innovation, and Georgina Farrugia, Enterprise Officer at the University of Sussex. The judges decided on the following founders and enterprises to move forward into phase two:  

StartUp Sussex:

  • Henry Pattinson & Will Cleaver (BA Economics & Politics), Dusk & Duchy Events - partnering with landowners to curate bespoke festival experiences for private clients and local communities
  • Lorenzo Bonoldi (PhD in acoustic metamaterials, Engineering and Informatics), SHUSH - the quietest pc fan in the world.
  • Michelle Chimuka (MSc Entrepreneurship and Innovation), RivuuzZambia's first online marketplace that connect customers to trusted and reliable service providers across a range of service categories.  
  • Lance Matongo (BSc Business management with Psychology), Lift - a fashion gift and subscription box to ensure young professionals stay stylish, appropriate and true to themselves in the workplace.
  • Catherine Ireton (MA Music and Sonic Media) & J. Luis Berna Moya (PhD Human Computer Interaction), Curious Interact - creative studio designing experiential installations that engage the senses of touch, taste, sound and smell. 
  • Joseph Loftus (BA Politics), Big Slim Promotions - big gigs. Slim prices. A music promotions company modelled by students, for students to bring live music back to Sussex and beyond post-pandemic.  

Social Impact Prize:

  • Louise Harman (MA Literature and Philosophy), Louise on Death - grief counselling service and community that unashamedly and creatively explores death through switching the narrative from recovery to curiosity, using profits to support the elder generation.
  • Danielle Green (MA Development Studies) & Juan Otalora (MA International Education and Development), Eudaimonde Educationa personal and sustainable development learning platform for children, providing essential educational tools through interactive game-based activities.
  • Thomas Stokes (BSC Psychology with Finance), Connect.com - an online mental health platform connecting care home residents in need with people who can help.  
  • Sean Richardson (MA Development Studies at IDS) - Mukisa Coffee - social enterprise selling specialty Ugandan coffee, sourced ethically from small-scale farmers, with profits going to The Uganda School Project.

"We were delighted to see such strong presentations in this year's program, and such impressive presentations delivered, for the first time, digitally," said Helena Jevons, Judge and Head of Sales and Marketing at Sussex Innovation. "It was great to see the diversity of applicants, the range of approaches and depth of thinking around their business ideas, and the fact that for the first time many of the more commercial applicants had ideas related to wider societal contribution built into their DNA from the word go.

"In line with our new Sussex Innovation strategy, we're keen to support young start-ups that can not only generate revenue and grow, but also have a wider purpose and an impact on the world. We can’t wait to see where they end up by the end of the program." 

Phase two of the program will see the teams begin a thorough eight-week course of mentoring at the Sussex Innovation Centre. This mentoring is aimed at helping them structure their formal business plans in preparation to apply for the startup Sussex or Social Impact Prize in March.

In addition to earning the title of Sussex Student Entrepreneurs of the Year, two teams will receive a prize worth up to £10,000 in cash, business support and services, with second and third place winning packages with a value of £6,500 and £4,250 respectively.

It's important to note that, in a change from previous competitions, applicants do not need to be participating in phase 2 to apply for either the StartUp Sussex or Social Impact Prize this year. We urge everyone still working on their business plan to note that applications are due by Friday 5th March 2021 and the pitch day is Wednesday 24th March. More details can be found here.