StartUp Sussex, the annual enterprise competition at the University of Sussex, reached its climax last night with the announcement of the three winning teams who will receive awards to help develop their businesses. For the first time, the Social Impact Prize was also awarded to the enterprise idea with the most potential to bring about positive social change.
This year's StartUp Sussex winners are Mo Abbas and Dom Coles, who both received a Graduate Diploma in Law from Sussex in 2015-16. Their business, Trademark Brothers, has already been trading successfully for several months, offering an alternative to traditional legal services for SMEs, startups and entrepreneurs. They promise a fixed-fee, jargon-free service for customers looking to understand and protect the value of their intellectual property.
As well as earning the title of Sussex Student Entrepreneurs of the Year, Mo and Dom received a £10,000 award consisting of a cash prize and ongoing membership, consultancy and marketing from Sussex Innovation. They plan to use the money to develop the technological offering they provide to their clients, with tools and educational resources.
"It's been absolutely eye-opening and enlightening to go through StartUp Sussex, a really exciting experience," said Mo.
"Winning first prize is absolutely fantastic," said Dom. "We've worked with some other amazing entrepreneurs and have had a fantastic journey together. We're just looking forward to the next stage of building our business and growing it."
The 2017 StartUp Sussex winners: (L-R) Mo Abbas and Dom Coles of Trademark Brothers, Andreas Georgiades of Brighton Greeks, Philipp Streicher of Augmind
The winners were revealed at an award ceremony held at the Sussex Innovation Centre and attended by members of the local business community, University staff and fellow students. They emerged victorious from an initial pool of more than 70 students, who began the programme all the way back in October.
The teams each presented their business plans in a pitch earlier this week to the StartUp Sussex judges, a 'Dragons' Den'-style panel consisting of local investors, entrepreneurs and representatives from the University. The panel were extremely impressed with the high standard of all the presentations.
"I can honestly say that this was the strongest group of pitches we have ever seen in StartUp Sussex," said Mike Herd, Executive Director of Sussex Innovation and a member of the judging panel. "It was an extremely tough decision to separate the finalists, and it came down to the smallest of details. I'm delighted that we will continue working with the winners, and hope that the remaining finalists carry on developing their ideas and work with us in the future – as they are all in with a chance of building something successful."
The Social Impact Prize
As the StartUp Sussex programme celebrates its fifth year, a new award was also announced for the first time. The Social Impact Prize will be awarded every year for the next five years, after a generous private donation of £50,000 from a Sussex alumnus. Each £10,000 prize will support the development of an enterprise idea committed to achieving real social change by employing a sustainable business model.
The inaugural winner was Roisai Wongsuban, who is reading for an MSc in Migration Studies on the Chevening Scholarship scheme. Her social enterprise, The Solidarity Program is a platform combining retail services and micro-finance to support low-income workers and their families in Thailand.
"I'm so excited!" said Roisai. "When they read out my name I couldn't believe it was me. I'd like to express my gratitude to the UK government for funding my scholarship and giving me the opportunity to be here, and to Sussex Innovation and all the people that have helped me on this journey."
2017 Social Impact Prize winner Roisai Wongsuban, The Solidarity Program
In second place in StartUp Sussex 2017, Philipp Streicher (PhD Informatics) received an £8,000 prize for his idea, Augmind. Based on his postgraduate research, this product consists of a smartphone app and headset containing sensors and novel brain stimulation technology, designed to increase performance, focus, and zen.
In third place, Andreas Georgiades received a £6,000 prize for his enterprise, Brighton Greeks. Having established a community platform dedicated to the mission of "creating a home away from home" for the Greek and Cypriot diaspora in Brighton, Andreas is now exploring the possibility of franchising the model to other expatriate communities under the name Communities Everywhere.
The three other finalists were:
- Tade Fadairo (BSc Business & Management, class of 2015) and business partner Kimberley Moyo - CreatiMatch: a student networking platform to connect enterprises and projects with the relevant expertise.
- Toby Whelan (BSc Product Design, class of 2016) - MAKA: a make-your-own magnetic fidget toy for increasing focus and productivity in education, at work and at home.
- Harris Koronias (MSc Strategic Innovation) - Blink: a product that will connect all your personal items and keep track of them in real time.
The five other finalists in the inaugural Social Impact Prize were:
- Toby Whelan (BSc Product Design, Class of 2016) – MAKA Fidget for Good: a fidget toy supplier for SEN schools, helping children with autism to better concentrate and focus in class.
- Shrima Pandey (MSc Geography) – Hamro Sakti: a service for NGOs, grassroots organisations and social entrepreneurs to collaborate and improve the homes and lives of Nepali people.
- Jo Cutler (PhD Cognitive Neuroscience) – Social Decision Lab: a research service for the third sector, helping to increase donations to causes and charities, and make donors feel even better about giving.
- Radek Oros (MSc Entrepreneurship & Innovation) – Chipintoo: a crowdsourcing web application built on blockchain technology, designed to open up opportunities for local community organising.
- Daniel Hajas (PhD Human Computer Interaction) – Grapheel: a package of web services, R&D and consultancy, working with institutions to offer support for blind and visually impaired STEM students.