Student entrepreneurs progress to finals of StartUp Sussex 2017

StartUp Sussex, the annual student enterprise competition at the University of Sussex, reached its halfway mark last week with the announcement of the six 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.

27 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 29th November, 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.

Over eight weeks, more than 60 students and recent graduates have learned how to evaluate business opportunities, perform market research and understand their customers, and the basics of finance and operational budgeting, creating a functional business model from an initial idea.

One finalist was chosen by a peer vote, with the remaining five 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 six successful founders and their enterprises are:

  • Dominic Coles (Graduate Diploma in Law, class of 2016) – Trademark Brothers, an affordable way for start-ups and entrepreneurs to understand and protect the value of their intellectual property
  • Tade Fadairo (BSc Business and Management, class of 2015) – CreatiMatch, a mobile networking app to connect students for collaboration on projects
  • Andreas Georgiades (BSc Marketing and Management, final year) – Brighton Greeks, a social enterprise dedicated to connecting the Greek and Cypriot diaspora
  • Charalampos Koronias (MSc Strategic Innovation) – Blink, a product for connecting and keeping track of important personal items
  • Phillip Streicher (PhD Informatics) – Augmind, a headset and goal-setting app designed to increase performance, focus and zen
  • Toby Whelan (BSc Product Design, class of 2016) – Maka, a toy designed to increase productivity and focus in education, the workplace and at home

"Every year the field at this stage of the competition seems to get 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. In the end we based our choices on who we felt would stand the best chance of building a business that could grow sustainably.

"I would recommend that several of the unsuccessful teams would do well to look out for the many other funding competitions that we run in partnership with the University during the academic year. These include the Santander Junior Associate Entrepreneurship Bursary, and the Social Impact Prize, which is a new award for 2017."

This is the fifth StartUp Sussex competition, and the fourth year in its current, year-long format. Previous winners have gone on to win the regional Young Start-Up Talent and Opportunity Knocks competitions, while just last week, 2014 winner Chris O’Hare picked up the award for Graduate of the Year at the Sussex Business Awards.

Phase two of the programme will see the six 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 up to £10,000 in business support and services, with second and third place winning packages of up to £5,000 and £2,500 respectively.