Student entrepreneurs set to share idea with China’s billion-plus consumers
4 July 2011
An old Chinese saying that ‘in China, good news travels a thousand miles, bad news stays at home’ has proved auspicious for a UCL student start-up.
Tipgain has won the national final of a major international competition for a mobile application that allows users to share marketing promotions using their social networks in exchange for discounts for spreading the message.
The China UK Entrepreneurship Challenge is a competition for business plans which have the potential to bridge China and the UK in terms of product design, market or manufacture.
Tipgain, which was founded by MSc
Technology Entrepreneurship graduates Martin Poschenrieder, Gustavo Gorenstein
and Chao Sheng ‘Toledo’ Hung, is a “good fit” for a growing market of Chinese
shoppers hungry for attractive opportunities, says Dr David Chapman, the
course’s programme director who has been closely involved in the Challenge
“There is enormous potential for close collaboration between the two countries,” he adds. “Both value and encourage entrepreneurship. Both have highly respected technological and scientific bases. China is keen to learn from the UK’s intellectual property rights and flexible higher education system, while UK innovators are anxious to tap into China’s as-yet-unexploited investment opportunities.”
UCL has a long-established tradition of attracting the best talent from China; indeed, the university has more Chinese students than any other in the UK, at 4,000. Like many good ideas, laughs Toledo, Tipgain grew out of sharing a meal with friends. “I was always recommending my favourite Chinese restaurants to anyone who would listen. My best friend Gustavo suggested I start asking for discounts. We took it from there.”
Since its inception in December 2010, Tipgain
has completed a campus trial with Costa Coffee, offering a free coffee in
exchange for referrals to fellow students, to test the technology and user
interaction. Costa gave away more than 70 cups in less than two hours. The
start-up is now completing a Proof-of-Concept study with a high-end sports
store in London’s West End.
Tipgain was the overall winner of the London Entrepreneur’s Challenge 2010. The competition is part of a programme of events designed to enhance UCL’s reputation for entrepreneurship and build deeper relationships between UCL and partner institutions.
Toledo, who is Taiwanese, believes that Tipgain will appeal particularly to Chinese consumers because of their “willingness to share good news… and their love of a good bargain”. Mobile use is also very high in China.
The Challenge carries a cash prize of £4,500 but also, more importantly, exposure to investment and networking opportunities in the UK and in China.
In October at University of York, Tipgain will compete in the international final against the Chinese winner of a parallel competition to be held in Chongqing, China later this month. UCL Advances’ Executive Director Tim Barnes will be one of the judges.
Winning the overall competition will mean valuable media coverage in China, as well as access to influential business and government people. Toledo hopes to set up an office in the country to extend the business within the next year.
The China UK Entrepreneurship Challenge is sponsored by UCL, Lancaster University, the University of York, Queen’s University Belfast and China Innovation and Development Association UK.