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UCL Bright Ideas Awards 2012: More candidates in more categories, more money for more winners

30 March 2012

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This year’s UCL Bright Ideas Awards, announced on 22nd March, were bigger in scope and scale than ever before, with two new categories, four additional winners and an extra £34,000 to distribute among a record number of entrants (28).

The awards, now in their fifth year, aim to help bridge the gap that many new student companies find themselves in when they need their first funding but are not yet ready for venture capital investment.

The money, ranging from £5,000 to £15,000, is in the form of a loan to help get the winning businesses up and running, allowing them to reach the next crucial milestone in their development, whether that is the first prototype or support for landing the first customer.

In addition to the usual categories of Undergraduate and Postgraduate-led businesses, this year’s categories included Alumni and MSc in Technology Entrepreneurship students.

Alumni has been introduced for the first time, says Lillian Shapiro, Student Business Advisor and one of the judging panel, to cater to those students who have graduated within the past 12 months, who had a good idea while studying but didn’t want their final exams to be disrupted - “quite rightly,” she laughs.

MSc in Technology Entrepreneurship students got their own category and allocation of money, as so many of the programme’s graduates have early-stage companies that UCL is keen to help with a first tranche of funding.

Lillian says: “This year the standard was higher than ever before – from the level of research conducted, to the content of the business plans, to the quality of the presentations on the night. The students are clearly responding to and benefiting from the training and guidance being given by UCL Advances, from one-to-one advice through to events we run such as the Enterprise Bootcamps.”

As in previous years, there were a number of themes that stood out. This year was marked by fashion-related ideas, and there were no fewer than four bicycle-related business suggestions.

Lillian adds: “The return to product-based ideas is a welcome development. This year we had entrants from a wide variety of disciplines, demonstrating that the message of entrepreneurship is reaching a larger audience.

“We want to see that continue – and we’d particularly welcome applicants from the arts. We’d love a student from Slade School of Fine Arts, for example, to submit a business idea.”

The winners are:

Undergraduate category

HelpYouApply. Anish Vinayak, 2nd year BSc History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science. £5,000.
Anish came up with the idea for HelpYouApply, a website that helps students fill in the applications for internships, year placements and graduate schemes, when he found himself filling in the same information over and over. He says: “The Bright Ideas award is not just another business plan competition. You are securing a business loan from professionals who believe your idea can work in the real world.” He will spend the money on building an online presence, securing the software to auto-fill all the forms, and paying employees when the company is fully operational towards the end of August.

THIRSTPASS. Alex Emms, Jonny Manfield (both 1st year Civil Engineering), Gameli Ladzekpo (1st year Mech Engineering) and Finnegan Harries. £12,000.
THIRSTPASS
is a network card that entitles students to discounts of up to 20% at a number of ‘watering holes’ around campus. So far around 5,000 have been distributed. Jonny Manfield says: “Winning a Bright Ideas award has equipped us with not only the resources to take forward our business model, but also with the confidence that not only we believe in our business model. To have won all of the funding we asked for is both an honour and a relief!” The team will spend the money on creating an interesting and engaging website and developing a mobile application which allows users to see which deals are nearby and ‘check-in’.

Post-graduate category

Old Bond Ltd. Artsiom Stavenka and Kiryl Chykeyuk (1st year PhD Politics). £7,500.
Old Bond
offers the world’s first spinning animated ads on bicycle wheels. The idea came out of Artsiom’s calculations that every week in London there are around 400,000 bike trips between home and work, and back. He says: “Winning the award was very inspirational. We’ve won a couple of awards in other business competitions, but receiving one from my own university was particularly amazing.” The loan money will be spent on payments for the exclusive licence to the manufacturer.

One Minute Manuscript (now MiniManuscript). Jake Fairnie (3rd yr PhD Cognitive Neuroscience) and Anna Remington (Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience). £7,500.
MiniManuscript.com
is a website where users can create, read and discuss summarised academic literature - freeing up valuable time to increase the pace of scientific discovery. The idea came from a realisation that people could work together to extract the key points from manuscripts to promote a more efficient, open and connected academic community. Anna says: “Winning the award means firstly, that the site will exist because of the financial backing, and secondly - and of no less importance- that we have the support of the UCL Bright Ideas team. We are really passionate about the idea and delighted to see others share in our enthusiasm.” The funds will enable Jake and Anna to build and maintain the website over the first year.

SnapScope. Simon Gane (PhD Nanotechnology in Medicine) and Lee Wemyss. £10,000.
SnapScope is a revolutionary device that makes medical instruments such as an optical endoscope, compatible with gadgets like the iPhone so that doctors can share data with medical professionals and patients. Simon says: “With a Snapscope I can show someone how healthy their voice box is, or securely send them a video of their ear operation.” He adds: “Winning the Bright Ideas award means that we get to put the device in the hands of a group of surgeons to test it. The prototypes we will be able to make with the loan will be as good as the finished product. We will also be able to develop the software side of things, with an app designed to make the secure sharing of video and audio data easy and safe.”

Alumni category

Shufflehub. Joshua Eichler-Summers (BSc Economics 2011) and Ariella Wolens (BA Art History 2011). £5,000.
Shufflehub is an e-commerce site that randomly selects 12 new items from a number of online retailers on its database, each time it is shuffled. User can filter the categories, which range from fashion accessories to toys to magazine articles, to focus their shuffling. Items are both affordable to the masses and ‘high-end’. Joshua has used some of his savings to build the website; he and Ariella will spend the Bright Ideas award money on Facebook click-through advertising, real-world promotion and any ‘shock’ hosting costs.

poq studio. Michael Langguth and Øyvind Henriksen (MSc Technology Entrepreneurship 2011). £12,000.
poq studio
is a mobile e-commerce platform that allows fashion retailers to build their own app easily and cost-effectively. Michael says: “This award is recognition of our achievements so far as well as trust in our ability to go a lot further. We have been working hard for six months now, so the award also enables us to take the time we need to really prove our business and possibly raise further investment. We will spend the money on marketing and sales activities and also to pay for some personal expenses.”

MSc in Technology Entrepreneurship category

faceEnergy. Nicolás Rebolledo and Felipe Escandon. £5,000.
faceEnergy is a user-centred energy management platform and marketplace that has grown out of its founders’ interest in ‘all things internet’ and energy issues. “As governments are providing incentives in order to promote energy savings and people seem to be interested in reducing carbon footprint, we feel there are huge opportunities in this area,” says Felipe. “The award provides an endorsement from UCL and is recognition not only of our personal hard work but also the business idea and its potential.” The team will spend the money on product and web development and testing.

Sycle (now Jive). Marcin Piatkowski. £15,000.
The ‘Jive’ bike is a light, stylish carbon-fibre, folding electric bike that comes with a small portable device and a mobile application for smartphones, both of which are designed to run, control and navigate the bike. Marcin wanted to create a bike that was easy to use in a city and attractive for smart gadget lovers. He calls it “dynamic commuting, without the need to pedal.” He says: “This is our second award - we also won London Entrepreneurs Challenge in December 2011. We used that money (£5,000) to do more research about the opportunity. The money from the Bright Ideas award (£15,000) will be used mainly to build the first prototypes, which is quite capital consuming. This is the last stage before pitching to investors, who are already very interested in our project.”

WindowsPhoneGeek. Yordan Pavlov and Boryana Miloshevska. £5,000.
WindowsPhoneGeek is a marketplace for Windows Phone app development components (and later Android) where developers can buy and sell components. Boryana says: “The Bright Ideas award is a recognition for all the effort and hard work that we have put in to the company, and it is also a great opportunity to take WindowsPhoneGeek to the next level.” Yordan and Boryana will use the money to accelerate the development of the project and take advantage of some important opportunities, such as the first Windows Phone development conference in San Francisco this October, where WindowsPhoneGeek is an official media partner.

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