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London's universities say ‘OpenSME’ to new support for capital's small businesses

A group of London's universities are launching a new collaboration – OpenSME – that seeks to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access the expertise and knowledge they offer.

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UCL research student’s business rides to victory in Dragon’s Den

9 October 2012

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UCL PhD student Art Stavenka, 26, and his business partner Kiryl Chykeyuk, a PhD student at Oxford University, have secured £90,000 in funding after appearing on BBC2’s Dragon’s Den.

The pair, who approached the Dragons initially asking for the investment in return for a ten per cent stake in their company, Old Bond London, eventually negotiated the same investment for a forty per cent stake split evenly between the two dragons.

Their business – an innovative approach to advertising with moving images on bike wheels – won strong interest from the Dragons, with entrepreneur Hilary Devey also interested in investing in the company.

The investment will be used to buy more systems to fit to bikes to expand the business.

It was with a UCL Bright Ideas Award – established by UCL Advances in 2008 to bridge the gap many new companies face when they have a great idea but are searching for their first funding – that Art took the first steps on the road to making Old Bond London a significant player in the outdoor advertising market.

The technology behind their business is simple: four strips of LED lights attached to the spokes of bike wheels. The result, however, is mesmerising – startling animations which can advertise words and phrases, move, and even rotate.

With a conviction that the technology would be ideally suited to advertising on London’s streets, Art approached student business advisor Lillian Shapiro for support. She helped them approach UCL Advances, UCL’s centre for entrepreneurship, for additional support.

“Art and Kiryl’s success if fantastic – and just one of a flurry of success stories we are nurturing right now,” said Professor Stephen Caddick, Vice-Provost for enterprise at UCL.

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