From mechanical wooden toys for young children to an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) camera, UCL’s startups have got your online festive shopping covered.
UCL Innovation & Enterprise supports a diverse range of startups from our entrepreneurial community of students, staff and alumni.
These talented, driven founders create products that make unique gifts for this festive period. We’ve picked out some of the best to suit all tastes and interests. With shopping and gift-giving in person likely to be restricted, these ideas can be bought or pre-ordered online.
For curious children
Tomata: Mechanical wooden toys that children can build
Tomata has developed moving mechanical toys that children can assemble. By building these toys children learn about logical thinking and even basic coding. Entrepreneur Patsaraporn Liewatanakorn (UCL MSc Architecture 2018) founded the company to prise children away from screens.
Lapapo: Online store catering for children with additional needs
Lapapo is a unique online market place and community which makes it easier for parents to find products for children with additional needs. The company was founded by Anike Mlemchukwu and is based at the UCL led East London Inclusive Enterprise Zone (ELIEZ). ELIEZ is a fully accessible innovation space for entrepreneurs who are disabled or focused on serving disabled communities.
More gift ideas for children
- Interactive smart toothbrushes linked to fun games from Playbrush
- Educational virtual reality games from Musemio
- Help turn around the lives of young people by making a donation to In2ScienceUK
For clean-eating enthusiasts
Beau Durée: Healthy spreads including Early Grey flavour
Beau Durée offer a range of unique flavoured spreads with all natural ingredients and no sugar, including matcha and Earl Grey spread. They go well with toast, bread and biscuits and pair with fruits such as strawberries and figs. Founder Hee Jang (MSc International Public Policy 2017) grew tired of peanut butter and wanted to develop healthier snacks.
Livia’s: Vegan, free-from sweet treats
Livia’s products, including Salted Peanut Butter Million Squares, are available nationwide at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Holland & Barrett, Boots and Waitrose and online through her store. Entrepreneur Olivia Wollenberg (UCL BSc Psychology, MSc Cognitive Neuroscience) founded the indulgent vegan treats company at UCL.
More healthy eating products
- Healthy additive-free sauces and condiments from Dr Will’s
- Recovery supplements to boost body and mind from The Good Mood Co
- Energising whole-plant smoothie blends from Foga
For cocktail connoisseurs
Double Dutch: Premium mixers with unusual flavours
Double Dutch sells a range of premium soft drinks mixers with unusual flavour combinations, including pomegranate and basil, and cucumber and watermelon. The company was founded by twin sisters Joyce and Raissa de Haas (MSc in Technology Entrepreneurship 2014). Their products are available at many supermarkets, bars and restaurants and direct from their website.
Mélange Drinks: Craft alcoholic sodas with no added sugar
Mélange Drinks produces craft alcoholic sodas. Flavours include rhubarb and raspberry, grapefruit and tangerine, and yuzu and passionfruit. Harry Sain (UCL Pedagogy & Communication) and Alec Price (Exeter University) founded their company in 2019 with a commitment to premium and interesting ingredients without any added sugars or other ‘nasties’.
For art lovers
The Inner Cinema: Artistic micrographs of brains cells
PhD Neuroscience student Sally Salomonsson digitally manipulates microscope photos of brain cells to create dreamscape art prints. The prints are available through her startup The Inner Cinema.
Curaty: Original works from early career artists
Curaty champions exceptionally talented early career artists, providing them with the platform to showcase their work. The company was founded by Sneha Shah (UCL MA, History of Art 2018). Original works by Curaty artists are available online.
Alternative ideas for creatives
- Discover nail art treasure with Meebox Nails
- Find inspiration tools for miniature painting with The Perfect Brush
For technology lovers
Photogram.ai: A powerful new hybrid digital camera
Photogram.ai is developing an artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted camera that combines the quality of professional cameras with the connectivity of a smartphone. The Alice Camera offers new capabilities and techniques for autofocusing, autoexposure, colour science and more. Founded by Vishal Kumar (MRes in Spatial Data Science and Visualisation) the Alice Camera is now available for pre-order with delivery in 2021.
Vendi: An online phone store you can trust
Vendi can make sure you get the best deals with mobile phones. Through their online market place they ensure every buyer, seller and product is verified. The company was co-founded by Pablo Gonzalez-Iglesias (UCL Management Science and Innovation) and business partner Anil Rao.
For looking and feeling good
Afrocenchix: Organic afro hair products
Afrocenchix’s range of popular afro hair products are vegan, natural, organic and cruelty free. Rachael Corson (UCL MSc in Medical Anthropology) and Jocelyn Mate (UCL staff member) grew the company at UCL. Afrocenchix products are widely available in stores including Holland & Barrett, and they offer festive bundles.
Brarista: AI-assisted bra-fitting
Book a bespoke bra-fitting service online with Brarista. Founded by Bella Trang Ngo (UCL MSc Entrepreneurship), Brarista’s AI-enabled technology helps women find their right bra size, using any digital camera.
Other gift ideas to boost wellbeing
- Write together and feel better with HaikuJam’s therapeutic writing app available through Android
- Order a beauty or subscription box from Inspire me Korea
For the sustainably-minded
biobean: Biofuel logs made with spent coffee grounds
Give the gift of warmth without harming the planet with biofuel logs made with recovered coffee grounds, created by startup bio-bean. Founded by Arthur Kay (UCL Architecture, 2013) the company has recycled over 20,000 tonnes of spent grounds to date. The logs are available at garden centres, supermarkets and online at Amazon.
Blackwood: Elegant accessories made with leather alternatives
Combining fashion and the environment, UCL startup Blackwood creates elegant accessories, using only natural and innovative leather alternatives, such as wood leather and cork leather. The company was founded by Oskar Zieba (UCL MEng, Mechanical Engineering with Business Finance, 2019) and Guerric de Ternay (UCL English Legal Studies, 2014).
For safer and easier shopping
MishiPay: Go shopping with a self-checkout app
MishiPay delivers a mobile self-checkout solution for high-street shopping. It allows you to pick up a product, scan the barcode, pay with your phone, and walk out of the shop with your purchase. The company was founded by Mustafa Khanwala (UCL MSc Engineering with Finance). Download the app on iOS or Android and shop with it at stores in the UK, Ireland and Europe, including MUJI, Laithwaite’s Wine, Mango, PicWicToys and Decathlon.
gelcard: Elegant, compact hand sanitiser
gelcards offer a discreet, elegant and compact solution to hand sanitiser. They look like small credit-cards, which snap in the middle to release a single dose of sanitising hand gel. The company was founded by Charles Robinson (UCL philosophy) and is developing bespoke gelcards for premium businesses. You can also buy them directly from the website.
These companies have received support from UCL Innovation & Enterprise, which helps UCL’s community of students, alumni and staff turn their knowledge and ideas into a reality for the benefit of us all.
At UCL's thriving centre for entrepreneurship, BaseKX, hundreds of exceptional startups have been launched.
In the academic year 2018 to 2019 our graduate startup companies attracted £60 million of external investment and had a significant economic impact, employing 1,673 people.