Innovation & Enterprise


Neat new hand sanitiser developed by UCL startup gelcard

7 December 2020

An entrepreneur from UCL has come up with a discreet and elegant hand sanitiser solution.

small card being snapped in half to release a single dose of sanitising hand gel

gelcards look like small credit-cards, which snap in the middle to release a single dose of sanitising hand gel. Their design can be tailored to a company’s brand identity and gelcard is working with high-end restaurants and premium businesses. They also sell gelcards to individuals directly from their website. 

Responding to a changing public environment

gelcard CEO and co-founder Charles Robinson, a UCL undergraduate in philosophy, began to form his idea at the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.

During his commute to UCL he started carrying a small sanitiser that was part of a contact lens accessory pack he picked up in Italy. As worldwide restrictions and regulations in public places increased, he started to see the potential for a bespoke sanitisation solution. He was also mindful of the inadequacy of hand sanitiser ‘stations’ at restaurants and shops. 

“From a hygiene perspective, many seem inherently flawed,” Charles says. “Let's take a restaurant, for example. First, there’s the issue of asking all your customers to stand in the same position to use the same machine. Second, they may indeed sanitise their hands at the door, but then will walk in, pull their chair out, touch the table, often the menu too, invariably contaminating their hands once they've passed the threshold. That isn't good enough.”

Rapid product development phase

Charles and co-founder Paul Schmitz-Gielsdorf (UCL Philosophy) began prototyping their product, ensuring it was neat, elegant and easy to use. 

“We worked around the clock for many, many weeks to do all the necessary work to launch the brand as soon as possible. The core of our innovation was predominantly intellectual, grounded in messaging, branding and marketing, meaning our development phase was exceptionally quick. The most important stage, as ever, was finding a paying customer. We reached out to whoever we could, and after that, it quickly picked up traction.”

Indeed, they have now started to provide a premium and bespoke gelcard service in Europe's best restaurants and hotels, including The Wolseley in Mayfair and the Park Plaza Hotel Chain across Europe. gelcards are also available to buy in packs containing a three month supply, direct from the website.

Innovation support 

gelcard was founded at BaseKX, UCL’s dedicated entrepreneurship hub, run by UCL Innovation & Enterprise. There they're currently receiving business advice, mentorship and the right environment to structure and grow the company further.

UCL Innovation & Enterprise recently launched a mentor network at BaseKX, so UCL startups and entrepreneurs can access advice and expertise directly, from individuals with significant business experience.

One such mentor is Iain Hunter, a senior executive with expertise in building brands and developing business relationships and commercial partnerships. He's co-founder of The Worldwide Partners, a global network of owner-led, marketing services agencies.

Iain commented: “As a mentor, I’ve been working closely with co-founders Charlie Robinson and Paul Schmitz-Gielsdorf as they prepare for market entry of their premium hand sanitiser, gelcard. I’ve been particularly struck by their professionalism, tenacity, business rigour, and readiness to accept advice and input for effective communications, marketing and branding. Their efforts are bearing fruit at the top end of the market with luxury brands placing significant orders even in their early days. I wish them every success, the world needs to know about gelcard.”

Jerry Allen, Director of Entrepreneurship at UCL Innovation & Enterprise said: “I’m really impressed by how quickly Charles, Paul and team have managed to mobilise during this challenging time, with assistance from business mentor Iain. Together, they’ve really defined their market and developed an excellent product that will make an important contribution as part of the wider public health response to the ongoing pandemic.” 


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Photo © gelcard