Innovation & Enterprise


UCL startups bringing you some festive inspiration

UCL’s startups produce an array of products and services which could provide some festive inspiration this season.

The thriving entrepreneurial scene at UCL has nurtured and launched successful startups in sectors as varied as ‘femtech’ to ‘fintech’ and everything between. They produce an incredible diversity of unique products, many with a focus on sustainability and ethical business practices and all created with the passion of talented, driven founders.

We think there’s something for everyone’s shopping list this season – whether you’re a party-goer, parent, foodie or techie:

For the sustainably-minded

Bag of bio-bean's coffee logs
You can’t get much more festive than a roaring fire on a cold winter’s night. But you can now do that in a completely sustainable way with biofuel logs made with recovered coffee grounds – created by startup bio-bean. Founded by Arthur Kay (UCL Architecture, 2013) the company recovers over 3,500 tonnes of coffee grounds every year from around 900 Costa stores. It sells its sustainable biofuel products and logs in stores and via Amazon.

Products made by Blackwood
If you’re passionate about fashion and the environment, UCL startup Blackwood creates beautiful accessories, using only natural and innovative leather alternatives, such as wood leather and cork leather. They also plant a tree for every product they sell, and aim to make carbon neutral accessories. 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 the festive party-goer

Range of Afrocenchix's products
Get ready to step out with Afrocenchix’s range of hugely popular afro hair products – all vegan, natural, organic and cruelty free. Rachael Corson and Jocelyn Mate came up with the idea for the company while working as professional services staff at UCL.

Double Dutch products
Mix things up a little when choosing your drinks at those festive parties with Double Dutch’s unique mixer drinks – combining unusual flavour combinations such as pomegranate and basil. The company was founded by twins Joyce de Haas and Raissa de Haas (UCL MSc Technology Entrepreneurship, 2014) and has sold 10 million bottles across 22 countries.

Mélange Drinks products
If you’re planning a party, impress your guests by stocking up on Mélange Drinksready-to-drink 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 earlier this year with a commitment to premium and interesting ingredients and without any added sugars or other ‘nasties’.

Make sure you get invited to all the best festive parties, with a subscription to The Oblique Life Members' Club, which connects people through experiences – from jazz nights to life-drawing classes. The company was founded by brothers Romi Sumaria (UCL Economics and Geography), Shonil Sumaria (UCL Economics and Geography) and Keyu Sumaria (UCL Spanish and Management).

For the foodies and connoisseurs

Livia’s Million Squares
The festive season would not be complete without some overindulgence – but you can offset at least some of the guilt, with Livia’s range of all-natural, vegan, gluten and dairy-free treats. Olivia Wollenberg (UCL Psychology, 2011) founded the company after being diagnosed with severe intolerances. The products are now available online and in stores including Tesco and Boots (check out their special advent calendar).

Dr Will's products
Dr Will Breakey (UCL PhD Craniofacial Surgery) and Josh Rose cofounded Dr Will's to sell healthier, additive-free sauces and condiments, like beetroot ketchup and avocado mayonnaise.

FOGA's blackberry plantshake
Possibly one for post-holiday detox is Foga, which makes instant whole-plant smoothies (no need for a blender). The company was founded by husband-and-wife team Phoebe Thirlwell-Pearce (UCL MSc Entrepreneurship) and Ollie Thirlwell-Pearce.

For children

Box of Musemio's products
For many youngsters around the world, the festive season means one thing above all else: toys and games. Startup Musemio is developing innovative mobile virtual-reality games that allow children to explore arts and culture in a fun and accessible way. Kaitlin Fritz (UCL MA History of Art, 2018) and Olga Kravchenko (King’s College London) created their company to deliver a platform of curriculum-led adventures, quests, and challenges that expand children’s cultural education through exciting gamification. 

Children using the Playbrush app
Motivating children to brush their teeth is a struggle experienced by parents around the world every morning and evening. Enter Playbrush – an interactive smart toothbrush which combines technology and gaming to make the experience fun and rewarding. The company was founded by Paul Varga (UCL MSc Technology Entrepreneurship, 2013), Tolulope Ogunsina (UCL MSc Technology Entrepreneurship, 2013) and colleague Matthäus Ittner. They’ve sold 175,000 Playbrush units in 25 countries and are partnering with big brands like Unilever. 

For the techies

Illustration of the Vendi app
Everyone loves a bargain when it comes to eye-wateringly expensive mobile phones, and Vendi can make sure you get the best deals with its online marketplace where 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.

Shopping can be a painful process at this time of year, but MishiPay delivers a mobile self-checkout solution that allows in-store shoppers to pick up a product, scan the barcode, pay with their phone, and simply walk out of the shop with their purchase. MishiPay’s CEO and founder Mustafa Khanwala (UCL MSc Engineering with Finance) was named among Europe’s top innovators by Forbes.

Olly by Emotech
For a glimpse into the future, startup Emotech has created Olly, billed as the ‘world’s first robot with personality’, which aims to be more personal than Amazon’s Echo and similar devices (available for pre-order). CEO and co-founder Hongbin Zhuang (UCL MSc Human Computer Interaction & Ergonomics) brought together the team in 2014.

Startup support at UCL Innovation & Enterprise

All of the startups above received support from UCL Innovation & Enterprise, which helps our thriving community of students, alumni and staff turn their ideas into a reality. In the past academic year alone, the department has helped create over 70 startups that have collectively raised £9.7 million in investment and created 187 full time jobs. 

To find out more visit the student section of the UCL Innovation & Enterprise website