When I run into (loud) teenagers on trains or shops I tend to worry about the future of our planet, but participating in a judging panel for the UK's best young entrepreneurial talent - NACUE's National Varsity Pitch Competition - has renewed my optimism in the future generations. The next generation of entrepreneurs is integrated, collaborative and as smart as ever. Social, gender and racial integration at its best: natural and unnoticed.
Hosted at the British Library in London, the UK?s premiere student business plan contest that attracted applications from across the UK was planned to perfection and delivered to higher quality than most startup and technology events we attend throughout the year.
On the grand final night an audience of 200 entrepreneurs, investors and corporate partners gathered to witness the UK?s most promising student ventures pitch for the National Title, �10,000, a business support pack and a golden ticket to participate in the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards.
NACUE?s search began earlier this year when 40 candidates were selected from over 200 applications to compete within one of the distinct industry categories. All winners and leaders of their Industry Awards, 7 businesses went onto a gruelling pitching boot camp before taking their place in the May 10th Grand Final:
- Clean Technology & Green Business - Scrap Attack ? King?s College London
- Software, Internet & Mobile Technologies - Story Key ? Royal College of Art & Imperial College London
- Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) Ventures - Neo-Slip ? Kingston University
- Social Entrepreneurship - Charity Checkout ? University College London
- London Metropolitan Business School Leisure, Hospitality and Services - Miss COCO ? University of Glasgow
- Creative Industries - Circalit ? University College London
- TATA Blue Skies Award for Disruptive Enterprise - Little Riot ? Newcastle University
Uncompromising in talent or innovation, the pitches were strong and demonstrated the value creation potential of students to change industries, lives and systems. Both TheNextWomen (Joana Picq) and Astia (Simone Brummelhuis) were invited on the panel alongside Angels Den (Bill Murray) and BP (Europe VP Peter Mather) to evaluate the ventures against innovation, market opportunity and financial viability.
In what was a very close call, this year's winners were announced: the People?s Choice Award went to Neomi Bennett, nurse and creator of anti-embolism stockings application Neo-Slip, with pillow-to-pillow communications Little Riot founder Joanna Montgomery being selected by the judges as the National Varsity Pitch Competition 2011 Champion. �
This competition celebrated the leading entrepreneurs and innovators coming out of UK universities. It was an evening dedicated to the celebration of student enterprise and was a testament to why young entrepreneurs across the country should be supported and celebrated.
About the Finalists
Miss COCO - Sarah Finlay� (University of Glasgow)
- Leisure, Hospitality and Services Winner, sponsored by London Metropolitan Business School
- Miss COCO is a bespoke chocolate company making unique creations for the retail and corporate markets. Miss COCO?s products are aimed primarily at women - the main purchasers of chocolate products - and are therefore designed to look as delicious as they taste. Following feedback from focus groups and consumer trials, products have been carefully packaged to ensure buyers get the wow factor when they unwrap followed by a superb tasting experience. Working with the finest chocolate ingredients imported from Belgium, Miss COCO has created more than 30 lines of � hand decorated chocolates right across the price range. There is something to delight the palate of everyone.
Charity Checkout ? Chester Mojay-Sinclare� (University College London)
- Social Enterprise Winner, supported by British Library Business & IP Centre
- Charity Checkout is an innovative charity payment provider that enables charities to setup custom payment pages, empowering them to run effective online fundraising campaigns. The idea was conceived by Chester Mojay-Sinclare, a Philosophy student at University College London and founder of AliveandGiving.com, a charity search engine and comparison website. The two sites have a common objective, in that they aim to facilitate small charities to fundraise more effectively online. Charity Checkout is the first charity payment provider of its kind in the UK, specifically tailored for the needs of smaller charities, whilst delivering more features than any other alternative.
Little Riot ? Joanna Montgomery �(Newcastle University)
- TATA Blue Skies Award for Disruptive Enterprise Winner, sponsored by Tata Ltd.
- Little Riot is an interaction design company developing Pillow Talk, a product aiming to connect long distance lovers. Each person has a pillow for their bed and a sensor which they wear to sleep at night. The sensor wirelessly communicates with the other person?s pillow; when one person does to bed, their lover?s pillow begins to glow softly to indicate their presence. Placing your head on the pillow allows you to hear the real-time heartbeat of your loved one. The result is an intimate interaction between two lovers, regardless of the distance between them.
Scrap Attack ? Kyle Hansen & Melissa O?Young� (King?s College London)
- Clean Technology and Green Business Winner, sponsored by University of Hertfordshire
- Scrap Attack was an idea that came to its founders when they noticed the enormous amount of food waste produced by London restaurants every year. Scrap Attack will collect food waste, that would otherwise end up in UK landfills, from London eateries and transform it into an environmentally friendly, high quality, saleable compost. Scrap Attack?s goal is to achieve a ?triple bottom line? by not only achieving profits, but also diverting food waste away from landfills, contributing to a healthier, greener London.
Neo-Slip ? Neomi Bennett �(Kingston University)
- Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Category, sponsored by University of Surrey
- The Neo-Slip is a device designed by a registered nurse and its purpose is to aid the application of Anti embolism stockings (compression/flight stockings). Compression stockings are frequently use by people on long haul travel and are prescribed to bed-bound patients, post operative patients and those with reduced mobility. �Stockings are vital in preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis.� Compression stockings require a lot of stretch to put on due to the tight fit. The Neo-Slip encourages compliance, reduces risk of injury and can be used by anyone who needs to Use the stockings.��Neo-slip is a valuable aid in saving lives.
Circalit ? Robert Tucker and Raoul Tawadey (University College London)
- Creative Enterprise Category, sponsored by Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance
- Circalit is an online platform, which gives film producers, publishers and literary agents access to the best screenplays and novels from all over the world. Using a combination of consumer readership and professional opinion, Circalit finds projects that are commercially viable and markets them to specific industry professionals. Circalit also captures data on the readership of each project, enabling writers to know their readers better and industry professionals to market their work more effectively. Circalit provides an efficient solution to finding new talent.
Story Key ? Daniel Watson and Alicia Tam �(Royal College of Art)
- Software, Internet and Mobile Technologies Category, sponsored by IBM
- StoryKey is a picture password system which makes passwords instantly memorable. �Current password systems have been designed for machines, not for people. Our research has shown that people are far better at remembering passwords as stories and images, instead of words and numbers.��StoryKey asks people to think of a story, and then pick images to represent it, in the process becoming much more meaningful. StoryKey is a solution that works across online banking, e-commerce, retail�checkout and mobile transactions, and is already 8000 times stronger than your typical alphanumeric�password.��StoryKey makes passwords more memorable, more personal, more secure.