You’ve got a great idea, and you’ve done all the groundwork to show how it could come together: but it’s not quite ready to pitch for the big bucks. Where can you get funds to bridge the gap to the next stage on the business ladder?
The UCL Advances Bright Ideas Awards, now in their fifth year, provide crucial cash to new student companies who need their first funding but are not yet ready for venture capital investment. This year, 7 UCL Engineering students scooped funding for ideas ranging from drink discounts to a carbon-fibre folding bike.
Awards ranging from £5,000 to £15,000 are given in the form of a loan to help get the winning businesses up and running, allowing them to reach the next crucial milestone in their development, whether that is the first prototype or support for landing the first customer.
So, who are the new talent who are bootstrapping themselves in this economy, and what are they bringing us?
Alex Emms, Jonny Manfield (both 1st year Civil Engineering), Gameli Ladzekpo (1st year Mech Engineering) and Finnegan Harries. £12,000.
THIRSTPASS is a network card that entitles students to discounts of up to 20% at a number of ‘watering holes’ around campus. So far around 5,000 have been distributed. Jonny Manfield says: “Winning a Bright Ideas award has equipped us with not only the resources to take forward our business model, but also with the confidence that not only we believe in our business model. To have won all of the funding we asked for is both an honour and a relief!” The team will spend the money on creating an interesting and engaging website and developing a mobile application which allows users to see which deals are nearby and ‘check-in’.
Michael Langguth and Øyvind Henriksen (MSc Technology Entrepreneurship 2011). £12,000.
Providing couture quality mobile development at high-street prices, poq studio is a mobile e-commerce platform that allows fashion retailers to build their own app easily and cost-effectively, bringing online shopping on-the-go within reach of smaller retailers.
Nicolás Rebolledo and Felipe Escandon. £5,000.
faceEnergy is a user-centred energy management platform and marketplace that has grown out of its founders’ interest in ‘all things internet’ and energy issues. “As governments are providing incentives in order to promote energy savings and people seem to be interested in reducing carbon footprint, we feel there are huge opportunities in this area,” says Felipe. “The award provides an endorsement from UCL and is recognition not only of our personal hard work but also the business idea and its potential.” The team will spend the money on product and web development and testing.
Marcin Piatkowski (MSc Technology Entrepreneurship 2011-12). £15,000.
The ‘Jive’ bike is a light, stylish carbon-fibre, folding electric bike that comes with a small portable device and a mobile application for smartphones, both of which are designed to run, control and navigate the bike. Marcin wanted to create a bike that was easy to use in a city and attractive for smart gadget lovers. He calls it “dynamic commuting, without the need to pedal.” He says: “This is our second award – we also won London Entrepreneurs Challenge in December 2011. We used that money (£5,000) to do more research about the opportunity. The money from the Bright Ideas award (£15,000) will be used mainly to build the first prototypes, which is quite capital consuming. This is the last stage before pitching to investors, who are already very interested in our project.”
Yordan Pavlov and Boryana Miloshevska (MSc Technology Entrepreneurship 2011-12). £5,000
WindowsPhoneGeek is a marketplace for Windows Phone app development components (and later Android) where developers can buy and sell components. Boryana says: “The Bright Ideas award is a recognition for all the effort and hard work that we have put in to the company, and it is also a great opportunity to take WindowsPhoneGeek to the next level.” Yordan and Boryana will use the money to accelerate the development of the project and take advantage of some important opportunities, such as the first Windows Phone development conference in San Francisco this October, where WindowsPhoneGeek is an official media partner.