Posted Tuesday 1 March 2016
Kingston University students have stepped into the spotlight to brave a Dragon's Den-style challenge and pitch their business ideas to a panel of industry experts in a bid to win an annual entrepreneurship competition.
Shortlisted from a record-breaking 600 entries, 45 students had just five minutes each to impress the judges with their business concepts to secure a place in the final 10 at this year's Bright Ideas event. Challenging the would-be entrepreneurs to convince them how their ideas would work as real-world businesses – as well as providing invaluable feedback – the panel was made up of successful business owners and notable alumni, including Yoganathan Ratheesan, founder of mobile telecommunications company Lebara, Barinder Hothi, who co-founded Knowledge Academy, and Paul Kraftman, who runs retail operation Menkind.
The five Bright Ideas winners included a group of final year BSc(Hons) Business Administration students who developed a glove with highly reflective material stitched in the shape of indication arrows to show which way a cyclist was turning.
Coordi - an idea for a smartphone app created by students completing a range of business degrees, also scooped one of five £1,000 prizes. The app uses a location-based platform to help connect sports fans. "Coordi matches sports fans or players in their area, so they can find a local competition to play in together," group member Pierre Furlan, a BSc(Hons) International Business student, explained. "Being an early-stage start up, we wanted to gain some momentum through the Bright Ideas competition. Winning our category shows us there's a need for our service."
Other winners included Engineering Projects and Systems Management MSc student Jairon Francisco, who is developing equipment to convert waste produced from coffee harvesting in to higher quality beans. Jairon, who ran his own coffee processing business in the Dominican Republic before being awarded a Chevening Scholarship to study at Kingston University, said the event had been particularly useful in building contacts and networks. "The greatest benefit was to end up with a larger network of contacts, full of passionate entrepreneurs with the similar aim of implementing creative and innovative ideas for the sustainable economic progress of our world," he said.
More than 25 judges took part in the event, remarking on the range and standard of the ideas and commending the University's commitment to developing the next generation of business owners.
Yoganathan Ratheesan, who completed a degree in aerospace engineering at the University in 1999, said he was eager to be part of the competition. "I can really empathise with how it feels to want to turn a thought, a dream, an ambition to life, so this competition is a great opportunity for students," he said. "I would have really liked to have had a programme like this when I was a student."
Bright Ideas is part of the University's Enterprise programme, which is open to students and recent graduates and features a series events featuring high-profile speakers, along with workshops, coaching and mentoring sessions.
The University's Head of Enterprise Education, Martha Mador, said the final was a great opportunity for students to get feedback and advice from graduates already running their own businesses. "We were delighted to welcome so many alumni who gave generously of their time and expertise to help students develop ideas - and they were delighted to meet our terrific students," she added. "There's even more opportunity now for them to keep developing those ideas through the Bright Ideas Accelerator programme."
Other Bright Ideas winners include BA(Hons) Product and Furniture Design first year student Lauren Best, who wants to set up a design agency to take advantage of the wealth of creative talent at Kingston University. Fellow product and furniture design student Joseph l'Anson was awarded a £1,000 prize after devising the Beacon personal protection device, aimed at females aged between 15 and 25.
Five runners-up took home prizes of £250 and included MSc Aerospace Engineering student Alain Mouandza, who came up with a design for an amphibious multi-functional transportation device for disaster relief.
Kingston University has a long-standing track record for its expertise in entrepreneurial education. It is consistently named one of the top institutions in the United Kingdom for producing graduate start-ups in the annual Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey.