Magnificent seven take CUE honours
Enthusiasm and diversity of ideas is what stood out for the judges among the entrants in this year’s Cambridge University Entrepreneurs £1k challenge that saw ideas ranging from videos on bike wheels to a financing and mentoring initiative for underprivileged students in developing countries among the eight winners.
“It was great to see such diversity and the enthusiasm for what they did really shone through,” said judge David Gill, Managing Director of St John’s innovation Centre. “There was a blip in the quality of entries a couple of years back but the quality has come right back. If I was still in investment mode I’d like to meet some of the teams. There is a lot of strong technology to solve real problems such as energy use, global warming and long term health problems. Back in 2008 it was all about social media.”
Fellow judge Peter Harris from Hotel Chocolat was also impressed with the entries. “I was impressed with the variety of areas and the enthusiasm put forward. Good ideas are easier to come by than presenting these ideas and putting them into practice,” he said.
Where entrants needed to be more concerned is in their realism about what could be achieved. “They need to know how much money they will need and how they are going to get to market,” said David Gill. “Rather than holding people back he said the economic downturn was an incentive. “Companies founded in a downturn do better than those in an upturn.” Fellow judge serial serial entrepreneur, business angel and fellow of Emmanuel College Jack Lang said that people didn’t usually start businesses because of a recession but it was often what gave them the final push “It’s easy to get first stage money but second stage is harder. You need to make sure you’re building something people want to buy, you get to market fast and break even with the money invested initially. ”
For those going on to the £5k challenge Peter Harris offered this advice: “Present yourself in the best possible light – if the judges cant’ understand you how will your market? “ They should also, said the judges, attend the training session and seek the advice of someone who has been there before or an experienced entrepreneur.
Guest speaker John Bird, Founder of the Big Issue, spoke about how he was harnessing the technological expertise in Cambridge to help the homeless help themselves and would soon be launching the first Big Issue World in Cambridge, allowing the homeless to become correspondents producing their own local online publication. John Bird presented the winners’ prizes along with sponsors Marine Barbaroux from Redgate Software and Dan Cowell from Horizon Discovery, who urged the entrepreneurs to “Follow your dreams”.
The winners were Green Tutor (platform for online training), Cambridge Interactive Video Solutions (interactive video segmentation technology), Old Bond (the world’s first spinning animate ads on bicycles), Wedu (financing and mentoring initiative for underprivileged students in developing countries), Cambridge Biocompatibility (biocompatible coatings for orthopaedic and prosthetic surgery) , Realiawind (condition monitoring system for wind turbine drivetrains), CamPores (method to produce novel nanoporous material).
The runners up were: Cambridge Stemcell Systems (custom-made human brain neural stem cells), Heliomobil (solar tracking heliostats),TPS Ltd (device for studying pharmaceutical tablet coatings),Shuruat Mobility (delivering better opportunities for the physically disabled in India, Africa and the Middle East) Simple Tax Calculator (tax management system for SMEs), Collide (App offering new ways for friends to meet and interact), HopSkip (connects people when they want to be connected), Vocal IQ (voice interfaces for computer systems)
Best pitch was awarded to student market place Stu Stu and best poster to Self-Cervix, a home use cervical smear test.
The winners received £1000 along with a year’s subscription to patent search platform BolivenPro Patent (worth £750) from Cambridge IP. The runners up received the subscription to BolivenPro Patent.
The Grand Final of the £5k challenge will be on 13 June..
GreenTUTOR provides a platform for online training. It focuses on the sustainable built environment. Market research indicates rapid growth of the £9bn global e-learning market of which its target segment –e-learning teaching – showed the highest growth. GreenTUTOR has access to over 350 researchers and professionals in the area of sustainable development through an established network (www.greenbridge.org.uk), which will be its starting point to enter this market. Thanks to easy access to Ivy League Tutors, GreenTUROR says it benefits from low barriers to entry. Its proposed tuition service, flexible, virtual, one-to-one and multilingual, enables global outreach and thus high-growth rates for this venture.
Cambridge Interactive Video Solutions – Video data is increasingly used for research, performance analysis and documenting personal events. More than 48 hours of video content is uploaded on YouTube every minute. Cambridge Interactive Video Solutions uses interactive video segmentation technology developed at the CUED to provide tools for cutting out objects in videos with arbitrary backgrounds, and analysing their properties. Revolutionary machine learning algorithms progressively understand the need of the user from only a few mouse strokes. Cut-outs are used for scientic studies: animal behavioural studies, live cell image sequence analysis, performance analysis of sportsmen: pose, motion patterns, general public video editing applications: object removal, enhancement, annotation.
Old Bond – student zoology. The team is a startup offering the world’s first spinning animated ads on bicycle wheels; a real breakthrough in outdoor advertising. Being environmentally friendly, we will use an innovative system, Video Pro, to transfer video-clips, images and animated logos from a computer onto the bike wheels. With such new technology transforming a bike into a work of art, drivers can run an ad on any path or put it at some popular spot around the city. It would be hard to create better advertising for businesses, concerts, festivals or cultural events than eye-catching ads on running or stationary bikes.
Wedu provides education financing options and mentorship for underprivileged university students with high leadership potential in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), especially girls. It seeks to initiate a positive cycle of building and developing local leadership talent by identifying students committed to working on local issues, helping them to complete university and giving them access to a global network of mentors. When students return to serve their communities they become mentors to other future leaders while repaying the financing received into a revolving fund to serve more students.
Cambridge Biocompatibility – The team is developing new biocompatible coatings for all forms of orthopaedic and prosthetic surgery that will increase the lifetime by at least a factor of five and reduce recovery and aftercare costs by a factor of 10. Total product lifetime savings will be the major pricing driver for this new portfolio of biocompatible coatings. The team is requesting £100,000 venture capital and expects a company valuation of £60 million within five years.
ReliaWind – Reliability is vital in the growth of the wind industry, especially offshore, and to realise EU’s targets for 2020. ReliaWind has developed a novel and patent-pending condition-monitoring system for wind turbine drivetrains, enabling 40 per cent reduced maintenance cost for offshore installations. The product, comprising a number of sensors and the analysis hardware/software, offers straightforward retrofit into new wind turbines as well as existing ones. This is a relatively new market and the team expects to take a 5.5 per cent market share by 2017, equivalent to installation onto 2500 turbines per year, generating revenues of £60m.
CamPores – Ultracapacitors and pharmaceutical filters underlie very different industries but are the most promising applications of this technology – a method to produce a novel nanoporous material. The manufacturing process is cheap, quick and easily scalable and the pore size can be reliably tuned from 5-100nm with a high degree of uniformity across the substrate. In polymeric form, the substrate has already attracted interest from leading filtration companies. As a porous metal-oxide, it will be a key component of hybrid ultracapacitors, a fast growing industry with applications in grid management and hybrid cars. Other applications include fuel cells and enhanced Lithium-ion batteries.
Cambridge Stem Cell Systems aims to become the major supplier of custom-made human brain neural stem cells and functional neural tissues to academia, biotech and pharmaceutical industries. It will provide solutions to establish patient cell-based systems for brain disease modelling and drug screening by 1) generating a collection of patient-derived neural stem cell lines from common neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer and Parkinson’s diseases, and produce stem cell lines of rare diseases on demand; 2) producing optimized neural stem cell culture reagents and tools to suit the research; 3) providing consulting services to help design patient cell based drug discovery platforms.
Heliomobil makes affordable solar-tracking heliostats that are designed with the goal of increasing the yield of residential and small-scale commercial solar energy collection systems. Heliomobil's core product supplements marketed solar collection technologies, enabling them to significantly accelerate return-on-investment through increased sunlight availability.
TPS Limited – With the development of more advance tablet coatings, there is an urgent need for stricter control over tablet coating thickness and evenness, which can only be achieved with better analytical equipment. Terahertz-based imaging devices have recently been developed for studying pharmaceutical tablet coatings. These devices enable continuous, on-line monitoring of tablet coating thickness during the coating process, and can be fitted to existing manufacturing equipment without modifications. These benefits make them superior to current methods. The team believes these devices will be able to rapidly penetrate the $2.2bn pharmaceutical analytical equipment market.
Shuruat Mobility is working in the field of product, service and delivery model design and innovation to target large, under-served segments at the bottom of the pyramid. Its first initiative, Shuruat Mobility, is focused on the design, development and marketing of an ecosystem of innovative assistive mobility devices, specialised educational programmes and micro-financing services for the physically disabled across rural India, Africa and the Middle-East, with the objective of delivering income generation opportunities and financial independence to them in a sustainable and scalable manner.
Simple Tax Calculator – For a small business, keeping records of sales and expenses over multiple years is time consuming. SMEs want to focus on their business. The Simple Tax Calculator is an easy to use system that keeps all required information in one place and allows sole traders to keep a running total of their tax liability throughout the year.
Collide – Winner of the Silicon Valley comes to the UK Cambridge Appathon, Collide creates new ways for friends to meet and interact by bringing mobile, local and social together. Collide is a mobile application which tells you when your friends are close and suggests nearby places to hang out and grab a coffee and, as an added sweetener, Collide also provides the user with money-off vouchers for their favourite social spots.
HopSkip – HopSkip connects people when people want to be connected. HopSkip revolutionises how and when people are able to use their mobile phones. It does this by tunnelling connections through the latent mobile phone network on unused and available radio frequency bands. HopSkip utilises software embedded within the mobile phone to search, identify and connect to other roaming mobile phones until a connection with a network provider is achieved. As long as other mobile phones are in the vicinity and are HopSkip enabled, a connection through the latent mobile network to the real network will be established. This technology extends the coverage of existing networks substantially, allowing phone signals to be transmitted down into the London Underground, into concrete buildings and down alleyways. It also considerably extends the boundaries of existing cell-sites. Digital information literally hops and skips through other users mobile phones.
VocalIQ – VocalIQ aims to become the leading provider of voice interfaces for computer systems. By using novel statistical models of dialogue, VocalIQ can dramatically improve the performance of voice-based systems. Possible applications include automated call centres, mobile applications and car-navigation systems.