Battle hots up between student business brains


The best student run businesses from across the UK are fighting it out in The Varsity Pitch Competition 2016 with the winner set to take home £10,000 along with sessions with a world class mentor.

The contest, which is now in its seventh year, aims to celebrate and recognise the very best businesses formed by students or very recent graduates from colleges and universities across Britain.

This year more than 300 businesses applied to take part in the challenge, which is organised by NACUE, the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs.

These hopefuls were whittled down to a shortlist of 30 which external judges from Vidsy, Shell LiveWIRE, Seedrs, Toucan, Fish Climb Trees and Swisse Re felt had the most potential.

After hearing a two-minute pitch from each of the shortlisted 30, judges then decided on six finalists, and another entrant was selected after an X Factor style public vote.

These seven finalists were then invited to take part in a day long business boot camp with input from mentors and other business professionals.

The finalists will now battle it out in front of 200 entrepreneurs, investors, public figures and members of the media at the grand final on 15 November at the RBS building in Bishopsgate.

The finalist for the Creative and Design category is Double Dutch Ltd. The two UCL alumni’s are developing innovative combinations to accompany the UK’s ever growing choice of spirits.

The Digital and Technical finalist is Lister Rossel, a University of Westminster post-graduate student who founded RJam, a platform that connects and creates music within the 21st century.

Also competing in the final is a graduate from The University of the West of England, Bristol, who has developed Unique Insights, an online platform that identifies and prevents students from dropping out of University. Unique Insights will be competing as the finalist for the Genuine Innovation category.

Two young entrepreneurs from the London Metropolitan University won the Ideas Category and wowed the judges with their homemade smoothie company Bui Smoothies.

The Tata Social Impact category was won by AEROPOWDER. Two post-graduate students from Imperial College London impressed the judges with their creation of sustainable functional materials from feathers.

The Tata Disruptive category was the most competitive category of all, with the highest number of entries. The winners for this category were two post-graduate students from The University of Cambridge, who won with OneTest, a method of tracing therapy for a wide range of cancers.

The final category is the Lloyds People’s Choice award, which was won by two University of Westminster graduates with an app named TakeMeOut.

The app makes eating out easy by generating new restaurants and their unique discounts tailored to your location, interests and budget.

By winning the Lloyds People’s Choice award, their application was fast tracked to the grand finals, which meant that they did not have to pitch to the judges in the semi-final.

Holly Knower, Chief Executive Officer at NACUE said: “We were thrilled with the quality of this year’s entries which says a great deal about how strong business innovation is amongst young people in Britain.

“It’s been a very tough process to select seven finalists from more than 300 fantastic entries but we are delighted with the strong field as we approach the grand final of our contest.

“The number and quality of entries seems to increase each and every year.

“It certainly proves that student businesses are amongst our most innovative and creative and bodes well for the future of British business.”

Dr David Landsman OBE, Executive Director Tata Limited said: “Successful entrepreneurs are special people. But, in today’s fast-changing world, we all increasingly need entrepreneurial skills, wherever we work.

“NACUE and Varsity Pitch do a great job in providing a forum for developing and championing those skills and helping young people start and grow their first business.

“Tata’s participation isn’t a one-way street: we very much enjoy working with the contestants, helping them with their project and – absolutely – learning from them too.”

Varsity Pitch sees students and graduates from universities and colleges across the country, submit a digital application for a new business idea for the chance to place as the finalist in their industry category.

This year over 60 per cent of applicants were from London-based colleges and universities and more than half were graduates.