Student entrepreneurs win funding for business projects

The StartUp Sussex finalists SUS-170413-141337001
The StartUp Sussex finalists SUS-170413-141337001

Cash prizes were handed out at a University of Sussex enterprise event for businesses run by students and graduates.

StartUp Sussex, the annual competition run by the University of Sussex, announced the three winning teams who will receive grants to help develop their businesses.

StartUp Sussex winners (L-R) Muhammad Abbas and Dominic Coles (Trademark Brothers), Andreas Georgiades (Brighton Greeks), Philipp Streicher (Augmind) SUS-170413-141429001

StartUp Sussex winners (L-R) Muhammad Abbas and Dominic Coles (Trademark Brothers), Andreas Georgiades (Brighton Greeks), Philipp Streicher (Augmind) SUS-170413-141429001

For the first time, a Social Impact Prize was also awarded to the enterprise idea with the most potential to bring about positive social change.

This year’s StartUp Sussex winners were Mo Abbas and Dom Coles, who both received a Graduate Diploma in Law from Sussex in 2015-16.

Their business, Trademark Brothers, has already been trading successfully for several months, offering an alternative to traditional legal services for SMEs, startups and entrepreneurs. They promise a fixed-fee, jargon-free service for customers looking to understand and protect the value of their intellectual property.

As well as earning the title of Sussex Student Entrepreneurs of the Year, Mo and Dom received a £10,000 award consisting of a cash prize and ongoing membership, consultancy and marketing help from Sussex Innovation. They plan to use the money to develop the technological offering they provide to their clients, with tools and educational resources.

Social Impact Prize winner Roisai Wongsuban (The Solidarity Program) SUS-170413-141356001

Social Impact Prize winner Roisai Wongsuban (The Solidarity Program) SUS-170413-141356001

Mo said: “It’s been absolutely eye-opening and enlightening to go through StartUp Sussex, a really exciting experience.”

Dom said: “Winning first prize is absolutely fantastic. We’ve worked with some other amazing entrepreneurs and have had a fantastic journey together. We’re just looking forward to the next stage of building our business and growing it.”

The winners were revealed at an award ceremony held at the Sussex Innovation Centre and attended by members of the local business community, university staff and fellow students.

The pair were picked from an initial pool of more than 70 students, who began the programme all the way back in October.

In second place in StartUp Sussex, Philipp Streicher (PhD Informatics) received an £8,000 prize for his idea, Augmind. Based on his postgraduate research, this product consists of a smartphone app and headset containing sensors and novel brain stimulation technology, designed to increase performance, focus, and zen.

And in third place, Andreas Georgiades received a £6,000 prize for his enterprise, Brighton Greeks. Having established a community platform dedicated to the mission of ‘creating a home away from home’ for the Greek and Cypriot diaspora in Brighton, Andreas is now exploring the possibility of franchising the model to other expatriate communities under the name Communities Everywhere.

The teams each presented their business plans in a pitch earlier this week to the StartUp Sussex judges, a ‘Dragons’ Den’-style panel consisting of local investors, entrepreneurs and representatives from the University.

Mike Herd, executive director of Sussex Innovation, said: “I can honestly say that this was the strongest group of pitches we have ever seen in StartUp Sussex.

“It was an extremely tough decision to separate the finalists, and it came down to the smallest of details. I’m delighted that we will continue working with the winners, and hope that the remaining finalists carry on developing their ideas and work with us in the future – as they are all in with a chance of building something successful.”

As the StartUp Sussex programme celebrates its fifth year, a new award was also announced for the first time. The Social Impact Prize will be awarded every year for the next five years, after a private donation of £50,000 from a Sussex alumnus. Each £10,000 prize will support the development of an enterprise idea committed to achieving real social change by employing a sustainable business model.

The inaugural winner was Roisai Wongsuban, who is studying an MSc in Migration Studies on the Chevening Scholarship scheme.

Her social enterprise, The Solidarity Program is a platform combining retail services and micro-finance to support low-income workers and their families in Thailand.

She said: “I’m so excited! When they read out my name I couldn’t believe it was me. I’d like to express my gratitude to the UK government for funding my scholarship and giving me the opportunity to be here, and to Sussex Innovation and all the people that have helped me on this journey.”