StartUp Sussex, the annual student enterprise competition delivered by Sussex Innovation, returns in February with ten teams heading into the second phase of the programme and the opportunity to gain up to £10,000 in cash, business support and services.

32 teams were given two minutes each to pitch their ideas in front of judges and fellow students at the University’s Careers and Employability Centre on 11th December, having participated in a series of workshops throughout the autumn term designed to help them progress from an initial idea towards a real business opportunity. Six projects will pitch for a StartUp Sussex Prize in April, with four more entering for the Social Impact Prize, awarded to the business or social enterprise capable of delivering the greatest benefit to society.

Each of the ten finalists will receive £500 from Santander Universities, to cover early-stage start-up costs during phase two of the programme. Services including branding, website development, or legal advice often prove to be a hurdle to getting enterprises up and running pre-income.

One finalist in each award category was chosen by a peer vote, with the remaining eight decided upon by a judging panel comprised of Mike Herd, executive director of Sussex Innovation, and Andrea Wall, joint acting director of the Careers and Employability Centre. The successful founders and their enterprises are:

StartUp Sussex Finalists
Austin Okolo (FDN Biosciences), Born To Stand Out – a social media based brand that empowers as well as being comfortable and aesthetically pleasing
Will Law (MA Modern Contemporary Literature & Theory), Digz – a web-based ratings and customer-relationship management platform for students in the private rented sector
Mark Rynston (LLB Law w/ Business), – a legal marketplace connecting individuals or businesses with the right legal representation
Lana Harper (PhD English Literature), Write Now – a gamified teaching app designed to help users make their writing more clear and compelling
Cristobal Matte (MSc Strategic Innovation Management), Airkeep – a peer-to-peer collection and storage service ‘like Airbnb for luggage’
Caspar Preston (FDN Business Management & Economics) and Alexander Annett (BSc Economics), COLLAB – a connective marketplace app for musicians to meet and collaborate

Social Impact Prize Finalists

Jon McGlashan (MSc Project Management) and Carolina Avellaneda Cadena (MSc Environment Development and Policy), Bubble Life – replacing plastic packaging for liquid beauty products with a biodegradable membrane
Mustafa Khraishi (BSc Biology) and George Haywood (MSc Banking & Finance), Biodegradable Bioplastic – a 100% biodegradable bioplastic extracted from waste materials
Hannah Chipperfield (BSc Biology), Earth & Sea – an affordable lifestyle brand dedicated to producing sustainable, eco-friendly and convenient products
Miguel Figueroa Calsina (MSc Strategic Innovation Management), Upower – connecting people to a simple, sustainable ride on a scooter

“We look forward to several of these young entrepreneurs matching the success of their predecessors, and going on to build thriving businesses after participating in StartUp Sussex,” said Mike Herd. “It’s not all about the prizes – hopefully the entrepreneurial experience in phase two of the competition will prove just as valuable. As always, we looked for the ideas that we felt had the best chance of becoming sustainable and delivering social or economic impact, as well as those that we felt best positioned to help on their journey.”

Phase two of the programme will see the teams begin an intensive eight-week course of mentoring, based at the Sussex Innovation Centre. This mentoring is intended to help them shape their formal business plans ahead of a Dragons’ Den-style pitch to local investors and entrepreneurs in April.

As well as earning the title of Sussex’s Student Entrepreneurs of the Year, two teams will receive a prize worth up to £10,000 in cash, business support and services, with second and third place winning packages with a value of £8,000 and £6,000 respectively.