The University of Sussex’s annual student enterprise competition, StartUp Sussex, returns for the second phase of the programme in February. This year there are 12 teams in the finals, who will be supported by Sussex Innovation mentors as they seek the opportunity to secure up to £10,000 in cash, business support and services.

97 Sussex students and graduates took part in weekly workshops run by Student Enterprise Manager, Simon Chuter and Catalyst Business Support Executive, Ellie Stebbing, at the Careers and Employability Centre last semester. There were also various guest speakers from the Sussex Innovation community providing expert advice and insight.

On 10th December, 40 teams were given two minutes each to pitch their ideas in front of judges. Due to the high quality of applications, eight rather than the usual six places have been awarded in the next phase of the StartUp Sussex programme this year – thanks to much appreciated extended funding from partners at Santander Universities. Four teams are also competing for the Social Impact Prize, which will be awarded to the business or social enterprise capable of delivering the greatest benefit to society.

Each of the 12 finalists are awarded £1,000 from Santander Universities to pay for their early stage start-up costs during phase two of the programme. Services including branding, website development, or legal advice can often prove a barrier to getting enterprises up and running pre-income, and the bursary will help to overcome some of these initial challenges.

The successful founders and their enterprises are:

StartUp Sussex Finalists

Rebecca Fitzgerald (BA Media Practice) – SaviourSkin: A minimal, non-steroidal natural skincare range for people suffering with eczema which contains less than 10 ingredients per product, all of which are non-toxic.
Josh Rondel (BSc Business and Management Graduate) – Buddyng: A travel social network app and online platform dedicated to helping people find compatible peers to experience the world with.
Oscar Sanz (BSc Computer Science) and Ola Oladapo (BEng Mechanical Engineering) – Dash: The first commission-free ridesharing platform in Europe.
James Bowyer (MSc Experimental Psychology) – Quizscribe: Generating interactive quizzes from lecture slides using AI, for exam-revising university students.
William Roberts (BSc Business and Management) – West Pier Drinks: Challenging the boring and outdated rum industry with a new flavoured rum that has a bold local brand and a sustainable focus.
Gerome Braddock (MSc Intelligent and Adaptive systems) – BidNBed: A property rental platform that allows users to set the price instead of property owners.
Amy Maginnis (BSc Psychology Graduate) – FANGRL: Creating in-demand festival fans for the modern festival-goer, whilst delivering free, innovative marketing solutions for festival and event companies.
Rebecca Metcalf (BA Economics and International Relations) – Movi Apparel: A sustainable sportswear brand with modest and stylish options.

Social Impact Prize Finalists

Louis Adekola (MA International Education & Development) – Edvant Edge Africa: A social enterprise that helps African higher education institutions to build capacity through partnerships, fundraising, student exchange and alumni relations.
Yoko Inagaki (MA Globalisation, Business and Development) – Manasa Mora: Providing the first reliable washing facility in Madagascar which helps to reduce serious health threats such as malaria and save time for busy mothers.
Lucy Hughes (BSc Product Design Graduate) – Marinatex: A planet-conscious alternative to plastic film for the packaging industry.
Narai Kim (MSc Strategic Innovation Management) – Become Online Bridge: Bridging between senior citizens in Brighton and Hove and international Sussex students via an online platform to provide cultural exchange and companionship.

”We were delighted to see another series of very strong presentations in this year’s programme, said Nigel Lambe, judge and interim Chief Executive of Sussex Innovation. Although there are twice as many finalists in the StartUp Sussex competition as for the Social Impact Prize this year, it was great to see so many social and environmental aspects in the commercial businesses applying to StartUp Sussex as well. We’re keen to support start-ups that can not only generate revenue and grow, but also have a wider purpose and an impact on the world.”

Phase two of the programme will see the teams begin a thorough eight-week course of mentoring at the Sussex Innovation Centre. This mentoring is aimed to help them structure their formal business plans in preparation for a Dragons’ Den-style pitch to local investors and entrepreneurs in April.

In addition to earning the title of Sussex 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.

We are looking forward to seeing the businesses grow further throughout the mentoring and the awards ceremony later in the year – the line-up is extremely strong, good luck to all the finalists!