The University of Sussex has held its annual entrepreneurship competition but with a twist. Startup Sussex 2024 saw the first ever live pitches and awards ceremony with the judges, finalists and audience all present for an evening of entrepreneurship celebration.

Startup Sussex is underwritten by the University of Sussex as part of its commitment to support student entrepreneurship, backed by a generous private donation from a Sussex alumnus. Every year shortlisted finalists pitch to secure funding to take their startups to the next level.

This year, Artificial Intelligence and Adaptive Systems MSc student Dr Shuaib Karmani took home the top prizes after receiving first place for both the Business and Social Impact Awards. Karmani is the second person to win a double award via Startup Sussex and in total took home £10,000 to move forward with his business, a smart wearable patient health monitor that could save up to 50,000 lives a year and save the NHS £227 million a year.

“Taking part in Startup Sussex has been an amazing journey of learning supported by the entrepreneurship team at Sussex,” said Karmani. “Winning is a validation of our idea and has opened the doors to new opportunities to help realise the goals and ambitions of our company.”

Law and Social Science BA student Lase Salu received the second prize in the Business Award for her product Satin, a unique haircare product for Black women and women of colour. Third place went to Anthropology and International Development graduate Berta Santos for her company Social Impact Newbie which helps graduates land their first social impact role. Finally, the second place prize for the Social Impact Award went to Conflict, Security and Development student Nemat Ahangosh for Stretch More, a social enterprise devoted to teaching survival skills to disabled people.

The Head of Careers and Entrepreneurship, Emily Huns, congratulated all eight finalists who all received funding, adding that “the quality of applications this year was very high, and there were a record number of applications, up 44% on last year’s number.” Huns also talked about the growth in student entrepreneurship at Sussex being “a result of several years of strategically-led work to enable all students to develop their ideas, explore venture creation and develop their entrepreneurial skills.”

Startup Sussex now sits at the heart of a full programme of entrepreneurship support, from early-stage Ideas Lab workshop series, to an accelerator, and a 12 month incubator delivered in partnership with Sussex Innovation who have a long-standing connection to this competition. Both and Social Impact Newbie are enrolled on this year’s incubator programme.

The host for the awards evening was alumna Louise Harman, who won Startup Sussex in 2021 for Louise on Death, which explores our modern relationship with death through curiosity and philosophy. Louise now also works in the entrepreneurship team and said “it was fantastic to host Startup Sussex 2024, I know how hard all the finalists worked and know first-hand the impact winning Startup Sussex can have on your future. I wish everyone all the best with their startups and think it’s brilliant that so many are socially driven. We are also very grateful to our private donor and the judges that make the ceremony and Startup Sussex possible.”