The most promising graduate and student entrepreneurs in the UK were honored at the Student Enterprise Awards last night sponsored by SETsquared.
The stars of the event were young people that had worked hard to change the way that people vote, young people that had new ideas to solve sanitation problems in third world countries, and even some students that already had booked Jaguar Land Rover as clients.
SETSquared is a partnership formed by the universities of Bristol, Surrey, Bath, Exeter, and Southampton to help encourage and foster new student led high-tech startups. The group works to encourage entrepreneurialism in students that attend any of the universities. Every year it holds the Student Enterprise Awards to reward the top performing business students.
The student and graduate winners were:
• TickBox from the University of Exeter (Best Student Start-Up and People’s Choice Award) – The business helps people to compare election candidates and was launched during the European elections in May. It has secured £50,000 of funding so far.
• Instabear, from the University of Exeter (Best Graduate Start-Up) – The company provides instant photo printing services from social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. It counts Jaguar Land Rover and Jack Wills among its corporate clients and had a turnover of 60k in the year ending February 2014.
• SanEco, from the University of Southampton (Best Social Enterprise) – The social enterprise helps tackle sanitation issues in Kenya while helping the people there earn a living. Among its schemes are toilets, which convert human waste into natural fertilisers and can be sold to farmers. Since its inception SanEco has helped more than 11,000 people.
Champions of student enterprise from each of the universities were also honoured and The University of Bristol also won an award for its Spark scheme, which aims to help create a new generation of entrepreneurs by putting business-minded students through an entrepreneurial ‘bootcamp’ course.
Simon Bond, Innovation Director at SETsquared, says the calibre of this year’s finalists reflects the improvements he has seen in student entrepreneurialism over the last five years.
He said: “It is so encouraging to see young people being fearless in setting up their own businesses. Traditionally, the entrepreneurialism route has been seen as one of risk and students have steered away from it, favouring the relative comfort of climbing onto the rungs of the corporate ladder.
“A shift is beginning to emerge and figures from the Office for National Statistics show the number of self-employed young people has already risen by 71,000 since the start of the economic crisis. Perhaps this is evidence that programmes like Dragons’ Den, initiatives from the Government and projects such as our own could well be contributing to an increase in young entrepreneurs.”
Phil Cameron, a former University of Exeter student who produced award-winning theatre in London & New York and founded airport lounge business, No.1 Traveller, was the guest of honour at the awards and echoed Simon’s comments.
The entrepreneur added: “It’s inspiring to see so many young, enthusiastic entrepreneurs innovating and pursuing their ambitions, particularly in such a harsh job market.
“Starting a business which has any chance of success is hard – it needs vision and a thoroughness of execution – but more people can and should do it, because the rewards of steering a vision to commercial success is well worth the effort. My advice to any young entrepreneur would be to embrace the challenge and never compromise on the goal.”
Ben Bradshaw MP, who attended the awards, said: “It’s incredibly important for our country to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs. Encouraging and helping young people to develop ideas and make commercial success of them is what will help us succeed as a country.”