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Student startups pitch for prizes at the CitySpark live final

Five budding entrepreneurs have taken home a share of the £25,000 prize fund at City’s business pitching competition

by Nicola Ranson (Communications Officer)

Five student startups have won a £5,000 prize each at the CitySpark live final. CitySpark is a business pitching competition that helps City students and recent alumni to develop an idea, test it out with potential customers and win funding to make it a reality.

Among the winners at the 2017 live final were vegan food companies, interactive news games and a virtual reality real estate tool.

From a record-breaking number of entries, just ten teams were selected to take part in the live final. During the event, teams pitched their ideas to a panel of expert judges including: Andrew Lynch, Co-Founder of Huckletree; Professor Caroline Wiertz, Professor of Marketing at Cass Business School; Jenny Anderson, Strategist; Jody Osborn, Co-Founder at The Backscratchers and Richard Smith, the University Relationship Branch Manager at Santander UK plc.

Previous winners of CitySpark have found ongoing success with their business. Eco-friendly wet wipe company Twipes won the Mayor’s Entrepreneur’s Award earlier this year.

Alex Elkins, Entrepreneurship Education Manager said:

Competitions like CitySpark truly do inspire me. The volume and quality of ideas is astonishing and I am humbled to play a small part in the entrepreneurial success of our students and graduates.


The winners

Eat Chay

Liz Nguyen (MSc Marketing Strategy and Innovation, 2016) and Joseph Tam (MSc Marketing Strategy and Innovation, 2016) met on their course at Cass Business School. EatChay

Their idea, EatChay is a vegan food business, putting a twist on popular Asian comfort dishes. Their aim is to make vegan food accessible and enjoyable and encouraging consumers to reduce their meat consumption by showing them that vegan food can be both healthy and satisfying.

They came up with an idea while trying to eat healthier and cutting down their meat intake last summer. “That was when we started experimenting with plant-based recipes in our tiny kitchen,” Liz says. “Soon we realised there is a real demand for this kind of food from people who like us, simply want to cut down their meat consumption.”

From small beginnings, Liz and Joseph now serve hundreds of customers with pop up food stalls across the capital.

They describe winning CitySpark as a “massive confidence boost”. Liz added: 

It was great to see so many people being pleasantly surprised by how good vegan food could taste. We're overwhelmed with the amount of support we received.
Liz Nguyen, Founder of EatChay

Their dream is to open a 100% vegan “grab-and-go” lunchtime restaurant. Their future plans are to open a pop-up at Appear Here space in Old Street Station or one of many alternative spaces across London and will put the prize money toward expanding their business.


Veldt View

Veldt ViewVladimir Gasanov is currently studying Business Studies and was joined at CitySpark by Martin who studies Computer Science.

Their idea, Veldt View, is a cloud-based virtual-reality real estate tool. It allows non-technical real estate developers to create, view and interact with 3D models of developed properties.

Vladimir Gasanov came up with the idea after working at a real estate development firm and noticing ways to make things more efficient. “I have a real interest in Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality technology. The overlap of the two areas shaped the idea,” he said.

Veldt View allows real estate firms to create virtual reality simulations and their clients to play around with elements of interior inside of those simulations. Vladimir said: “If you have ever played the computer game Sims and have built a house - just imagine the same thing in virtual reality.”

Vladimir says they feel “excited, believed in and supported” to have won CitySpark. He said:

When you are trying to create something completely different than everything else in the market, you are stepping into the unknown. In this situation it feels amazing to see that your product gets people excited and to hear that they would love to use it.
Vladimir Gasanov, Founder of Veldt View

The team will spend the £5,000 prize fund on additional hardware and product development.


Student Circus

Student CircusStudent Circus is a job-search platform aimed at international students in the UK. Jobs and internships are pre-filtered from employers who are willing to sponsor a work visa.

Tripti Maheshwari (Msc Finance, 2016) and Dhruv Krishnaraj (who studied at Bristol) say Student Circus was borne out of a problem they faced as international students. After graduating, they both spent significant amounts of time searching for jobs, while knowing they needed a work visa. Student Circus aims to make that job hunt easier.

Tripti says: “We wasted a lot of time not really understanding the rules and applying for jobs we wouldn’t get work visa for. That’s when it struck us that there must be a direct website for this and we couldn’t find any, so the journey began with Student Circus.”

Tripti says CitySpark was a “really memomorable evening” and winning put them on “cloud ninety nine.” Tripti added:

With so many brilliant pitches and people, we are proud to have won CitySpark this year. This gives us the much needed boost to keep going and achieve our goals.
Tripti Maheshwariit, Founder of Student Circus

They plan to spend the prize money building and launching the app.


WordPlay

WordplayCambria Bailey-Jones, Eleanor Smallwood, Gabriela Jones and Georgina Righton are all studying Broadcast Journalism. They came up with Wordplay - their interactive news game, as part of a class project.

WordPlay is the world’s first audio-only newsgame for screenless devices. It allows players to engage with news stories on an interactive level.

Cambria says: “By playing as a key decision maker in a news event, gamers can understand the facts and explore the consequences of actions that affect their lives.”

Cambria says the team were “absolutely ecstatic” to have won the CitySpark competition. “We really weren't expecting it, but we're very excited about next steps. We will use the money to develop a prototype game to pitch to news organisations.”


Bombinate

BombinateBombinate is a luxury online marketplace, providing the world’s finest brands with digital services and content opportunities. Bombinate’s mission is to create the ultimate online destination for men who care about quality.

Massimiliano Gritti (Business, 2016) and Elliott came up with the idea while travelling between Russia and Mongolia on the Silk Road. Massimiliano said: “On the Silk Road, we drove the same route that had traded quality goods for centuries. We decided to take it as our mission to discover the new generation of artisans who are promoting superior clothing, accessories and lifestyle goods in Europe.”

Massimiliano Gritti says he is “incredibly grateful and honoured” to have won. “It proves that hard work ends up paying off. Winning CitySpark gives us the motivation and validation to breast on and keep on working hard to launch Bombinate and achieve our ambitions.”

They plan to split the money between marketing campaigns and brand on-boarding activities during the next six months.

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