Innovators of the present and future took part in CitySpark, City, University of London's innovation and enterprise competition, in a bid to kickstart their business idea.
The finalists, made up of students and recent alumni across the Schools at City, University of London, pitched their business idea to an audience and a panel of judges for a chance to win one of the five £5,000 awards to launch a start-up company.
In the first in-person CitySpark event back since 2019, nine businesses competed for the prizes which were broken into four categories.
The CitySpark Awards, given to two start-ups that have potential to become successful businesses; The MakerSpark Award, which is designed for students and alumni from the School of Science & Technology who are using skills developed during their studies to build a successful start-up; The GreenSpark Award; awarded to a promising start-up that prioritises sustainability and social impact when developing their business model; and the People’s Choice, awarded by the audience.
Each business was given five minutes to pitch, with five minutes for questions from the judging panel – made up of Ralph La Fontaine, Director of Digital Learning at Clore Social Leadership; Samuel Lehane, founder of creative agency MYO; and Thuta Khin, Co-Founder at sustainable fashion creator Leiho , CitySpark winner in 2020 and graduate of MSc in Marketing Strategy and Innovation at Bayes Business School.
The winners of each category were:
The CitySpark Awards: The Yard, founded by Clarice Metzger (Full-time MBA) – a member’s club for young, historically excluded professionals, entrepreneurs, and creatives in London to collaborate and upskill;
Close2U, founded by Tianze Li (BSc in Actuarial Science) – a community-based peer-to-peer consulting service to university candidates from China.
The MakerSpark Award: Aye Eye Education, founded by Walaa Jamous (MSc in Artificial Intelligence) – wants to build an Education Centre to introduce high-end learning powered by robotic labs, algorithms, and augmented reality to ensure that learning is conducted in a manner that resonates with individuals.
The GreenSpark Award: Rawtech Trade, founded by Sumair Wahid (Executive MBA in Dubai) – with ten years of experience in the industry of recycling, the cross-border trade solution specialists want to create an ecosystem to ensure more efficiency and transparency for suppliers and customers.
People’s Choice: Mind&Co, co-founded by Arham Pirzada (MSc in Health Management) – aiming to improve access to mental health provision, rewarding individual processes and consistency, following the rise in user engagement on gaming and retail platforms.
The other contestants, who all received praise for their ideas, were Ebunlomo Azeez of Tailored Plate (PG Bar Professional Training Course): Paris Papacharalambous of House Viewing Service (MSc in Entrepreneurship); Anh Ta Quynh of City Memories (BSc in Investment and Financial Risk Management); and Morgan Wilson of Page Order (MA in Publishing).
Arham Pirzada, founder of Mind&Co, described the win as “absolutely thrilling”. “It is the first time we have pitched at a competition, and it is a new idea, at the innovation stage, that we really believe in. It is exciting to get so much support and appreciation for what we are doing. I hope we can take it a long way.”
Tom Belli, an MSc in Corporate Finance graduate at Bayes who pitched on behalf of founder Clarice Metzger, said: “The entire team at The Yard has that social vision and what we can achieve. Anyone could have won the investment, so we are very proud. The City ecosystem supports so many great ideas and with the alumni network that has helped get us off to a good start.”
Professor Sir Anthony Finkelstein, President of City, University of London, attended the event, and said: “Pitching is thinking, and that is often overlooked. When I was a student, this kind of event wasn’t a thing. The idea that you had it within your control to make your own business wasn’t accessible and this generation of students have that opportunity. That they are doing it with purpose is very exciting.”
Marius Stancu, Start-up Incubator Manager at the City Launch Lab, organised the event and said CitySpark has supported more than 300 start-ups since its inception. “I’m very happy to do in-person events again, and to see such fresh and exciting ideas. We now want them to develop into successful businesses. In the past, business have flourished within a few years, and I am convinced some of these will be starting to see success. Many students don’t consider when they start their studies that they are going to launch a business, yet, with work and commitment, it goes to show what you can achieve.”