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The University of Southampton

Future Worlds opens lucrative Dragon’s Den for student entrepreneur investment

Published: 3 May 2019
Future Worlds Dragon's Den students
Southampton students from six start-up companies will vie for funding from a panel of investors

Six innovative student start-ups from the University of Southampton have been selected to pitch at this month’s Future Worlds Dragons’ Den for their chance to secure significant investment from millionaire investors live on stage.

The cohort of student founders comprises talented entrepreneurs from across the University, with undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers all taking to the stage.

The student entrepreneurs will pitch their propositions in front of a live audience and negotiate with four dragon investors on Saturday 11th May from 13.00 in The Cube at the University’s Students’ Union (Highfield Campus). They'll be seeking to build on the £450,000 that has been pledged on stage to University of Southampton start-ups across the event’s previous four incarnations.

Future Worlds is the on-campus start-up incubator at the University of Southampton. It supports students and researchers by offering introductions to a global network of mentors, creating bespoke pitch videos and hosting a suite of free talks, workshops and networking events. Its impressive range of over 50 highly-respected mentors and investors range from founders of billion-dollar companies to directors of some of the world’s largest organisations.

The investor line-up for this year’s Future Worlds Dragons’ Den features four millionaires includes Southampton alumnus Chris Broad, Apple’s former Director of Sales Contracting, EMEIA; serial digital entrepreneur Andrew Doe, founder of British internet success; angel investor Sonja Lami, a Fund Manager at Insight Investment in London; and Future Worlds Dragons’ Den newcomer James Vernon, a Southampton alumnus who was co-founding partner and Chief Operating Officer of Brevan Howard, which rapidly grew to become the world’s fourth largest hedge fund, and the largest dedicated macro fund.

The investors will lead on-stage debate and negotiations as they consider offering real investment for a percentage of the promising start-ups.

Making it to the Dragon’s Den is already a huge achievement for the students, with dozens of hopefuls applying to face the Dragons. Amongst this year’s student entrepreneurs vying for funding from are:

Dominika Woszczyk, MSc Artificial Intelligence

Masters student Dominika, originally from Liège, came to Southampton in 2018 having completed an undergraduate programme in Knowledge Engineering and Data Science at Maastricht University. Speaking five languages, Dominika hopes to secure funding in the Den to grow a unique solution to a problem she has faced herself.

"I've always wanted to be my own boss and do my own things," Dominika explains. With aspirations to complete a PhD, Dominika is looking for funding to enable her to build a team whilst pursuing her academic ambition.

"Meeting so many people, including the Future Worlds mentors with their great feedback, has really contributed to the excitement of having my own start-up.

Tom Phipps & Max Beech, MSc Project Management

Lifelong friends Tom and Max met at pre-school in Guildford and have already achieved several shared successes in student enterprise and internship competitions. Currently studying for a Masters' in Project Management, LLM graduate and professional magician Tom will be joined on stage by co-founder Computer Science graduate Max.

The pair are already in talks with prospective customers, and hope to secure investment to fund the development of the technology that underpins their innovation, along with hiring a team of developers.

Max describes the dragons as being "all ideal investors" due to their backgrounds in technology, with Tom adding "We love a challenge; we think we're in with a decent chance in the Den."

Joshua Steer, PhD Bioengineering

Having recently completed his PhD and now a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellow based in the School of Engineering, London-born Joshua has been at the University for the entirety of his academic career. Since his time spent studying BSc Mechanical Engineering, he has had an interest in using engineering to produce "radical solutions" to societal problems.

As well as investment to deploy his solution and prove clinical feasibility, Joshua is hoping to learn from the strategic expertise of the dragons and is especially interested in the most effective way to grow his business.

Joshua is looking to leverage his academic successes in the Den. "My pitch is coming on really well," Joshua shares. "Having spent so long developing my idea in the lab, I'm really excited to get it out there in front of the dragons."

Cade Abrahams, BSc Business Management

Second year student and self-taught full-stack developer Cade is entering the Den having built his product alone by "putting in a lot of late nights and early mornings" since coming to University from Bedfordshire.

With his product already live for users in Southampton, Cade plans to use any investment won in the Den to support his plans for market expansion. He's also hoping to understand "how best to get value from users and give value back to them."

"I'm currently feeling a mix of confidence and nervousness; it's a very exciting time and this opportunity has pushed me to take my business to another level."

Ignác Szigeti, BSc Business Management

Seasoned start-up enthusiast Ignác is no stranger to the University's enterprise ecosystem, having launched his current venture using the experience and skills gained as President of both ECS Entrepreneurs and Fish on Toast.

National kayaking champion in his native Hungary, Ignác will be bringing a vast amount of drive into the Den when he pitches for funding to solve a "millennial problem" relating to social impact.

"I've always been really keen on the world of start-ups, I love businesses that solve problems and I've always wanted to be a part of that. I'm really excited and a bit nervous, but I'm looking forward to the challenge of Dragons' Den."

Emily Smith, BSc Business Innovation

Portsmouth-born Emily will be entering the Den in the midst of her final exams as she completes the fourth year of her undergraduate studies.

Aiming to acquire funding to fill a market gap she identified whilst researching her dissertation topic, Emily knows her market well; "I am my target audience. I'm living and breathing this problem."

Emily is hoping to capitalise on the technical expertise and mentorship on offer from the dragons, as she hopes to secure investment and hire a team to take her idea from concept to product. She credits the "modern" content of her degree programme and experience gained on an industrial placement with Oracle with helping her to "think outside the box" and take her idea to the dragons.

Future Worlds Dragons' Den is taking place live in the Cube, Students' Union, University of Southampton Highfield Campus at 13.00 on Saturday 11th May.


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