Enterprise and Engagement Awards – winners announced

Enterprise & engagement awards

This year student enterprise was included in the annual public engagement awards for the first time with two new categories: ‘Most Promising Student Business’, awarded to the business with the best track record and potential for future success; and ‘Most Entrepreneurial Student of the Year’, awarded to the student who has used their creativity and leadership skills to make a significant contribution to an entrepreneurial project (or multiple projects).

The competition for each award was tough, but finalists and winners were as follows:

Most Promising Student Business 2015

Winner: Luna www.lunaapp.coLuna App

Luna is a mobile app that guides you to the safest walking routes at night, co-founded by Soham Trivedi (QMUL MSc and BSc Computer Science) and Robin Bhaduri, (Oxford University MSci Chemistry). Since the formation of the concept in October of 2014, Luna has grown exponentially. They have developed the app, and are now partnered with almost every council in Greater London as well as a few business development districts in Camden and Waterloo to collect data. They won the iDEA award in April out of 2000 applicants, and since then have partnered with Microsoft, Facebook and Barclays, as well as teaming up with Google who are covering digital infrastructure costs up to £100k.They’ve also been finalists in the Founders Forum and Santander 60 Second Pitch competitions.

Runner Up: Kam Alive Chocolates www.kamalive.co.uk KAM chocolates

Kam Alive are a brother and sister duo, Ariel and Daniella Kamara, who hand-make fresh, raw and healthy chocolate that has no added sugar, no wheat, and is vegan friendly. Ariel studied Design and Innovation at Queen Mary and won a ‘Grow It’ award in 2014 to help increase manufacturing capacity of the business. He was also sponsored by Careers & Enterprise to attend the European Innovation Academy, a summer accelerator programme in Nice. Since starting as a small farmers market stall they are now stocked in 3 high street retailers, sell through their own website, and are included in two monthly subscription boxes.

Entrepreneurial Student of the Year 2015

Winner: Ivan Tan

enterprise awars


Ivan Tan graduated from an MSc in Investment and Finance in the summer. While he was studying for his first degree at Bath he set up Brook Alternative, an art investment business that has since had a six figure investment sum and has now opened an office in Mayfair. While at Queen Mary he used the enterprise service to its fullest, with his idea for a free events app ‘Bevvy’ securing both ‘Try It’ and ‘Grow It’ funds and a place on the first cohort of InQUBEate, our start-up incubator programme. He also played a big role in the organising team of 3DS and was a committee member of QM Entrepreneurs.

Runner Up: Simone Fattouche

Simone Fattouche

While studying for an accelerated two year law degree at Queen Mary, Simone had the idea for an app that could replace traditional paper shop receipts. She pitched the idea at 3-Day Start-up (3DS), an enterprise boot map put on by Queen Mary Careers & Enterprise, and through this assembled a team to test out the idea.  Since then she used the mentor contacts from the bootcamp to help her to find a technical co-founder, and BillHive was born. Simone is a great example of someone who had an idea, but recognised that she didn’t have the technical skills or experience to launch it on her own, and instead used her leadership and resourcefulness to build a team in order to make her vision a reality.


Three Weeks to Build a Business: Week Three

EIA Week Three – Selling what you think people want.

If you haven’t read Part One or Two then I strongly suggest you start by reading them.

Week three was crunch time. We were expected to market and get users in four days since we’d be pitching our product to Silicon Valley VCs on Thursday.

Developing a Business Model

Finding a business model is hard. We had a hard time figuring out what services we would provide and what our pricing silos would be and we ended up having a lot of debates over this.

I was pushing a “one price to rule them all” model where we would charge a monthly fee per head for an all inclusive service whilst Vi and Josh saw a more tiered monthly pricing model that also had one off services.

We realised after a long debate and lots of advice from mentors that my model wasn’t feasible initially so we went with the other model.

Marketing CaterSquad

There were lots of good talks about marketing at EIA (you can find a lot of the slide here: http://www.slideshare.net/InnovationAcademy) but two really stood out and those were by the Leimgruber brothers – who run the influencer network neoreach.com.

I was familiar with Jesse Leimgruber’s work from his posts on Reddit and so I made sure I listened up when they were talking because both of them know their stuff.

They made one point very clear initially.

What’s customer development?

Customer Development is a LEAN methodology in which whilst you’re building your product you ask potential customers on what they want and then build it to match their needs.

Later on you can actually approach the people who provided feedback and sell them your product and hopefully you should have a high conversion rate since the product matches their need.

This is the email template that Jesse gave us for reaching out to potential customers:

As you can see, it’s a very soft sell. So our priming email was:

“Hi _______,

My name is ____, co-founder of CaterSquad and a recent graduate student from UC Berkeley.

Given that you’ve been catering for companies for many years now, I’d love to get your feedback and advice on the direction of CaterSquad.

CaterSquad solves the logistics of group ordering and delivery for large companies. We provide a platform of aggregated restaurants that provide food delivery. We’re looking to help restaurants get repeating business from large companies on a regular basis.

Are you available for a chat sometime this week? 15 minutes should be more than enough.

Best, ____”

One of the key take away points is to make sure that the founder or CEO is the person sending the emails – your conversation rate will greatly improve.

Using this template we managed to get Vita Coco to sponsor us and provide coconut water with all of our meals for free and we also signed paid trials from teams at PWC, Accenture and a few others.

Pitch Day

Wednesday night we all sat down and tried to get the pitch in order. We were all exhausted. The team decided Vi would be the one to pitch the product so that we had a coherent pitch that didn’t break up in to parts.

The actual pitch day was setup like this:

  • There will be 8 rooms
  • Each room would have 8 teams
  • There would be 3/4 judges
  • The pitch would be three minutes
  • There would be a 2 minutes Q&A section
  • One winner from each room

There was also a side VC competition for us where we would actually get to judge other teams in our room and choose to invest in them as if we were VCs and there was a prize for the best VCs.

So, Vi went up on stage and gave an amazing pitch. You can find our pitch deck here.


I made notes on every other pitch and I did a quick competitor analysis and market analysis to find the best companies to invest in in high growth markets.

For me a high growth market was a deciding factor. I remember one start up – an uber of tech support, which looked great and the idea sounded like it had legs but after research I found that the market was stagnant hence it would have taken years to recoup any investment.

On the other hand, there was an app that gamified chores and whilst I wasn’t too convinced on the idea I saw that market was growing hard and fast and we could see a 10x return in 5 years if their app caught on.

So, that’s the company I pushed to invest in and it was decided I would lead all negotiations. We scrutinised their financials heavily and when we went in to boardroom we used their own projections against them. We invested in them for $100k for 40% compared to their asking price of $250k for 20%. They even commented that we knew their financials better than they did.


Then it came to our turn to be invested in. We went in with $300k for 17% as our bottom and negotiations got very heated. I pushed for our valuation to be based on multiple on year one revenue that was in line with the multiple given to one of our competitors – the multiple on revenue given to our competitor was 14x. Eventually, through discussion we gave them a “heavy discount” on the multiple of 6x against a projected revenue of $500k for year one.

They didn’t debate our projections but instead accepted them and they eventually agreed to our 6x multiple on our $500k year one revenue which gave us a valuation of $3 million. They wanted 20% for $600k to which we agreed.

One of the VCs even said “bravo” to our negotiation. When we walked out I felt like I had won the Super Bowl, my whole team was proud of what I had done in both negotiations and the other teams were also impressed. No other team performed as well as us when it came to valuations but we completely missed talking about the board seats and liquidation preference. Which we didn’t discuss because it was in the term sheet and they gave us a fair term sheet and we gave them a fair term sheet with split boards and a 1x liquidation preference.

The End of The Road

At the end of the day the judges went back in for a discussion and apparently there was shouting and angry mentors. We heard that some mentors literally fought for teams to be put in and lobbied to get them through.

Sadly, we came second in our room (uber for tech support won our room) hence we didn’t progress to the finals on Friday but some of our friends did which was great! Overall, it was an amazing experience to learn from and I’ve made friends that I owe a lot to. We had a killer team.

EIA takes place again this July so I really hope you all apply for the program this year!

Three Weeks to Build a Business: Week Two

EIA Week Two – Finding something people actually want.

If you haven’t read Part One then I strongly suggest you start by reading that by clicking here.

This week shall forever be known as the pivot week because we were expected to start validating our startups and then pitching them to our mentors. Startups died because the teams found out that they were unfeasible within the timeframe, they had no market or they had a market but it was saturated with competition.

Also, this phrase was thrown about quite a bit by the mentors: “Are you building a painkiller or a vitamin?”. This question alone killed a dozen ideas even though it’s ambiguous and the answer doesn’t tell you anything about whether your idea is any good.

So, I’ll start off by giving you an example of an idea that failed in each category.

A team had an idea to build a spaceship launch pad at sea which had a number of key benefits and cost savings but it’s really hard to demonstrate and develop that idea in three weeks hence this idea died because there isn’t much they could do in the time frame.

Another very active team had an idea to build an app to buy firewood. I was really looking forward to their product, however, after they did market validation they found that the market was far too small to pursue.

Finally, there was us. So, I told you in my earlier post that we had competition and to avoid the competition we pivoted away from them by picking a very specific niche. Well, after we did research on the new niche we found a major competitor.

Shoptiques was not only exactly like us but they were actually better than us. They had worked on the whole user experience from photographing the items themselves to delivering the clothes to the user’s front door. A testament to their success was the fact that they got into Y-Combinator’s W12 batch and went on to raise a $2 MM seed round from investors such as Andreessen-Horowitz.

Hence, we decided to raise the white flag and move on to blue ocean – which meant throwing away signed up boutiques, domains, early mockups and a half-baked version of the app.

Also, around this time Francois stopped showing up to EIA so Vi fired him. Now we needed a new idea and the team had lost a developer. We were pretty broken at this point but the only thing that kept us together was the fact that we liked each other. Now I can’t say we were all friends at this point (seeing as we’d only known each other for about a week) but the team culture just meshed really well for some reason.

So, off we went to the drawing board. We had some interesting ideas. Andreas had this cool idea for “Coffee with strangers who share your interests” but we were hesitant on building a social networking app and on the lack of a solid revenue stream.

Whilst we were in these ideation sessions we would say anything that came to mind. Hence, I randomly said I wish I could have breakfast in bed delivered to me. Josh then took up the idea and we ended up creating a breakfast delivery service called Toasty (the codename for the actual product was Delicious Clock because at one point someone said that the app was like a delicious alarm clock). Our plan was to actually cook and deliver breakfast to EIA participants to demo and validate the app.

Andreas went to work on design, Rasmus on building the app and I worked on the landing page and emails whilst Vi and Josh validated the idea and worked on the financials.

Vi and Josh did more market research and we came up accross a whole host of competitiors that were offering the exact same service; not to mention when we asked people how much they were actually willing to pay for breakfast delivered to their door most people said around 5 dollars which was a pretty hard price point to hit for us.

Once, again we had to pivot and this time I was re-reading an old article by a hero of mine, Noah Kagan, about how he started a subscription service for beef jerky and made over a 1000 USD in profit in less than 24 hours. I showed it to Vi and Josh and we got really excited. We decided we would do the same but with bacon. Hence, we went ahead and acquired bacontome.com and started to validate our product by asking the following questions:

Vi went and asked a mentor for advice and the mentor gave us the reality check we needed. It was a bad idea. Firstly, it’s not innovative and EIA’s about innovation. Secondly, the market was too small. And – thirdly, I haven’t ever tasted bacon so how the hell could I sell it?

After all this iteration we actually landed on a really good idea about building a company catering app and web app which allowed employees to choose meals that fit their diet and requirements easily and to have a service that was so easy that the office manager could set it up in less than a minute and then it would work automatically and seamlessly from then on.

Now, I moved on to building the API for the app whilst Rasmus built the frontend and Andreas designed the web app and then built the landing page which can be found at http://www.catersquad.com/.

Finally, we had the right team and the right product – also we could now call each other friends after having gone through the traumatic experience of multiple pivots.

Three Weeks to Build a Business: Week One

EIA Week One: Making something people want

To anyone who isn’t familiar with the European Innovation Academy (EIA), what you need to know is that it’s a three week intensive startup school based in Europe. You have three weeks to come up with an idea, build a team, come up with a business model, show traction and then pitch to Valley VCs.

It’s extreme hard work but it’s a great opportunity to learn and network. Here’s my first week.

Finding an Idea

So some people came to EIA with ideas whilst others (like me) decided we were going to jump on other people’s ideas to help turn them into reality. We used the above website to post our ideas and then join the ones we liked.

I fell in love with an idea called “Merca – Tinder for Shopping”. The idea was posted by someone called Vi Tran and they had gone ahead and built a presentation, filled out a Lean Canvas and overall it looked professional! After, a few days I got a message from Vi:

Finding Developers and UI/UX Designers

Ken Singer – a great mentor from Berkeley, said it best: “Being a developer this week is going to feel like being the prettiest girl at a party”. And he wasn’t joking. My phone was exploding with dozens of emails from teams looking for developers and teams trying to poach developers from other teams. It got very bitter. Good teams ended up collapsing because they lost all their developers to other teams.

Before we finalised teams we had team building workshops. The first one was simple: we were split in to two groups and then given a picture of a lego toy for which we had to create a set of instructions that the other team could use to recreate the toy.

The workshop gave us some key insights into the people we were working with. We felt two of the business team members and one developer didn’t fit the team culture we were going for hence Vi – being the CEO – was forced to fire them.

So, at this point, the team was just three people – Me, Vi, and Francois (a French developer). We were missing some key people which included a designer, another developer and another business person. Vi emailed some designers and organised interviews with them and there we met Andreas. He had a great portfolio and when we talked to him he sounded like he knew his stuff so we hired him. Andreas also had another developer friend who was looking for a project to work with and he was great with an excellent skill set so we hired him too.

The next day we had another team building workshop with the new team (excluding Francois who couldn’t come into EIA that day). The workshop involved taking a note with clues written in the various languages present at EIA, translating them into English, and then going around Nice trying to find the locations. There you would find more clues to other locations and so on until you reached the final location – the winner would get dinner.

There were multiple ways to do this. We used a hybrid technique of using Google Translate’s camera function (most teams didn’t realise that there was a camera function) and then we traded bits of translated texts with other teams to get the full text.

We were the first to translate the whole thing in our room even though we had just four people. Next there were two locations so teams could either split off and head to both the locations or stick together. We chose to stick together and went off to the first location which was a playground on top of beautiful hill.

Here, someone gave us the next clue, which one of the members recognised as another playground with a whale shaped climbing frame so off we headed. There we got another clue, which we worked out to be a restaurant, and finally we arrived as the 11th team out of 100+ teams. Turns out we never even needed to go to the other location – it was just a test to see if we’d stick together.

The Final Team and Idea

We saw from the team building workshop that we all worked really well but some teams didn’t. Vi had another friend called Josh from Berkeley whose team died because people poached all of his developers and now he was with a team whose culture didn’t mesh with him and where he didn’t have a clear role.

So Vi asked if we would be interested in meeting Josh to see if he was good for our team and he was a really good fit – also I liked the fact that he was wearing a Andreessen Horowitz’s a16z t-shirt – so we hired him.

Now we had a good team – three developers (Me, Rasmus, Francois), one designer (Andreas) and two business people (Vi and Josh) who knew their stuff. The next step was market research.

Well… The market research didn’t go so well. The market was saturated. We had to differentiate and our differentiator was that we were going to work with online only boutiques and indie stores. The market potential was huge because boutiques wanted to find customers for cheap and customers wanted to find cool clothes that no one else was wearing.

Our model was simple we’ll connect boutiques with users and take a cut for every successful transaction. A total win-win-win situation.

Off we went to work, Andreas designed the whole app and Rasmus and Francois worked on implementing the app in Java for android and I worked on the landing page and marketing side of things. In the mean time, Vi and Josh worked hard and signed up some boutiques to the platform and worked on the financials.

Launching my tech company

Simone Fattouche, a third year QMUL Law student, has been busy developing her business BillHive. We spoke to her about her company, the challenges of starting a new business and the help she has received from QMUL Careers and Enterprise.

You have recently launched your technology company BillHive. Can you explain what services your business provides? And what inspired your idea?

At BillHive we want to replace paper receipts with digital receipts. The idea behind it is quite simple: when you’re at the till to pay for your shopping you’ll pull out your smartphone and launch the BillHive app.  The receipt will automatically be sent to your App and you’ll receive a notification that you have one new receipt. You can then see the receipt on the App and you’ll be able to print it, share it and even access in depth analytics of your shopping and spending habits.

I developed the idea for BillHive after purchasing a jacket from a high street store that I wanted to return only to find that I’d lost the receipt.  I was told that my only option was store credit but as a student I want cash, I certainly don’t want store credit.  I thought there must be a better way and just so happened to be registered for 3 Day Start Up (3DS) at Queen Mary. I decided to use 3DS to test the idea out.

Fun fact: Did you know that the ink on receipts is carcinogenic? One article from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) suggested that people that handle receipts often should have an envelope that vendors can simply drop the receipt into, which is obviously not a long term viable solution. Receipts can potentially be damaging to our health and have a negative impact on the environment which is why BillHive is a worthwhile and necessary App #downwithpaper.


What processes have you completed to get to the launch stage? And what are your next steps?

The next steps are focused on launching the app, including increasing our social media presence and working to develop partnerships.  We’ve begun integrating with Point of Sale Systems, meaning the software found on computers that facilitate a retail transaction, and now we’re looking to gain our first round of funding and continue to develop more partnerships both with retailers and other Point of Sales Systems.

You took part in the QMUL 3 Day Start-up event. What activities took place over the three days? How did this help you develop your business ideas?

At 3DS each individual pitches their business idea, five ideas are then selected and students are grouped and asked to develop one of the chosen ideas.  Over the span of the three days each group undertook with all due diligence the tasks that would be required in any start up business, such as doing market research, working on a prototype and figuring out your minimum viable product.  We had a group of dedicated mentors that worked alongside us. They provided us with feedback and encouraged us to think about our ideas from different perspectives.  On the Sunday evening we pitched our idea to investors at Google Campus. In my group we pitched a live demonstration of what the process may look like to receive a paperless receipt and the judges were very receptive to the pitch.

During the three days I learnt exactly what it takes to execute a business idea effectively. You soon realize the importance of conducting thorough market research and understanding the pain point (real or perceived problem) that your particular product or service tries to recitfy.  You also begin to understand the importance of surrounding yourself with a great team, which is probably the most valuable lesson.  Finally, I would most certainly recommend people to try out 3DS, whether you come to it with an idea you want to execute or not.  You gain so many valuable skills that you can use to execute an idea later on while meeting some very interesting people.

How else has QMUL helped you in your entrepreneurial endeavours?

Queen Mary Enterprise is an amazing resource.  From my very first meeting with Rachel Brown, the Enterprise Programme Coordinator, I’ve been supported through the process of developing my business, whether it was taking classes on digital marketing or seeking immigration advice as a Tier 4 International Student.  Another incredibly helpful group has been QLegal, which provides free legal advice for start-ups.  I’ve been able to throw any legal query I may have their way and have consistently received quality advice.

How has your degree in law helped you create your own business?

My degree in law has been beneficial from the outset.  I think the legal side of a business is one of the areas that a lot of start-ups fail to consider at the beginning of their development.  Due to my skills as a law student I am hypersensitive to anything related to intellectual property, personal information and even the legal personality of companies.  Studying case after case you begin to understand the importance of legal safeguards as preventative measures. In fact the day after the 3DS I went straight to QLegal, and have been using their services ever since.

I also think having a law degree has made me more analytical and taught me to pay much more attention to detail. This has proven to be incredibly useful when wading through various non disclosure agreements, and even in drafting all of our business documentation.

What has been the most challenging part of starting BillHive?

I think the most challenging part is balancing all of the priorities I have at the moment, such as finishing my law degree, trying to maintain a healthy life and continuing to be social.  I’ve always been a big believer of having a healthy ‘work-life balance,’ and I think it’s even more important when you’re juggling many competing priorities.  One of my mentors always says ‘it’s going to be a whirlwind but you just have to keep riding the wave.’  I’m trying to do that but also not lose sight of other important things, like graduating!

What future aspirations do you have for BillHive?

Ultimately I want to eliminate all paper receipts. We owe it to the environment; let’s practise what we preach.

For any students that have entrepreneurial ideas, what advice would you give them?

I would say you really have to go for it and use all the resources you have.  Queen Mary is well known in the technology community for having some of the best resources to help students.  I went into the Queen Mary Careers & Enterprise in September with just an idea and with their support I’ve gone from having what was just an idea to an actual product to launch.

I would also say don’t be afraid of getting into something while you’re still studying. I think being in university is one of the best times to try something entrepreneurial.  The learning curve is huge, and I think it’s incredibly useful for demonstrating key skills to future employers.

Five Reasons You Should Start Your Own Business This Summer

1. Funding

Queen Mary offers seed funding to student entrepreneurs, supplemented by free training and mentoring, so you might not need to risk losing your own money if you need start-up capital. For more information visit http://www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/students/enterprise/Funding/.

There are also additional sources of funding available to you. The government is a big supporter of start-ups. Successful start-ups provide employment and generate revenue that enriches the wider economy. As such there are various government schemes, grants and financial incentives for you to take advantage of: https://www.gov.uk/business-finance-support-finder

The private sector is equally supportive of start-ups. Investors and businesses are always in the market for innovations and disruptive ideas. Virgin Media’s Pitch to Rich scheme is just one example of this.

If you want to start your own social enterprise there’s also a large money pot for you to draw from. UnLtd, the leading provider of support for social entrepreneurs in the UK, has a range of prize funds for ideas, fledgling start-ups and established businesses that have a positive impact on society.

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2. Develop your CV and enhance your employability

No matter what career path you intend to follow, be it mechanical engineering, business, law, PR or teaching, nothing says innovative self-starter like a candidate who has already founded and run a business before they leave university.

Regardless of whether or not your business is successful, you’ll come away with a host of skills and experiences that employers value.

3. Work to a schedule that suits you

Of course, in order to be successful you’ll need to be self-disciplined and manage your time effectively (being self-employed often means working longer than a 9 to 5, particularly in the early stages). But one of the greatest perks of having your own business is that you can decide when you work, so there’s no getting tied down during festival season!

4. Do what you love

Whatever your passion in life, chances are it would lend itself to some sort of enterprise. Whether you’re motivated by money or helping society, any entrepreneurial idea can be turned into a business or social enterprise.

5. Earn money

Starting your own business is risky, but it may have higher earning potential than a part-time job. If you’ve got skills that are in demand (e.g. coding skills, design skills, writing skills) you might find that setting up a business in these areas or simply working for yourself is a good way of bringing in money to support your studies.

European Innovation Academy

European Innovation Academy

Interested in taking your business to the next level with support from entrepreneurs, industry professionals and like-minded students from across the world?

The European Innovation Academy (EIA) is a 15-day startup accelerator programme held every year in Nice, France, that focuses on IT innovations and is supported by industry leaders such as Google, Samsung and Orange. The below is a summary taken from the EIA website…

The brightest student minds benefit from the experiential learning of startup life. Multidisciplinary teams can launch new IT innovations to the market in a record time of 15 days. The teams are daily mentored and educated by 100 industry leaders and professors.

The program of the summer school is strongly influenced by prestigious startup accelerators and their methodologies from Silicon Valley.

The content of the summer school is developed in cooperation with professors from top universities including UC Berkeley and Stanford University. Also innovative corporations such as Google, Amadeus, Rovio (Angry Birds), Samsung, Orange and Credit Agricole.

During the summer school, students will experience 50+ unique sessions such as Art Hackathon, 3D Printing Competition, IT Hackathon, Sleep and Food Hacking, Venture Capital Investment Competition, Growth Hacking and many more!

QMUL Enterprise will be sponsoring a student to attend the Academy. This will cover the price of a ticket, flights and accommodation (an approximate value of £2000).  If you would like to attend please send a one page personal statement to rachel.brown@qmul.ac.uk outlining why you want to take part in the EIA, your entrepreneurial experience to date and what your future business aspirations are.

The deadline for statements to be submitted is 24/04/2015.