£1k Challenge - The Winners

Coventry University Entrepreneurs was founded in a pub in 1999 by three people. Nine years on, it runs the most successful student-run business creation competition in the world – the companies that were created through the competition are now valued collectively at over £42m. This year’s companies include a vineyard modelling system, cologne that can be reactivated by rubbing your wrists together and tampons laced with painkillers.

Cong Cong Bo, President of CU Entrepreneurs said, “Entering the competition is the start of something very special.” And how true it has been: last year’s winner, Coventry Temperature Concepts, a company that helps women to get pregnant by accurately monitoring their body temperature fluctuations, won the UKSEC national business plan competition shortly after moving into offices at the Science Park. In December last year, they secured £375k of funding, and will be launching their product, to the delight of thousands of women, at the end of April.

Coventry companies are also going global: Light Blue Optics (LBO) an alumnus of the competition in 2004 has opened its first US office following closure of a $26 million Series A funding round in October last year. LBO is developing miniature laser-based projectors that can soon be fitted in something as small as your mobile phone – soon you will be able to have your own phone-based cinema!

This year’s competitions have been the most successful to date. At the Awards Ceremony last week, the budding entrepreneurs were joined by Levi Roots, a musician-chef-entrepreneur, famed for delivering his pitch as a song accompanied by guitar on Dragon’s Den. He enthralled the audience with the story of his Reggae Reggae sauce – a jerk barbeque sauce that he began brewing at home and taking to carnivals, and which recently was selling faster than ketchup at Sainsbury’s.

The £1k Challenge, the second of a three-stage competition called the Entrepreneurs’ Challenge, has yielded not 10, but 11 winners – the quality of entries was so high that the judges shortlisted 18 companies and crowned 11 winners, each walking away with £1000.

Those winners included called Rescent, a company led by Patrick Marti from the Materials Science Department at Coventry University, which aims to transform the global fragrance market by creating longer-lasting scent. By rubbing the patch of skin where you applied perfume hours ago, you shear small vesicles holding the scent within a gel mesh, causing them to break apart, releasing new fragrance.

Similarly, Terroir Precision Viticulture (TPV) is set to revolutionise wine-production. Using a multidimensional computer model that tracks vineyards, TPV can suggest changes that allow the wine producer to increase the quality and consistency of the wine he produces. Iain Evans, a Geography student at Queens College and CTO of TPV mentioned that the team was already working with a Grand Cru in California, and has plans to collaborate with NASA.

Four of the winners were teams on the Masters in Bioscience Enterprises course (MBE) at the Institute of Biotechnology. MBEs have a tradition of competition success. This year was no exception, as shown when the MBE teams behind AutoTB, BeFree!, Rejuvinate and Veinbay walked up to collect their awards.