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Student start-up talent honoured

Some of the UK’s most promising student and graduate entrepreneurs were honoured last night as SETsquared held its annual Student Enterprise Awards last night (June 5).

Among the stars picking up gongs were young people solving third world sanitation problems, those changing the face of voting and students counting Jaguar Land Rover among their clients.

SETsquared is a partnership of the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey which, as well as incubating high-tech start-ups, encourages entrepreneurialism among students at the five institutions. Its Student Enterprise Awards, which take place every year, seek to honour the cream of the crop when it comes to business-minded students. 

The student and graduate winners were:

  • TickBox from the University of Exeter (Best Student Start-Up and People’s Choice Award) – The business helps people to compare election candidates and was launched during the European elections in May. It has secured £50,000 of funding so far.

  • Instabear, from the University of Exeter (Best Graduate Start-Up) – The company provides instant photo printing services from social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. It counts Jaguar Land Rover and Jack Wills among its corporate clients and had a turnover of 60k in the year ending February 2014.

  • SanEco, from the University of Southampton (Best Social Enterprise) – The social enterprise helps tackle sanitation issues in Kenya while helping the people there earn a living. Among its schemes are toilets, which convert human waste into natural fertilisers and can be sold to farmers. Since its inception SanEco has helped more than 11,000 people.

Champions of student enterprise from each of the universities were also honoured and The University of Bristol also won an award for its Spark scheme, which aims to help create a new generation of entrepreneurs by putting business-minded students through an entrepreneurial ‘bootcamp’ course.

View the full list of 2014 winners

Simon Bond, Innovation Director at SETsquared, says the calibre of this year’s finalists reflects the improvements he has seen in student entrepreneurialism over the last five years. 

He said: “It is so encouraging to see young people being fearless in setting up their own businesses. Traditionally, the entrepreneurialism route has been seen as one of risk and students have steered away from it, favouring the relative comfort of climbing onto the rungs of the corporate ladder.

“A shift is beginning to emerge and figures from the Office for National Statistics show the number of self-employed young people has already risen by 71,000 since the start of the economic crisis. Perhaps this is evidence that programmes like Dragons’ Den, initiatives from the Government and projects such as our own could well be contributing to an increase in young entrepreneurs.”

Phil Cameron, a former University of Exeter student who produced award-winning theatre in London & New York and founded airport lounge business, No.1 Traveller, was the guest of honour at the awards and echoed Simon’s comments.

The entrepreneur added: “It’s inspiring to see so many young, enthusiastic entrepreneurs innovating and pursuing their ambitions, particularly in such a harsh job market.

“Starting a business which has any chance of success is hard – it needs vision and a thoroughness of execution – but more people can and should do it, because the rewards of steering a vision to commercial success is well worth the effort. My advice to any young entrepreneur would be to embrace the challenge and never compromise on the goal.”

Ben Bradshaw MP, who attended the awards, said: “It’s incredibly important for our country to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs. Encouraging and helping young people to develop ideas and make commercial success of them is what will help us succeed as a country.”


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