Four Bath student entrepreneurs – including two Gold Scholars – were successful in their pitches at a recent Dragons’ Den event, securing funding for start-up businesses ranging from robotics to recycling. The event took place on Wednesday 26 February at the Woodlands, run by Enterprise Bath – part of Research & Innovation Services – and in partnership with SETsquared.
Throughout the morning, enterprising students were invited to deliver five-minute pitches to a panel of alumni Dragons, with the goal of gaining up to £5,000 each in funding. They were asked to cover elements such as the problem their business aims to solve, how they plan to generate revenue and their financial model.
The nine finalists had been selected from 23 entries, based on a one-minute video summary of their business idea submitted as part of their application.
Enter the Dragons
This year’s panel of Dragons comprised Venture Capitalist Mark Hawkesworth (MSc Business Administration 1976); gowithYamo Managing Partner Hubert Velge (MSc Business Administration 1984); Private Investor Assan Din (BSc Economics with Computing and Statistics 1993); and Rakesh Sharma OBE (EMBA 1993), Executive Chairman of Sharman Capital Partners Ltd.
“Student enterprise at Bath is buoyant,” says Mark Hawkesworth. “The Dragons provide advice and use our donated funds to help students build prototypes, test markets and protect IP. It’s particularly rewarding for us to see ideas moving through to a start-up venture.”
“I found the experience empowering,” added Gold Scholar Rachelle Wabissa (BSc Applied Social Studies 2021). “For the first time in my life I saw myself as a businesswoman. Winning the funding was amazing – I cried because not only did the Dragons believe in me, they were willing to invest in me. I am grateful we have such supportive alumni at Bath.”
"To walk away with a grant was a brilliant reminder to constantly keep working hard, as this is only just the beginning," said first-year Gold Scholar Zuhayr Hamayun (MEng Robotics Engineering 2023). "The pitch process itself was a tense but necessary one in order to gain experience, as there will be many similar situations to come. I encourage those who are have firm ideas and strong work ethics to pursue this opportunity in the future."
Benjamin Brimacombe (PhD Mechanical Engineering 2022) won £2,000 in funding for Lamvac, a device designed to reduce drag on cruising vehicles – which boasts patent potential. The grant will be used to test Benjamin’s business case with a prototype device.
QUBE, a start-up from Zuhayr Hamayun, received £1,000 from the Dragons. QUBE is a kit that teaches robotics to STEM enthusiasts as they assemble and program a humanoid robot. The Dragons also offered Zuhayr help with introductions to schools as part of the testing and development of his business idea.
Labplast is a lab waste collection service, pitched by Helen Liang (PhD Sustainable Chemical Technologies 2021), that will sort and decontaminate plastics waste ready for recycling. It received £3,500 in funding from the Dragons to optimise the cleaning process and bring the service to market. Labplast was also successful during the first round of the competition in November 2019, securing an initial £500 grant.
Rachelle Wabissa was granted £1,500 by the Dragons for UniPlanner, a university planner tailored to the needs of students. The funding will to be used to finesse the physical product, as well as conduct research into how a digital version could be developed. Rachelle also pitched during the first round of the competition, winning £100 in funding.
Entries for the 2020/21 Dragons’ Den competition will open in November.