THE entrepreneurs of tomorrow have gained a step up in the business world after winning a share of £25,000 in vital start-up funding.
Six were selected as finalists in the University of Strathclyde’s PropTech innovation challenge, sponsored by leading Scots businessman Shaf Rasul – who was named the university’s resident entrepreneur in February.
He sponsored the property technology competition that was delivered by the University of Strathclyde’s Entrepreneurial Network (SEN), with finalists receiving cash prizes for the best business pitches.
In May, Rasul and Strathclyde staff laid down the gauntlet to budding innovators who were looking to see their fresh technological ideas take off and provide breakthrough property market solutions across the likes of manufacturing, software and hardware design.
The challenge attracted entrepreneurs from across the country, with six businesses making it through to the final.
This month they delivered a strong range of pitches that left the panel of judges in a quandary due to the high quality of entries.
They eventually decided that all six entrepreneurs – Omer Panni, Chris Boyd, Ananda Prasanna, Jordan Reid, Andrew MacLaren, and Bartosz Soltowski – should receive a significant share of the prize money, ranging from £2,500 up to £8,800.
It had originally been intended that prizes would be capped at £5,000. However Bartosz Soltowski took the £8,800 after a standout presentation that outlined his business plan, entitled Smart Grids for Development.
The heavyweight panel of judges and enablers has now also extended support to the finalists, offering access to business networks and mentoring opportunities that could provide a vital first step on the road to future success.
Rasul, a Strathclyde graduate himself, leveraged his experience as a former member of the BBC’s online Dragon’s Den to lead the panel and put the competitors through their paces during their quick pitches.
The highly experienced panel included Allan MacKenzie, Head of Regions for Lloyds Bank’s Commercial Real Estate unit, Glen Gilson and Matthew Gray – respectively Managing Partner and Managing Director of Property Services at full service law firm Gilson Gray – and Les MacAndrew, Managing Partner of chartered surveyors Graham+Sibbald.
Also joining the panel was Nick Mauder, technology director at letting and estate agents DJ Alexander and Alex Watts, director of Kingsford Estates.
Since becoming the University’s entrepreneur in residence, Rasul has brought real-world business expertise to SEN, helping to facilitate new networking relationships with national and international enterprise and further community outreach initiatives.
The founder of commercial property specialists SRA Ventures has a significant investment portfolio across a range of sectors – including tech and commercial property – and is aiming to inspire and nurture the University of Strathclyde’s ambitious PropTech entrepreneurs with the new competition.
Rasul has already worked closely with Edinburgh-based Property Technology Ltd, providing both mentoring support and early stage fundraising advice.
The start-up has been handed £150,000 by the Scottish EDGE fund and IBM due to the potential of its Apply.Property software.
The serial entrepreneur and published author said: “It’s been hugely exciting to discover the sheer depth of entrepreneurial talent that the University of Strathclyde has to offer.
“In fact, the panel was so impressed by the quality of presentations displayed throughout the final that they decided all were well deserved winners and should share the money.
“That’s not a cop out. It’s simply a reflection of how uniformly strong the pitches all were and how rigorous and assuredly conveyed their ideas proved to be.
“Of course, having a great idea is only half the battle – it’s how you pitch it that often matters, and it’s a vital skill that the University and myself are supporting and looking to hone at SEN. I’m pleased to say that the finalists displayed that attribute in spades.
“We hope that the competition has given them a significant boost, inspiring them to greater achievements, and lending them the confidence and extra support that will help them to realise their ambitions.
“We now look forward to providing further mentoring opportunities and potentially even taking a few of the ideas to the next stage.
“The University of Strathclyde is a pioneering institution of truly global standing, and strongly contested competitions like this will only enhance that reputation.”
Fiona Ireland, Head of Enterprise at the University of Strathclyde said: “From the very beginning of the competition, we’ve seen some fantastic examples of high-performing technology that we believe will solve genuine challenges in the property sector.
“As an entrepreneurial university, Strathclyde is committed to cultivating entrepreneurs who can effectively pitch their innovations and ideas to any audience – and competitions like this are vital to honing those skills in a meaningful manner, providing a scenario that emulates real world pitch situations.
“We wish our winners the best of luck and will keenly follow their progress. We expect to hear much more from them in the future.”
All students, staff and graduates of the University have access to Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network, which offers expertise, support and industry contacts to those looking to form and grow new businesses. The University is consistently ranked in the UK’s top 10 for company creation, and was named UK Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2013/14.