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Participants at Startup Weekend 2017

Socially responsible businesses top at Startup Weekend Exeter

Three socially responsible businesses were voted top this weekend at the seventh edition of Startup Weekend Exeter.

The return of the eagerly anticipated weekend was held for the first time at the new location of the University of Exeter, Business School. Now in its fourth year, Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event, helps people develop solutions and ideas that have the potential to make a positive difference to society.

The event saw 50 participants deliver 30 different business pitches including making a wood pulp substitute out of sugar cane, to creating building materials out of used plastic bottles, to stilettos capable of converting into flats by detaching the heels!  From these ideas, the top eight pitches were put forward and eight groups spent 54 hours working their concepts into eight viable startup businesses.

Overall winner of the weekend went to Santa’s Gift, a novel community minded Christmas gift business.

The People’s Choice award went to business concept, UN-SCENE, headed up Innovation Centre client, Vanessa Cobb. Vanessa’s business is an online platform connecting performing artists with their audiences, with features that help emerging entertainers to boost their careers and income.

Vanessa said: “We were thrilled to win the People's Choice and delighted that a couple of other people came up to us afterwards, saying they'd love to work with us. The weekend was a real inspiration. From the word go, we knew it was all about the team and that was the best part of the event for us. As a random group of people who'd never met before, we pooled our ideas, skills and knowledge and dived in with enthusiasm. We formed a genuine bond as a team and are already making plans to continue with the project.”

An Honourable Mention went to MBA student, Mashroor Mushtaque and his team 'Bagasse' with their concept for helping underprivileged women of South Africa with affordable, sustainable sanitary products. Commenting on the event Mashroor said: “The Startup weekend was a platform to showcase diverse ideas which would revolutionize the business perspectives and sustainability. Winning the Honourable Mention felt reinvigorating after 54 hours of brainstorming and putting our ideas together. It was such a fantastic experience to be part of the weekend.”

An impressive array of mentors from all across the tech and entrepreneurial communities were present to support the participants including experienced Exeter alumni from the entrepreneurial community, seasoned tech entrepreneur, Tom Charman, CEO of Kompas and Matt Morley, Co-founder of Explaain, currently collaborating with Google’s Digital News Initiative. Kalkidan Lagasse, Exeter graduate and Founder of local, ethical and sustainable clothing company, Sanchos Dress, also delivered an inspiring welcome speech.

Participants pitched their ideas, developed them, explored potential markets and planned a business launch all in one weekend.

Ideas were assessed according to their validity in the market, strength of their business model, and execution and design by the judging panel which involved experts and leaders in industry and academia including Antonia Power, Blur Group, Richard Eckley, Crowdcube, Christine Allison, Roborough House Associates and Stuart Robinson, Exeter MBA.

In closing the event, TechStars facilitator David Andersen said: “Startup Weekend Exeter was a really special experience. I think there were some great teams, with great energy and great ideas. Participants here were really open-minded and keen to do new things. Basically, everything we could throw at them, they took on with a positive mindset. It really says a lot about the community here in Exeter, and I would love to see that spread after the weekend. That’s what the Startup Weekend is all about: inspiring the participants to go out and change the world.”

Date: 23 November 2017

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