A manufacturing business for videogame controller accessories and an innovative personal security product to protect people from having their drinks spiked won their young creators prizes worth £10,000 each at the StartUp Sussex awards
The annual enterprise programme, delivered by Sussex Innovation for students and recent graduates from the University of Sussex, reached its climax as the recipients of prizes worth a total of more than £37,000 were announced. Following two years where the grand finale was staged virtually, the finalists, family and friends, judges and mentors were able to come back together for a live awards ceremony and celebration, held at the Sussex Innovation Centre in Falmer on Thursday 24th March.
The 2022 StartUp Sussex winner was final year BSc Marketing and Management student Julius Crutchley. His business GETTAGRIP aims to level the playing field within competitive gaming by providing gamers with affordable, high performance console controller accessories.
The Social Impact Prize is awarded each year to the enterprise with the most potential to bring about positive social change. The 2022 winner is 2nd year BSc Psychology student Jazmine Tiley, whose business Protective Bubbles will develop products designed to help individuals protect themselves, their loved ones and their belongings.
As well as earning the title of University of Sussex Entrepreneurs of the Year, the winners received a £10,000 prize consisting of a cash award and ongoing membership, consultancy and marketing from Sussex Innovation. The StartUp Sussex prize is underwritten by the University, while the Social Impact Prize is funded by a generous private donation from a Sussex alumnus.
“When I was announced as a winner, the overriding feeling was relief!” said Julius Crutchley, founder of GETTAGRIP, “I’ve spent the last six months developing relationships with manufacturers and mentors, and don’t want to lose the momentum I’ve built. Now I have the funds to kickstart the business and begin prototyping and testing our products to get the ball rolling. My most important takeaway from StartUp Sussex is that the harder you work, the more people want to help you succeed.”
“There were so many great start-ups that will have a positive social impact, that when they announced the winner I just couldn’t believe it,” said Jazmine Tiley, founder of Protective Bubbles. “The programme has helped shape my business, from the incredible help and mentoring of the Sussex Innovation team, to the thinking and planning I had to do for the business plan around my launch product. Winning the Social Impact Prize will really help me get started with developing a website design and packaging, and legal costs.”
The 2022 competition began back in September with more than 80 budding entrepreneurs attending a series of Start-Up Lab training and workshop events, hosted by members of the Sussex Innovation consultancy team and the University of Sussex Careers and Entrepreneurship department. By March, 12 finalists were left pitching in front of a panel of expert judges.
“Congratulations to the winners – and all of the finalists, who’ve had to work incredibly hard to prepare detailed business plans in just a few short months,” said Simon Chuter, Student Enterprise Manager at Sussex Innovation. “It’s always an absolute honour and a pleasure to run this programme and watch these young entrepreneurs grow from their experience and develop confidence in their ideas. As anyone who’s been part of the programme over the past seven years would tell them, this is where the hard work really starts!”
“It’s exciting to see the increasingly high quality of startup ideas and growing involvement in entrepreneurship among our students and graduates,” said Luke Mitchell, Entrepreneurship Manager at the University of Sussex Careers and Entrepreneurship department. “The programme of support we offer gets bigger and better each year, with our flagship competition StartUp Sussex providing the inspiration, encouragement and practical help that makes a difference. We will continue to work with these talented participants through our summer accelerator and beyond, and look forward to seeing them follow in the footsteps of others who have succeeded in this historic competition.”
Previous StartUp Sussex winners have included Molly Masters with Books That Matter, a feminist literature subscription box that has won multiple national start-up awards and appeared on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, and Darren Tenkorang with TRIM-it, a mobile barber service that has received £1.1m of seed investment and been the subject of Channel 4 documentary The Money Maker, as well as features by BBC Business and Forbes.
“This year’s finalists made it a very tough call for us,” said Chief Executive of Sussex Innovation, Nigel Lambe, who sat on the 2022 judging panel. “We saw an extremely strong collection of entrepreneurs, any one of whom could have succeeded on another day. As so often in this competition, we were weighing up a wide range of different business models and enterprises at different stages of their development – but ultimately our winners made a clear and compelling case that they will deliver real value to their customers.”
The other 2022 winners:
In second place in StartUp Sussex 2022, Sam White (BSc Business and Management) received a £6,500 prize for his enterprise, Marco – a student collaboration platform that combines the networking effects of LinkedIn with the community management capabilities of institutional SaaS solutions.
In third place, David Ade-Odunalde (BSc Computer Science and AI) received a £4,250 prize for his product, Epsilon AI, a software service that helps everyday sneaker fans to buy the latest limited edition trainers and clothes to hit the shelves.
In second place in the Social Impact Prize 2022, Samuel Gandy (MSc AI and Adaptive Systems) received a £6,500 prize for his social enterprise, Wireless Wild, a business idea built around using technology to resolve the issue of data scarcity in biodiversity efforts.