I love entrepreneurism and there is one society that really seems to embody all that is exciting and fun about seeking new ideas and opportunities, and that is the Oxford Entrepreneurs. Each year they hold their famous TATA Idea Idol competition for new business ideas and each year the entries simply get better and better and better. This year was no exception.
The format is basically the following:
- Stage 1: Hopeful future business tycoons submit a short description of their business idea for initial consideration by the board.
- Stage 2: Those fortunate enough to be selected are taken through to the semi-final, of which there were 40 this year, whittled down from over 200 initial entries. I am proud to say that the apps (Mucky Pup & Purrfect Paws) were among the semi-finalists this year, something I am personally hugely proud of. Following an afternoon training session on writing a great Executive Summary (1-2 page summary of the business plan), we had one week to complete and submit our summary.
- Stage 3: Just six business ideas make it through to the final, with the lucky six receiving further training in pitching their business ideas before the big night of the final itself.
- The Final: Each team, or rather one individual from the team, has just 2 minutes to present their business idea to the packed lecture theatre in the Said Business School (Oxford) and then 5 minutes of grilling by seasoned business experts and entrepreneurs who make up the judging panel. This year’s judges were Melody Hossaini (CEO of InspirEngage International and The Apprentice fame), Gary Frank (CEO of The Fabulous Bakin’ Boys), Will Chadwick (VP of Tata Interactive Systems), and Leo Johnson (Co-founder of Sustainable Finance Ltd).
The pitches were amazing and the business ideas presented exceptional. The six companies vying for the grand prize were, in no particular order:
- Rehabox – a personalised service to manage prescribed movement rehabilitation exercises for many conditions, including back pain, osteoporosis, injuries and following strokes.
- Oxford NanoSystems – a novel re-design of heat exchange systems found in boilers.
- BaNaPads – a social enterprise, initially focused in Uganda, providing locally manufactured female sanitary pads made from banana pseudo stems, an abundant organic waste, and a significantly more cost-effective material for pad manufacture.
- InVision – software that recognises hidden emotions by detecting facial micro-expressions with video technology.
- Medopad – a mobile health start-up providing hospital doctors with secure real-time access to patient data, images and lab results via iPads.
- FoetoH – provides home-based monitoring for babies before birth.
The ultimate winner was judged to be FoetoH and the team, led by Dr Michelle Fernandes, won the grand prize of £10,000.