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About Luke Tregidgo

Author Archive | Luke Tregidgo

Why entrepreneurship is an important element of degree study

These days going to a top university and getting a first class degree isn’t always enough to impress companies recruiting graduates.

At Bath we’re finding that some of the region’s largest employers are looking towards entrepreneurship groups to find the brightest students with added spark.

Last Wednesday saw the final of the University of Baths Students’ Union Enterprise Department ‘Apps Crunch’ competition, which challenged teams of students to come up with novel ideas for mobile apps.

The competition, which was run as part of Bath Digital Festival, was sponsored by Deloitte Digital. They not only financed the event, their staff also played a central role in mentoring and judging the student teams.

This gave our students a great opportunity to meet with and discuss real app development problems with industry experts, but it also gave Deloitte a chance to meet some of the University’s very best students face to face early in their studies.

During the event four short-listed entries pitched to a panel of tech experts, which included members from Deloitte Digital, as well as local business owners from Bath’s digital scene.

The winning entry came from three mathematics students: PhD researchers Daniel Sutton and Andrea Fernandez, along with MA student Ben Pring. Their dating app WLTM (‘Would Like To Meet’) impressed the judges with its innovative business model and live video-chat function.

The student’s prize package included VIP tickets to elements of Bath Digital Festival, and the chance to work on their app with Bath alumnus Gerard Grech, now head of mobile strategy & content for Nokia.

While this was clearly a fantastic prize, the real benefit for both this team and all the others involved was the opportunity to develop their own company ideas and discuss them with mentors from the region’s best tech companies.

In addition to the formal competition prizes, the students formed mentor relationships, were invited to hack events, given work experience opportunities and in general have made some fantastic contacts.

And the companies involved have the opportunity to work with some very bright young people, helping to shape their learning experience ahead of the time when they’ll come to look for employment.

Being involved in the running of the University of Bath Student Union’s entrepreneurship and enterprise programmes is inspiring – it is great to see what the students came up with in such a short period of time.

There is a huge amount of opportunity for universities and industry to work together to shape the future generation of innovators, entrepreneurs and managers. By developing more programmes like the ‘Apps Crunch’ we can match great students with forward thinking industry mentors for the benefit of all.

We’re always keen to hear from companies interested in getting involved in events like ‘Apps Crunch’. If you’d like to know more please do contact me on l.tregidgo@bath.ac.uk


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SPARKies shortlist focus: Best Service Provider

Being a bit of an infographic magpie, I lost an inordinate amount of 2012 courtesy of one single Tech Crunch article into what makes a successful ecosystem for start-ups.

Traditional wisdom has it that entrepreneurs migrate to where the money is; like the proverbial bees to a honeypot. I’ve always felt this to be an over-simplification as most of the entrepreneurs that I’ve come across, whilst pragmatic and financially savvy, are rarely driven by purely financial motives. The research backs this up, concluding that a complex web of support services are what really makes a start-up hub “hum”.

So whilst the concept of a “Best Service Provider to the Tech Sector” category at the SPARKies might at first seem a bit woolly, it is in fact key to what makes the south west such a magnet for high-growth, high-tech businesses. Award sponsors FreeAgent (providers of an online accounting system for SMEs) certainly share this view and were eager to offer their support.

The Innovation Centre, headed up by Simon Bond of the University of Bath, is the first of the shortlisted entries. In addition to providing high-quality incubation space to a range of university spin-outs and external high-growth ventures, they are committed to providing a myriad of other support services. These include mentoring, a flexible co-working area and hosting of influential regional networks (including Silicon Southwest, OpenMIC and BathCamp). A true exponent of giving back to its community of customers, they are also headline sponsors of this year’s SPARKies.

A constant challenge in a historic city like Bath is the provision of modern comms systems; the lifeblood of any digital start-up. It is a challenge that Gradwell, led by founder Dr Peter Gradwell, has risen to time and time again. Stand-out examples include providing WiFi access to the Assembly Rooms for last year’s X-Media Labs conference and battling BT to install extra lines for a 60 person hack day at extremely short notice. The company continues to grow, securing £1.15m in investment last year to expand their VoiP operations.

Anyone at all familiar with Bath’s tech scene will know of iPrinciples, the long-standing service provider run by founders Richard Godfrey and Paul Cross. Recognised globally for their development skills, the iPrinciples team have invested their time and energy in building a variety of local start-ups in 2012 such as TopicLogic (now CloudFind), Cognisess, Artolo and Neighbourly. They are always happy to help anyone looking to start a digital business in and around Bath and regularly give freely our time, advice and useful introductions. The team give endlessly to support the Bath Digital Festival as well as many other events across the region.

The sheer variety of services provided by these companies will surely fuel a heated debate amongst the award judges come the 20th March, with all three deserving of merit for making the southwest such a vibrant place to launch and grow.

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SPARKies shortlist focus: Future SPARK

The ‘Future SPARK’ is new to the list of awards being presented at this year’s SPARKies awards and is all about recognising young, up-and-coming tech talent in the region.

Nominees had to be 25 or under and in full time education up to January 2012, in addition to which they had to demonstrate a flair for digital innovation above and beyond the call of their studies. The shortlisted entries are testament to the incredible dedication and drive that these gifted youngsters have at a time when many of their peers are most likely to be found in one of the local bars…

UrbanTribe was started by friends Nicolas Carey and Yael Fainsilber whilst studying at the University of Bath. Having originally developed the business by providing free notepads to students paid for by advertising, they quickly adapted the concept to embrace the student shift towards digital media. Their platform provides the first port of call for online discounts to local bars, restaurants and other services in the city. They have also recently signed an agreement with the Students’ Union to provide a platform for promoting deals and events on campus.

Current University of Bath student Ollie Marshall is co-founder of online ticketing platform GoTag, which has grown rapidly into the number one provider of tickets for nightclubs in the city. Ollie began work on the project 18 months ago (despite only being in the first year of his Computer Science degree) and reached the final of the university’s Business Plan Competition in 2012. There surely can’t be a better endorsement of is achievements from the local tech community than for GoTag to have been selected as the ticketing platform for this year’s Digital Festival!

Rounding off the three finalists are yet another pairing from the University of Bath. Computer Science student James Isbister and International Management student Alex Marshall were winners of the Students’ Union app design competition (“Apps Crunch”) in 2012 and have gone on to develop their visual learning app to the point of imminent launch on iOS. ‘InBrain’ is based on the Method of Loci principle for learning, whereby information is more easily recalled if it is linked to a known visual object. App users link pieces of information (beit from websites, notes, video clips or other media) to regions of a familiar image, creating a highly visual ‘mind-map’-style resource. James has coded the app in collaboration with local developers Intohand, and is about to start with the company on a 6 month work placement.

The FutureSPARK award has been kindly sponsored by Deloitte Digital, the new tech arm of the venerable service provider firm, as part of their on-going commitment to supporting the development of the southwest’s brightest young entrepreneurs.

The three shortlisted entrants, as well as a cohort of students from across the region’s universities, will be at the SPARKies awards evening at Komedia on the 20th March.

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