What would you do with £25,000 for your start-up?
That is the question Elizabetta ‘Zabetta’ Camilleri founder of SalesGossip is asking herself after scooping the top prize in this year’s RBS EnterprisingU competition.
The London Business School graduate’s online service alerts bargain hunters as soon as a new sale is announced, and was picked from 1,317 ideas that entered the ‘world’s largest university business plan competition’ to win £25,000.
At the final of the competition on Tuesday, held at London’s City University, Zabetta was one of the six competition finalists invited to pitch to a panel of judges, vying for a share of the £40,000 grant money available to invest in their business.
The six, who had been whittled down from the 1,317, had just ten minutes to pitch, answer probing questions and impress the panel of business luminaries such as Dylan Williams of Coutts, Peter Ibbetson, RBS Small Business Chairman and Rupert Turnball, the publisher of Wired.
And the ideas were varied: from Bertie & Bean, a children’s clothing exchange to CHADEX, a marketplace providing charities with access to donated premium online advertising space, to Unisport, a company aiming to bring the US college sports media model to the UK. Not forgetting Ventive, a company that plans to produce a Passive Heat Recovery Ventilation Unit and Windows Phone Geek, a marketplace for Windows Phone app development components and tools.
Despite the tough competition and some impressive pitches, SalesGossip proved the judges’ favourite, and was presented with the award by Peter Molyneux, computer games veteran and serial entrepreneur behind the world-famous Theme Park and the Fable series.
“We’re so proud to have won the competition, especially considering the very high calibre of the other start-ups shortlisted. Getting the endorsement of such an amazing group of judges was the best pat on the back the SalesGossip team could receive,” said Zabetta.
“Of course, we would love to spend the money shopping for shoes in the summer sales but alas we’ve got bigger and better plans and will spend it on building more functionalities into the current online and mobile service so watch this space.”
So why was SalesGossip picked?
“Zabetta expertly captured the audience’s attention, demonstrating her drive and passion for a hugely scalable business,” said Rupert Turnball. “SalesGossip is everything a company should be today; social, mobile and hyperlocal.”
Adrian Clark of FIG’s asset management company, NMVC, who also sat on the judging panel, added: “We particularly liked that the tool was developed and working with a small but growing user base, so it could start generating revenue immediately. We also liked that fact that SalesGossip could take its model and move it easily to other cities – New York, Paris and so on – with little time and expense, meaning that if the company were successful, it could be very successful.’’
By the buzz in the lecture theatre afterwards, it is clear the 150-strong audience of early-stage investors and press agreed.
But the others didn’t all go home empty handed: University of East London’s Thomas Lipinksi of Ventive came in second, winning £10,000, while Windows Phone Geek, founded by Boryana Miloshevska and Yordan Pavlov from UCL, took £5,000 for third place.
It was the first year the RBS EnterprisingU competition, run by Find Invest Grow (FIG) and sponsored by the RBS Group and LinkedIn, has been held and will take place again next year.
“I love events like these that celebrate good ideas. I just wish that they existed when I started out because – as an entrepreneur – it’s a very tough world,” said Peter Molyneux. “You’ve got to have unbelievable drive and incredible courage – and a doggedness to pick yourself up and carry on. All six finalists should be congratulated. Looking through these ideas, there’s a real energy and passion to every one.”
James King of FIG said: “The competition was incredibly well received. It is phenomenal to see so many students and recent graduates inspired to start their own businesses.
“The six companies at the final represented various states of proof of concept and development and it has been exciting to see how they have grown since they first entered the competition to where they are today. While SalesGossip thoroughly deserved to win, all of the finalists have great potential and we will continue to support them as much as possible.”