Five Pioneering UK Student Startups

In Consumer Goods, Education, Technology by Tom Cannon

Here at Red Brick we never cease to be amazed by the level of innovation and creativity we encounter from the UK’s students. Their ability to think outside the box and utilise new technologies is having a real impact on the work place and the country.

As part of a new startup series called Red Brick Talks, we will be rooting out and interviewing some of the most exciting and innovative youth startups in the UK. We hope to encourage and inspire other young people and let the world know about the pioneering businesses of the future. In this article we take a brief look at five enterprising university/student startups that will be featuring in our Talks series with exclusive interviews and insights. These businesses are making waves in the vibrant UK startup scene and their owners are inspiring figures for young and old alike.

James Boon – Elephant Branded – @ElephantBrandedJames BoonJames Boon is a recent architecture graduate from Bath University and the founder of startup Elephant Branded. He got the idea for the brand after working in Africa and Asia where he had been shocked by the lack of basic school equipment. James decided he wanted to make a positive difference in the world and Elephant Branded was the result.

The online venture sells ethically made recycled bags, purses, beanies and pencil cases. For each product they sell, a donation is made in the form of a school bag and kit equipped with the necessary tools for learning to a child in Africa or Asia. Boon was given a helping hand from his university to get the business going including advice and mentoring from SETsquared, a partnership that promotes enterprise in five universities, and also participated in various competitions and activities to get his name out there.

George Burgess – Gojimo – @GojimoApp – @burgesgEduAppWeb005_MG_6620Formerly known as EducationApps, Gojimo, a mobile test prep platform, was founded by 22-year-old George Burgess. The hugely successful app features study guides and revision quizzes available as in-app purchases, with content available for most British and American secondary school qualifications. It can also be used by teachers and schools to track their students’ progress and helps to highlight the areas in which students might need additional assistance.

The company has received an impressive $1m in funding from tech-focused venture capital firm Index Ventures with input from JamJar investments, the consumer venture fund started by Innocent Drinks founders Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright. Saul Klein, a partner at Index Ventures explains, “By reimagining education for the smartphone and tablet native generation of students, George’s ambition is nothing less than to change the way we teach and learn.”

Lizzie Fane – ThirdYearAbroad (now Global Graduates) – @thirdyearabroad – @lizziefaneLizzie

25-year-old Lizzie Fane focused her talents on the education system and came up with the idea of ThirdYearAbroad (now Global Graduates) while studying overseas during her Italian degree. The idea primarily came from Lizzie’s placement experience where she felt a need for more help and support and was keen to meet other people from different UK universities. As a result she decided to set up a network to support students to study, work or volunteer abroad during their degrees.

ThirdYearAbroad is packed with information to support students and the International Offices of various universities. Universities are able to organise international placements and provide their students with an online network where they can get advice and tips about studying or working abroad from students just back from a foreign placement. The site is filled with free articles and case studies to make the whole process more transparent, more fun and less scary.

Lizzie’s overall objective is to promote an international experience for every university student and to support them through the process. She also hopes to promote the study of foreign languages. ThirdYearAbroad has certainly helped students up and down the country and the skills learnt will most likely be of benefit for the rest of their lives.

Matt Morley – TickBox (now owned by Explaain) – @TickboxLtd – @Matt__MorleyMatt MorleyTickBox the startup from the University of Exeter poses the question, who do you stand for?

The enterprise promotes the importance of taking part in elections and helps people compare election candidates so that they can make an informed decision when voting. The brains behind the idea is History student and entrepreneur Matt Morley. He explains, “People my age use the web for everything, but politics is massively inaccessible online. If you want to know about an election you watch TV or someone you hear from once every four years puts a leaflet through your door”. He wants to bring politics up-to-date with the information age and ensure it has the same accessibility as other sectors by utilising the internet for political engagement. Morley’s long-term goal is to, “be the people who launch online voting.” Watch this space.

Solomon Akhtar – Instabear (now Socialbear) –  @instabearhq – @sollyakhtarSolly JWFormer Exeter student Solomon Akhtar is one of the founders of Instabear (now Socialbear), a startup app that provides instant photo printing services from different social media sites including, of course, Instagram. Akhtar explains, “We blur the gap between social media and physical experiences incentivising users to engage socially by rewarding them physically”.

Solly Akhtar, Tom Frew (co-founder) and their team have developed the concept from photo-printing to a full brand consultancy agency, enabling large consumer brands to evolve and connect with both the mass market and VIP audiences by integrating social media into their marketing, advertising and events. This July Instabear is celebrating its first birthday and the plans for growth are really exciting and innovative. With Jaguar Land Rover already on board, the future sure seems bright for Instabear.

The Red Brick Talks series will continue with detailed interviews and insights into these innovative youth businesses. The first detailed Talks interview will be with Solomon Akhtar and will highlight the ground breaking event social media tool Instabear.