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Destined for investment? – Meet the entrepreneurs pitching at Dragons’ Den 2017

Six bold student startups are making their final preparations before they go face to face with Future Worlds’ dragon investors at the hotly anticipated Dragons’ Den 2017 event on Saturday 13th May .

Future Worlds Mentors Lohan Presencer, Andrew Doe and Josh Valman are all ready to pledge real investment in return for equity in the startups, with over £190,000 having been agreed at the event’s previous two incarnations.

How will the entrepreneurs fare? This year’s event, in collaboration with the Fish on Toast and ECS Entrepreneurs student societies, will run from 12.30pm to 5pm at The Cube, Union Southampton, with refreshments and catering provided.

Read on to meet the students braving the heat of the Den in 2017:

Varun Gupta

If Varun already looks familiar, it might be that you’ve seen him in one of his 250+ videos on his vibrant YouTube channel. This enthusiastic second year Computer Science student has attracted more than 17,000 followers on the platform and accumulated over 1.4 million views. But will the dragon investors be subscribing to his ambitious business proposal?

“From a young age I’ve always loved trying new things and experimenting with new technologies,” he says. “I started thinking of my business idea when I was at a University careers fair, it’s become my passion project. I’m confident there is a market for it and I can’t wait for people to start using it. It’s a real challenge to make a startup a success, but I know you have to be incredibly driven and I am motivated to take this to market.”

Daniel Martinho-Corbishley and Jaime Lomeli

Jamie Lomeli, Daniel Martinho-CorbishleyPhD students Daniel (right) and Jaime (left) are experts in computer vision and are ready to impress the dragon investors with a business idea inspired by their research. The pair have combined their knowledge and skills to develop a proposal for the retail sector. The entrepreneurs plan to launch their business as soon as their studies are complete.

Daniel is no stranger to the pressure of a Dragons’ Den-style competition, having won a pitch competition with Visa Europe in London that challenged him to devise a commercial idea on the day and present it to an expert panel. He has also dabbled in the startup scene and once launched his own mobile app for contactless payments. “It’s going to be great to experience the live Den,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to it, both presenting and meeting the mentors and investors.”

Andreas Ostrovsky-Pereira

Andreas Ostrovsky-PereiraAndreas says he has been on an “incredible ride” developing a social enterprise for East Africa that he is now ready to present at the Den. He feels he has “realised that social entrepreneurship will be a fundamental part of my professional and personal future” during his studies for a BSc in International Relations at the University of Southampton.

His exciting startup journey has already taken him to the United Nations, where he has presented his project. There shouldn’t be any stage fright for this entrepreneur at The Cube then, but will the dragon investors be impressed and offer their backing to a scheme centred around sustainability?

Travis Ralph-Donaldson

Travis grey 3Travis is a software developer and Masters student at the University’s Web Science Institute. His entrepreneurial spark was evident from an early age and took his first foray into startups at the age of just 12 when he set up an internet business fixing scratched CDs. At 19, he then channeled his love for Far East culture by launching his own Japanese-themed internet cafe.

Travis says his startup idea, which he has been developing since December 2015, was born through necessity as he wrestled with complex language learning. “I’m really excited to be part of Dragons’ Den and think it’s going to be a really strong competition because there are some really good people pitching this year. I’m a bit nervous to be entering my first big competition but I’m sure it’s going to be a really good experience.”

Maciej Szpakowski, Przemek Zientala and Mauro Cozzi Gasparotti

Maciej Szpakowski, Przemek Zientala, Mauro CozziMaciej (left), Przemek (centre) and Mauro (right) are Computer Science, Geography and Acoustical Engineering students who became friends through student housing and a hackathon event. They’ve been brainstorming business ideas since being inspired by last year’s Dragons’ Den event and are now set to pitch their own innovative AI solution for the academic sector.

“At one stage we had a board full of ideas as we thought through the pros and cons of each,” Maciej explains. “The idea has evolved many times and – having spoken to potential users – we now have a clear mission we are working toward.” Mauro feels the deadline for Dragons’ Den has spurred the trio on with their plans and adds that they’ve “had a lot of fun doing it”. “I feel like our pitching has improved exponentially through the process,” Przemek says. “We’ve made real progress.”

Landon Vago-Hughes

Landon Vago-Hughes

Second year Mechanical Engineering student Landon is set to pitch his first ever startup scheme at the Den. He is pursuing an ambitious timeline for his business, which is aimed at the events market, to go live in September. “I saw what was out there in the market and could see how it could be done better,” he explains. “There is currently a monopoly and I want to change that.”

“It’s been difficult to work on the startup alongside my studies – especially because I’ve needed to teach myself coding on the side – but I’m determined to get through the challenge,” he adds. “I love what I’m doing and I want to work for myself. There are definitely some nerves before such a big event but I’m feeling confident. I’ve delivered my pitch to everyone I know, so I’m ready to face the Dragons.”

Southampton Dragons’ Den will take place from 12.30pm to 5pm on Saturday 13th May in The Cube at Union Southampton on Highfield Campus. Book your space to attend this year’s event here.

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Jon Nurse

Content Manager
Future Worlds

Jon compiles the latest innovations, articles and interviews for as the platform’s Content Manager. He is also helping researchers in Physical Sciences and Engineering impact society with their work as a Communications and Impact Officer at the University of Southampton. He previously worked as a Senior Reporter for the Trinity Mirror newsgroup.

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