App for spotty teenagers wins start-up award

Stephan Shakespeare
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BACK in July I wrote about the launch of StartUp Summer, a scheme to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship among students, organised by YouGov with University College London and Imperial College and supported by Downing Street.

It has been a fantastic six weeks, with the students making great progress in developing their ideas while learning from a series of skills shops and masterclasses given by the likes of Luke Johnson, Martha Lane-Fox and Ben Elliott.

Yesterday the six teams pitched to a group of venture capitalists and a judging panel who chose the team that they felt had the greatest business potential to win a cash investment.

Running alongside that was a second competition, in which teams worked on ways to bring existing YouGov and UCL innovations to market. That prize was awarded to the team that had moved their idea forward the most and closest towards a viable launch.

There were some great pitches from a number of teams with ideas such as a collaborative photobook; a way to embed the digital “like” button across the real world; a company offering downloadable web companions to “unleash the power of the mouse”; Seeds for Students (which pretty much speaks for itself); a smartphone app for witnesses reporting crimes; and a business selling environmentally friendly bamboo clothing. All great propositions, but it is perhaps not surprising that in 2011 both prizes were won by app based businesses.

The winner of the main investment, announced at the awards ceremony at Coutts last night, was, a smartphone and web platform that grades and tracks skin health for people with acne, and which demonstrated a definite benefit to both patient and doctor.

It is very much an “on trend” idea and the clear business plan that they produced, which prioritised the customer even more than some of the other plans, made them much deserved winners.

The second competition was won by another team, which put in a great performance by building a conference app that would enable conference organisers to have a cost-effective app holding all their event information in one place and, crucially, provide a way of bringing interested delegates together.

Thanks are due to everyone involved in the process and congratulations to both winners and all the other teams, many of whom I am sure have futures as the business leaders of tomorrow.

Stephan Shakespeare is chief executive of YouGov