Travel€urry Triumph in Dragons’ Den finale
On 26 April 2016, Durham University Business School held the 9th annual Dragons’ Den competition. Sponsored by Business Durham and Bentley Motors Ltd, with support form Alumnus Visiting Professor Bryan Morton, and organised by Professor Ian Stone and Dr Julie Wilson, the competition is designed to stimulate student enterprise, including start-ups.
Students explore the practical aspects of new venture creation, through presenting (through a 6-minute ‘pitch’) their business idea and receiving feedback from the Dragons - business people experienced in starting, growing and advising small businesses. Neil Foulkes (UK sales manager for Bentley), Andrea McGuigan (development manager at Business Durham) and Steve Jackson (co-founder of Zoomworks and business mentor) made up the Dragons’ panel.
No fewer than 22 pitches were made at the semi-final stage, with five selected for the final to compete for £1000 in prize-money. The contestants developed their business ideas, in tandem with their studies, over a period of months, supported by mentorship and the StartGrid Accelerator programme,
The pitches went as follows:
Sloane Kuo, a student from British Columbia, Canada with Exploration Date, a watch incorporating GPS tracking, targeted at people who love to explore the countryside and allows their movements to be tracked to ensure safety and their easy location in the event of an emergency.
A team of Durham postgrad students: Jason Wensley, Mathias Schubert and Rayane Achich, with Travel€curry, a travel comparison website that helps travellers make better decisions on where to visit based on currency exchange rates and the relative purchasing power in each country, using interactive maps to see where certain flights, hotels and leisure activities are cheapest and where travellers get most value for money.
Yu Hu and Xinzhe Huang with Ideal Mentor, a careers and mentoring service specifically targeted Chinese students in the UK to connect them with suitable mentors from large organisations such as Goldman Sachs, pWC and JP Morgan in order for students to have a better chance of securing jobs in the UK.
Alex Rusby and Carl Meran, students at Durham’s Grey college with UrBooks, a smartphone app which serves as peer-to-peer platform for students to sell unwanted textbooks books to other students at their university or other institutions. The app differs from the likes of eBay and Amazon by charging a much reduced transaction fee than its competitors.
The Durham Applied Robotics and Technologies team, or DART, consisting of Benedict O'Donovan Caleb Bond and Jonathan Strawson, have produced a prototype robotic drink vending machine named Dionysys, which can create drinks and cocktails, including non-alcoholic ‘mocktails’, quickly and efficiently, minimising wastage and has the potential to dramatically reduce costs for business owners and licensees.
All of the pitches were confidently and professionally presented and the teams responded competently to the Dragon’s post-pitch questions and suggestions. The Panel awarded the 2016 prize to Travel€urry,based on their presentation and excellent market research. Their project is aimed at a niche gap in the travel comparison website market which their platform aims to fill.
Well done guys!
All contestant teams were presented with a bottle of ‘Bentley’ champagne, and were chauffeured to the post-event meal in a ‘Bentayga’, the latest Bentley model.