Hull University Business School students compete in Dragons’ Den style challenge

Hull University Business School students experienced the challenge and excitement of the Dragons’ Den in a business pitching competition that emulated the style of the popular TV programme.

The final competition saw eight teams of students from the BA Business Management with Entrepreneurship degree programme compete against each other, as they presented their business idea, along with their business plan and strategy of how to make their concept become a reality.

Student Joseph Lund, the leader of the winning team, said: “The competition was a chance to apply some of the theory we have learnt into a real-world setting. To actually go on and win the competition was incredible! The opportunity was an extremely valuable one.”

Joseph’s team won the competition with their idea for an online platform, called Connectify, that seeks to connect businesses with relevant social media influencers. The platform reduces the amount of time businesses spend on searching for their ideal influencer, and also allows the influencer in more effectively monetising their audience.

Teammate Jeffrey Yudiarta Joe said: “Winning the competition showed us that the judges, just like ourselves, have faith that our business idea is a feasible one and something that can really make a difference in the community.”

Pitching competition
The winning team

Runners up in the competition were Football’s Finest whose concept was to design fashionable t-shirts for Yorkshire football team fans.

Samuel Sanderson, leader of the Football Finest team, said: “Having the opportunity to present an idea that we hold close to our hearts is a nerve racking but a fantastic experience. To hear feedback and genuine questions from successful entrepreneurs that we respect is wonderful and something I haven't really experienced before. I am very proud that our idea was placed 2nd and overall, it was truly one of the best days I have experienced in my time at the University of Hull.”

Sponsored by For Entrepreneurs Only (FEO) and an anonymous donation from a graduate, the teams were awarded £300 for first prize and £200 for the runners-up, with funds set to be channelled into making their businesses a success.

The panel of judges, which included FEO entrepreneurs from across the region as well as University of Hull graduate Dileepa Ranawake (co-founder/CEO Jisterly.ai), paid tribute to the calibre of the business concepts, presentation skills of the teams and their overall passion and commitment.

Jan Brumby, Chief Executive of FEO – a Hull-based organisation that helps entrepreneurs start a business, adapt and grow – acknowledged the additional challenges faced by the students of presenting online rather than in-person – as a result of COVID precautions. She said: “I was really impressed by the professionalism of the winning teams: their presentations, their team-working and their business concepts.”

Dileepa, whose company Jisterly.ai is a dyslexia friendly tool, that helps all professionals read their emails 5x faster by automatically extracting key information and actions from emails, also gave credit to the teams that shared their passion for their ideas and provided valuable advice for the students.

“The most fundamental thing you could be doing now is validating your business proposition by going out there and getting a customer.

“You need to be thinking as an entrepreneur: how can I validate that this idea works or it doesn’t? Think practically what you can do to move your business forward immediately.”


Pitching competition

Earlier rounds, which took place earlier in this academic year and gave students the opportunity to present their initial ideas, were also supported by a panel of FEO entrepreneurs from across the Hull/Humber region. The best ideas were then taken forward, and the students split into teams to try to turn them into a reality. Teams pitched on their progress in the competition final.

This recent contribution and support from FEO builds on a 10-year history of inspirational collaboration with the University, Business School and particularly the BA Business Management with Entrepreneurship degree.

During this time FEO have provided a mentor programme for final year students to provide support for business issues, as well as entrepreneur guest speakers who have covered a variety of subjects from entrepreneurship to marketing strategy, to emerging markets.

FEO members businesses have also provided opportunities for students to work on a number of live authentic business learning projects while undertaking business school modules. The group has also been influential in advising on curriculum content relating to entrepreneurship.

Antonio Malfense Fierro, lecturer in entrepreneurship and innovation at the Business School, said: “The support of FEO – who are a really amazing group of inspirational entrepreneurs – has been invaluable to the University, business school and particularly our existing and aspirant student entrepreneurs, many of whom take our entrepreneurship degree.

“FEO provides Business School students with a tangible link between the behaviours and practices of real entrepreneurs, the theoretical and applied content of their degree course.

“By their own example, they provide students with the confidence they can become entrepreneurs themselves and that they can turn their business ideas into reality.”

FEO member and judge Clare Atkinson, owner of Salt Revive in Beverley, said: “FEO’s aim has been to bring the course to life for the Business School students, by providing them with the entrepreneurial role models that will help them achieve success.

“The students we’ve worked with have always put forward fantastic ideas for businesses, which is testament to the calibre of the Hull University Business School.”

Jeffrey, from the winning team, paid tribute to their classmates and the panel of judges. He said: “We know how much the other teams had refined their businesses and prepared their pitches – so it means a lot to us to win. We would like to thank all the judges for their participation in the competition, providing us with critical advice and feedback to both our business idea and our presentation. It is definitely useful for us as students to refine our businesses and at the same time improve our public speaking and presentation skills.”

The panel of judges included: Amy Morgan (Barclays Eaglee Lab); Ian Lancaster (Founder and retired CEO of Reconnaissance International); Rachel Walden (Co-Founder Ray of Light Letters Ltd.); Simon Hudson (Founder Cloud2 and Kinata Ltd); Dean Adamson (Co-Founder Mummy Meagz Ltd.); Jan Brumby (CEO FEO); Clare Atkinson (Founder Salt Revive Ltd.); and Dileepa Ranawake; (Co-Founder Jisterly.Ai).

Jeffrey and Joseph also praised their fellow team members: “We would like to thank every single member of our team – Connectify: including Neel Chiplunkar, Lina Sedrati, and Moumin Mfam, for all the time, effort, and commitment – in not only seeing the competition through, but taking it as an invaluable opportunity to test ourselves as young entrepreneurs and to test our business idea to real-world entrepreneurs. We strongly believe that we would not have been able to win it if one of us hadn’t give their all. This triumph is a team effort – that we should all be proud of.”

The pitching competition, now in its seventh year (of its new format), is just one of the ways that Hull University Business School provides authentic business learning experiences for students.

Dr Malfense Fierro said: “The pitching competition is the highlight of the BA Business Management with Entrepreneurship degree. It has been running for over a decade in different formats. Each year we try to raise student performance, while increasing the rigour of the assessment by the panel. Our goal has always been to increase the supply of entrepreneurs in our region, and to build confidence, resilience and the skills relevant to a variety of career paths for our students.”

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