A young businessman who designs eco-friendly footwear has won the MDXcelerator Grand Final, a programme for budding entrepreneurs who are current or former Middlesex University students.
Six finalists, who had been selected from around 100 applicants, pitched their business ideas to a panel of judges via Zoom last week.
In an exciting Dragon’s Den-style event, they were given seven minutes to promote their companies before a tough Q&A session.
The panel featured Nigel Wray who founded the Priory Foundation, an MDX graduate and senior Google marketer Danish Bagadia, Andrea Dlaska, Middlesex University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Learning and Innovation and Eeshita Azad, an MDX graduate and Fellow at Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy.
The first prize went to Aleksandr Sukhanov, a Second Year Neuroscience student, who has launched a business called WOA (Walking on Air) which produces Bio-TPU rain boots, and 100% bio-degradable shoes.
He has won a fantastic prize of £7,500 joint funded by the Priory Foundation and MDXcelerator to invest in his business.
Praising the competition, Mr Wray, who is a serial entrepreneur and MDX alumni, said:
”Every single company that has ever existed was at one time started by an entrepreneur.. That's why the MDXcelerator programme is so important, perhaps even more so in today's digital age. It was so good to hear the inventiveness and the passion of the Middlesex University students who’d fought their way through to a really excellent final.”
Mr Bagadia said: “MDXcelerator is an incredible programme, a perfect encouragement for the students in these tough times.
”I was impressed by the quality of student pitches and business ideas.
”We need universities to go above and beyond and that's exactly what Middlesex University has demonstrated with MDXcelerator.”
Eeshita Azad added: “It was very rewarding to listen to fresh young voices of the entrepreneurs from Middlesex university, as I am an alumna myself.”
Kimberley Elliott, who graduated in 2018 with a BSc Psychology and Criminology degree, won the second prize of £4,500 for her company AfroSOS, a new platform that uses AI technology to provide a personalised haircare experience for all people of colour.
Third-place winner Laila Ibrahim scooped a prize of £2,500 for her company Gradprentice which provides training programmes in UX Design and Digital Marketing and has already helped 14 graduates find employment.
Laila said: “Thank you, Middlesex University, for organising this competition and we would also want to thank all judges for recognising our business and giving us the motivation to move forward.”
The other finalists included Andre Thompson, who has a 3D Animation & Games degree and Masters in Creative Technology, and has launched a digital platform by students for students called Student Light, to improve their mental health, retention and success in higher education.
Jakub Holub, who graduated with a BA in Film this year, has created an app called Smart Life for London students which is full of tips and tricks that help you save time and money, and allow you to discover the capital city on a budget.
The final contestant was Shany Stephany who wants to launch a business called Faba.
Nic Beech, Middlesex University’s Vice Chancellor, said the six finalists had done “remarkably well” to be selected and hailed the competition as a “wonderful success” which is at the “heart of everything Middlesex stands for”.
He also thanked organisers Maria Olariu, a Digital and Project Coordinator for MDX Works, and Alan Stuart, Director of Employability Service at MDX Works.
Andrea Dlaska, Middlesex University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, said: "Hearing about our finalists’ work and seeing their success is one of the highlights of the year.
"It inspires students and staff alike, and our external panel members, successful entrepreneurs themselves, were deeply impressed with your their ideas and confidence.
"The participants made our job as judges difficult in a very positive way!"
Top picture shows from clockwise: Aleksandr Sukhanov, Kimberley Elliott, Jakub Holub,Andre Thompson and Laila Ibrahim.