It’s without doubt the biggest day on the Generate calendar; after nine months of painstakingly whittling down over 300 fabulous business ideas, it was up to our Generate judges to decide who should finally be crowned the LSE Entrepreneur and Social Entrepreneur of the Year. No easy feat, I’m sure you’d agree – this is why we brought in some entrepreneurial know-how in the form of the following experts. It should be noted that for the first time ever in Generate history (all three years!), we decided that the criteria for who should win differed so much for general enterprises and social enterprises that we created two brand new panels – one to decide on a business that displayed real commercial clout and had the potential to disrupt existing industries through its innovative ideas, and another to look for one that created substantial social or environmental impact, here in the UK or abroad.
The commercial panel and winners
So, as they say on TV – let’s hear it for the judges!
On the commercial panel we welcomed a wonderful blend of entrepreneurial backgrounds ranging from angel investor Alex Green (who, as if he didn’t have enough time consulting and investing in startups, is about to embark on a PhD here at LSE – congrats Alex and good luck!); this year’s Generate lead and LSE Careers Consultant Anne Clinton; and for the first time ever we were extremely exited to welcome Gregory Polletta – professor, product designer and inspiring (and wonderfully charismatic!) entrepreneur to the panel. The three judges watched pitches from five impressive student teams, spanning five different industries including:
- motion-controlled filming for action sport cameras
- a speech-to-text voice diary iPhone app
- healthy smoothies and infusions with a difference
- A mobile and web application which shows you the cheapest flight destinations on the days you want to get away
The winning project was an exciting platform that empowers decision-makers through real-time people movement data. MISDI alumnus Denis Konoplev and Felix Neufelder set up disperse.io, a startup that is revolutionising crowd flow management. The founders have come a long way since we met them at our LSE Generate Berlin trek this time last year. Their project was accepted to participate in one of London’s top pre-seed accelerators, Ignite, and they have since then received interest from serious investors for future funding. We look forward to welcoming Denis, Felix and Allegra into our ever-growing group of ambassadors. They spoke of their much deserved win, afterwards:
Winning this award means a great deal to us. With or without it, we were set on helping LSE develop its entrepreneurial spirit, but this has given the validation and almost a ‘stamp of approval’ for people to trust and give weight to what we are trying to achieve.
Congrats Team disperse.io – we look forward to hearing how the next months pan out for you guys!
The social panel and winners
The social enterprise panel was made up of an equally as influential entrepreneurial crew: first off we were delighted to welcome a new pannelist Stephan Chambers from the recently founded Marshall Institute – check them out if you haven’t already as they are doing some fascinating work in the fields of social enterprise and philanthropy. Alongside him sat Chris Morris, serial entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of Sustainable Venture Development Partners, as well as Michael Norton, social innovator and Founding trustee of UnLtd (who has one of the best collections of recommendations on his LinkedIn profile including this beautiful one: ‘If you have a dream for social change, and an idea to bring it into reality, the chances are Michael Norton has already woven the magic carpet of voluntary sector connections and ongoing social change that can see your idea fly – and he is probably already looking for you.’) They set to work early afternoon to choose who should take home the title of Social Entrepreneur of the Year – a tough job as all three finalists showcased outstanding projects, which included:
- a social platform that gives young people of all backgrounds the chance to make their voice heard
- a social enterprise that creates coconut oil based cosmetics working in close partnership with smallholder farmer communities in Kenya.
After much deliberation the prize was awarded to Sauti (meaning voice in Swahili), a mobile-based bribery reporting and trade information platform for East Africa’s cross border traders. In her initial application, Julia Lipowiecka suggested that the experience of developing Sauti has shown her that passion and an in-depth understanding of the market or social need you are trying to address are vital for success. Her story demonstrates this perfectly and we cannot wait for her to inspire future LSE entrepreneurs with her knowledge and love for the project. Julia is currently based out in Africa so it was a highlight of the awards reception to be able to call her in front of a room packed full of students to inform her that she had won! It never works when they do it on TV so we were just a little bit relieved that she answered – apologies if we woke you up Julia, but I am sure you agree it was worth it!
The day culminated in an awards ceremony with the pizza guru Giuseppe Mascoli, co-founder of FrancoManca and his business partner Bridget Hugo, invited to speak about entrepreneurship in an anti-economics context – lots of food for thought…and lots of food generally as students helped themselves to some of his prize-winning pizzas! Grazie mille Giuseppe!
Thank you from the team
So, grab your tissues; that is the Generate programme over for another year. We’ve absolutely loved running the programme over the last nine months – as one judge wrote to this morning: the quality of these projects is increasing every year – this is down to the hardwork, resilience and expertise that so many LSE students display to us on a daily basis.
Remember LSE Generate is open all Summer – you can book entrepreneurial appointments with a careers consultant every Wednesday morning via CareerHub.
Bring on the next year and have a wonderful summer break – from Anne, Bobak and LJ (aka Team Generate).