By Jonathan Davies
After months of planning, preparation, pitching and applauding, the inaugural Making Business Happen awards ended with four winners being given a launchpad to future success.
After the awards ceremony, I caught up with the winners to chat about their business, the awards and where they see themselves going.
Organised by the University of South Wales (USW), one of the categories was open to just current students at the university. MBA student Evan Tamblyn came out on top for the USW Entrepreneurs Challenge for his business, StartWrite.
StartWrite is an app that helps students stay on track with their assignments. It’s a to-do list, but specifically for students. It encourages students to think about all of the smaller tasks which are associated with a given assignment by creating various ‘to-dos’. An algorithm then attempts to pinpoint how far along in the assignment a student is and provides tips accordingly.
"I didn’t even consider writing a speech actually. I saw all of the great ideas that I was up against and figured that I’d be happy just to get 3rd place!" Evan said.
"After 3rd and 2nd place had been announced, I was sure I had lost out. But to have won against the other great start-ups was quite a shock. I am very honoured to have won the top prize."
Perhaps the biggest shock in winning for Evan was that he primarily entered to gain feedback on the business. He said: "We are always looking for the next opportunity to share our ideas with people and to get feedback. In fact, one of my primary motivations for the pitch was to ask the judges, who have so much experience, for their thoughts on what we are trying to do.
"Because the competition was hosted at our home University, it was an easy decision to enter."
So what was it about StartWrite that impressed the judges? Evan says the timing has "never been better for a product like this".
"The edtech industry is really becoming a focal point across the UK, and beyond. Universities are recognising that the techniques that were used in the 20th century are no longer the best ways of educating our students. New forms of technology are allowing Universities to re-think and streamline many of their processes," he explained.
One of the key messages put across by the organisers of the awards was that Making Business Happen is about celebrating and support the success of young entrepreneurs, providing them with a platform. And Evan is under no illusions about the importance of the awards.
He said: "I think they’re vital to the success of young entrepreneurs. Especially when a business is just starting up, there are often very few ways for entrepreneurs to validate their ideas without just jumping into it.
"The Making Business Happen competition is more than a celebration, more than an award, and more than just recognition; it is about meeting like-minded people, getting feedback on your ideas, and getting motivated to keep striving for the next milestone."
And finally, after the glitz and glamour of being named University of South Wales Entrepreneurs Challenge winner in 2015, what is next for Evan Tamblyn and StartWrite?
Evan said: "We have some pretty ambitious ideas for where StartWrite can go in the future. But first and foremost, we must increase the accessibility of the app by expanding to Android, and Windows operating systems. The prize money will be the first step in seeing those expansions come to fruition and will get us that much closer to being able expand the product, beyond its current version.
"We will also be engaging with the Bright Ideas team at the University of South Wales which provides start-ups with business advice and mentoring on an ongoing basis.
"Additionally we’re hoping to build a relationship with the Centre of Excellence in Mobile Applications and Services at USW which has a business support programme that can work with SMEs in the convergence area of Wales by helping them develop, test and find a route to market for their mobile application product."