Funding Update: Team Gryphos

Team Gryphos: Santander winners and funding awardees

Patrizia Carbone, Sebastien Combret and Kyaw Tun Sein received an enterprise funding award in March 2016 which allowed them to attend and win Santander’s Big Ideas competition in London. In this update, they share their motivations, ambitions and where they hope their idea will go next.

We are three MSc International Innovation students; Patrizia and Sebastien are on the Design pathway and Kyaw is on the Engineering pathway.

We met almost 2 years ago at Lancaster University when we started the MSc and we worked together during the first year on a couple of course projects before moving to China for six months in our second year. The three of us have always had a desire to start our own business. So, in the streets of Guangzhou (China) we started meeting and thinking about our next steps. We all had different ideas about a possible product/service but we decided that to make OUR idea we needed one that came from the three of us together.

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After endless brainstorming meetings, tons of post-it notes we had a common problem that we wanted to solve…from there we looked, discussed different possible solutions to solve it and came up with the one we felt more suitable. We got feedback from potential users by survey and interviews.

We started working on the project, prototype etc. and decided we were going to apply for a start-up incubator and work toward applying for HAX, the world’s first and largest hardware accelerator based in Shenzhen.

While working on the project we found out, thanks to the Enterprise Centre, that there was the Santander Big Ideas Competition coming up soon, we thought it could be a good start to apply and see what feedback we could get from it. Therefore, we adapted our original idea to fit into the requirement of the competition and Gryphos was born. Gryphos is a fingerprint and ECG digital authentication device that allows you to securely enter your online banking account and make payment securely through NFC (near field communication – a form of contactless communication between devices likes smartphones or tablets).

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When we are working together on our project, we feel like children playing. We are serious about solving the problem to make a difference in the world but it is also so much fun. There is a positive energy and a great sense of curiosity among the team. When one team member has an idea to try out, we all give it some thought and we give it a try most of time. We even ended up hacking the iphone!

From there it went pretty fast, we successfully passed the different stages of the application selection and we got the invitation to the semi-final in London on 22nd March. We were not sure we could make it since we were still in China, but luckily for us the Enterprise Team was very helpful and through our application to the Enterprise Fund, we were able to purchase our flight tickets and the team gave support answering the millions questions we had. Finally, we were able to attend and…won the competition!

It has been a great experience and one of the best parts of it was the feedback we received from the executive board at Santander because it gave an insight on the way our device could be used that, for lack of experience, we had not thought about it. We were also invited to visit Santander R&D department in Milton Keynes and attend, as guests, the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards 2016, at the end of June.

After the competition, we came back to Lancaster University to finish our dissertations and to keep working on our projects. Coming back to LU was the best option since we can access to all the services and help the university makes available to students. The Enterprise Centre was and still is very supportive. We also managed to get our own office on campus through Furness’ Mind Your Own Business and that makes working together much easier.

At the end of April, we sent the application for HAX incubator and a week ago we had the first interview with them, we still have work to do and another interview in the next few days.At the same time we applied for a IoT startup bootcamp in London a few days ago, we are still waiting for the outcome.

If you’d like to apply to the Lancaster University Enterprise Fund too, why not take a look at our funding pages here to find out more?


What we learnt from the National Apprentice Challenge 2016

nac2016 team2

Learning to work as a team, keep calm and share the load

In March 2016, we, along with the Careers team, supported four students to represent Lancaster at the National Apprentice Challenge. The team, Dmitrii Ishutin, Anais, Adley Chan and Christopher Scanlon had already proved their aptitude for competitions after taking home third place during FLUX 2016 and we were more than happy to support them to take on another challenge together. Here’s their take on the experience.

On 12th-13th March 2016 Lancaster University students, supported by Careers and the Enterprise Team, and sponsored by Santander Universities, took part in the National Apprentice Challenge 2016 held in Birmingham at Aston University. This year, teams from more than 20 UK universities participated in the competition.

The challenge lasted for two days and consisted of two tasks that evaluated our different skills and competencies. On the first day we used special simulation software to run our own airline company. The conditions were as close to real life as possible, meaning that all business aspects should have been taken in mind – price strategy, marketing research, understanding of customer behaviour, R&D, HR and many others. The simulation was divided in 7 business cycles of 30 minutes each, so all the decisions we made were limited by this time constraint.

The second day of the challenge started with a new task – to propose an idea of a new social network and deliver a 3-minute pitch followed by 5-minute Q&A session to the panel of judges. We had only 4 hours to come up with an idea, to conduct research and to prepare our pitches. Our team focused on the idea of social network for Small- and Medium-size businesses (SMEs). As a team, we tried to answer such questions as why 9 out of 10 businesses or start-ups close down within 4 years, how can we tackle these issues and help them not only survive for a longer time but also be profitable and competitive. Eventually, we proposed to develop a platform where SMEs representatives could negotiate price, make bulk orders, establish partnership and solve issues with like-minded businesses around the globe.

Overall, NAC 2016 was an interesting experience, and thanks to LU Enterprise team and Careers, we were able to take 7th place out of 21. Although we did not win, we learned to work better in a team, to keep calm under pressure and effectively divide labour. It was a valuable experience definitely worth doing!

LU businesses win at Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards

Roomshake and @ShrimpingIt are LU winners


Cefn Hoile (PG), Zac Garton and Josh Jahans (UG) have won awards at the final of the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards in London this week.

Cefn’s @ShrimpingIt offers open programmable electronics for UK educators and took third place in the postgraduate category of the national competition, whilst Roomshake, created by Zac and Josh, helps young professionals find flatmates and quality accommodation and was placed second of the undergraduate entries. Each of the six finalists have won cash prizes ranging from £1000 to £20,000.

Read more here.


Tom and Fraser: Back from San Francisco

Silicon Valley is the place to be for tech start ups


In April 2015,  LU students Tom Young and Fraser Williams, went on a trip of a lifetime to San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Meetings with venture capitalists, visits to Google and Stanford University, and even breakfast outside Twitter, the pair made the most of their fantastic opportunity in the Californian city and are willing to share their experience and advice on pitching, networking and entrepreneurship.

Tom and Fraser’s trip was sponsored by several groups who they wish to thank:

“Our trip was funded through four sources, which we’d like to extend our highest gratitude to. Santander Universities, Lancaster University Enterprise Centre, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster University’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development – thank you!”

To read about what the pair got up to in San Francisco and what they learnt on the way, access Fraser’s blog here.