LONDON – The China - UK Entrepreneurship Competition Workshop took place on 21 June 2017 at Cocoon Networks London. On this occasion, eight teams out of fifteen were selected to participate in the semi-final of the China - UK Entrepreneurship Competition, which will be held at Lancaster University on 7 July 2017.
The China - UK Entrepreneurship Competition was officially launched on Tuesday 14 March 2017 at the Newcastle Civic Centre. The contest aims to foster business collaborations between China and the UK, providing young entrepreneurs with the opportunity to refine their business planning skills while creating connections with prospective investors. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the competition, which started running in 2008. Backed by governments, academic institutions and companies both in Britain and in the UK, this competition has now become a central event of the vibrant Sino-British tech scene.
This year’s competition is co-hosted by Northumbria University, Lancaster University, the University of East Angelia, and Cocoon Networks – Europe’s latest international Chinese-backed investment platform and financial investment consultancy. Cocoon Networks’ wide range of services – that include venture capital investment, a business accelerator, co-working spaces and IP management – can importantly benefit early-stage startups such as those participating in this competition. The best-performing startups will have access, amongst other things, to a free/discounted incubator space at Cocoon Networks’ London office. This will also allow them to take part in Cocoon Networks London’s enriching accelerator programmes.
This year’s mentors were Professor David Brown of Lancaster University, Professor Rose Quan of Northumbria University, Professor Carol Daniel of City University, andCocoon Networks Partner Elson Zhou.
Professor David Brown commented on the importance of mentoring and on the significance of this competition:
“The mentoring part of this competition is crucial. It’s useful to remember this is an early-stage competition so we don’t expect university teams to come here with a fully-formed proposal. The workshop is deliberately designed to allow ideas to develop during the day. This means that the thinking of the teams when they leave can be changed by the events of the day, and this has happened in most of the cases. This is a very valuable exercise and it provides a mentor with the opportunity to go beyond written statements and to get a sense of the strength of the teams as individuals. In fact, in any entrepreneurship venture one needs to have confidence in the team, not just in the paperwork.”
The Workshop was initiated by Mr Zhou, who delivered a short presentation regarding Cocoon Networks; he described Cocoon Networks’ mission and its structure. Mr Zhou also mentioned the wide range of services available at Cocoon Networks’ London office, where the China - UK Entrepreneurship Competition Workshop was held.
Nelson Zhou, Cocoon Networks Partner, introduces Cocoon Networks
Professor David Brown then took the floor to explore the meaning and the purpose of business models. His presentation conveyed the importance of business models through a short analysis of their role in the creation of a successful, financially sustainable and beneficiary-focussed business.
Professor David Brown discusses Business Models
Throughout the day, each of the 15 teams had a private 30-minute conversation with one of the mentors. Every group then gave in a filled-in business model canvas, which was used in the selection process. The business model template required the team members to identify the following: key partners, key activities, channels, key resources, value propositions, customers, relationships, customer segments, cost structure and revenue streams.
The team proposals focussed on a range of sectors. Here are three examples.
One of the teams, Art Project, wants to make bespoke art more accessible, changing the widespread perception that bespoke art is “only something the wealthy can gain access to”. The platform they are designing would allow a user to pick both an artist and the subject of the painting they would whish to purchase. The option of ordering highly personalised paintings, such as portraits, would also be available. George and Jean-Yves also aim to give young graduates in Fine Arts the opportunity to gain experience and work in their filed of choice.
The Dr Panda team instead came up with a hospital ‘self-service waiting chair’ able to carry out body checks and to immediately share diagnoses with the internal hospital system. This would allow those with more evident serious conditions to instantly gain higher priority to treatment. They emphasise this would make an important change in rural areas of China, for example, where children are negatively affected by long waits in hospitals. The project indirectly aims to also raise awareness on limited healthcare provision and specific diseases in certain regions of China.
From an unmistakably environmental perspective, the team PET Plastics conceived a concept that allows to turn waste plastic into quality plastic (‘Virgin r-PET’) using less resources. An innovative enzymatic technology eliminates complex steps from the conventional - and costly - processes of sorting and recycling. A new PET-digesting enzyme splits PET up into two safe chemical components, thus making recycling procedures considerably cheaper. This technology would thus allow to recycle more plastic than was previously possible without compromising the quality of the output.
Before the semi-finalists were announced, Cocoon Networks CEO and Founder John Zai made a closing speech complimenting everyone on their hard work and wishing everyone good luck with their future endeavours.
John Zai, CEO and founder of Cocoon Networks, praises all teams for their hard work
The teams selected to take part in the semi-final of the China - UK Entrepreneurship Competition are Whistle, BPMN3D, Smart Gym, Panda Lab, LoMaRe Technologies, PET Plastics, LCRA and Dr Panda.
Here are a few reactions after the semi-finalists were revealed…
“We are really motivated to start our company”
“…this is an excellent opportunity to bring our ideas forward!”
“Today was all about pitching our idea and for the semi-final we should take more care about the operational aspects and our day-to-day procedures, in addition to specifically thinking about how we could get our first customers. This is going to be a lot of work but we look forward to it!”
“It’s exciting to get into the semi-final. Also I think the way Cocoon organised the event is perfect. To be honest I would have never imagined that startup incubators in the UK could be of such large scale…”
“Coming to Cocoon Networks today and meeting students from other universities was a great opportunity.”
“Initially our ideas were not exactly perfect but the mentors gave us really useful advice. After the mentoring session we discussed changes that reflected the tips we were given by our mentor. This improved our project a lot and that is the reason why we moved to the next round.”