Disruptors: A competition for Brighton's most inventive minds

Ask any successful startup what the most challenging time for them was, and it’s guaranteed they will say “taking the first step”. Which is why ahead of their launch in January, Plus X Brighton launched DISRUPTORS. A competition for the city’s most inventive minds, seeking and rewarding local entrepreneurs with a sustainable idea.

Championing innovation and invention

Applicants are in with the chance of winning six months desk space and mentorship at Plus X Brighton Innovation Hub. This prize could be the determining success factor for a product in its early stages. With specialist support from business and product development experts and access to the fully equipped, state of the art workshop space. Plus X Innovation hubs are the most fertile environments from which to see your business thrive – and they’re offering this opportunity to one lucky entrepreneur with an idea for disruption.

Mat Hunter, co-CEO at Plus X, said, “Plus X Brighton champions innovation and invention which is why we are launching our first ever Disruptors competition. Whether you think of yourself as an entrepreneur and innovator, or just an optimist and challenger, an artist, maker or simply a person with a good idea who wants to make a positive change, we are seeking Brighton’s most inventive minds”

So, what is the Circular Economy? 

Unthinkable volumes of waste come from the products that we use, not only in the disposal but also in the manufacturing stages of product development. Meaning that good product design must move towards a more sustainable, circular and resilient place. For this reason, all product submissions for Disruptors must show evidence of integrating sustainable design and fit within a Circular Economy framework.

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation largely pioneered the Circular Economy concept, inspiring a movement away from the unsustainable, extractive and linear model that weighs heavily on a system of “take, make, waste”. The concept is focussed on moving economic activity away from the consumption of finite resources and by designing waste out of the system. The three principles that the Circular Economy Framework is based on are: Design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use and regenerate natural systems. It is these principles that will drive the panel’s decision for choosing the entrepreneur with the most disruptive and sustainable product idea.

On the panel…

  Editor and Founder of internationally recognised Startups Magazine, Daisy Stapley-Bunten is in our stellar line-up of specialist judges. An entrepreneur in her own right, Daisy was inspired by London’s entrepreneurial tech culture to celebrate the bravery of UK startups, giving them a platform to connect the dots through the monthly digital and print magazine. “Startups Magazine champions tech startups – the entrepreneurial heroes disrupting industries and the creators challenging norms and breaking boundaries.”

  Holly Price is the South East’s Relationship Manager for Santander Universities, the bank’s main CSR programme. Holly’s position with Santander is dedicated to nurturing the upcoming generation of entrepreneurs from universities based across the South East of England. “My role is to ensure we are focussed on helping students, graduates, staff, academics and their communities prosper”. The bank’s CSR programme has global impact through investment in education, spanning twenty countries and over one-thousand universities.

  Women of Wearables CEO, Marija Butkovik, brings her wide-ranging industry knowledge. The launch of the global Women of Wearables platform has seen her supporting, connecting and mentoring women and diverse groups in wearable tech, fashion tech, health tech and IoT. “WOW’s mission is to encourage more women and diverse teams to participate in building hardware and software products as designers, product managers and developers, or being founders of their own companies”. Marija has been featured in major tech and business publications such as Forbes, TechCrunch, The Next Web and Huffington Post. In 2017, 2018 and 2019 she was selected as one of the Most Influential Women in UK Tech by Computer Weekly.

  And finally! very own Plus X Co-CEO, Mat Hunter, offers a wealth of knowledge in product design and UX. Mat started his career in Silicon-Valley with world renowned innovation agency IDEO, working with startups and corporates to pioneer digital products and services. He has been Chief Design Officer at the Design Council and is a recognised thought-leader, lecturing at both design and business schools. 

 A city gaining momentum on the UK tech scene 

The city of Brighton and its surrounding regions has fast been gaining momentum as a hotspot for UK digital and technology talent. It is a magnet for innovation with a wealth of expert agencies and diverse startups and scaleups. With direct links to London, Brighton has also been recognised as one of the optimum places to start a business in the UK. Plus X Brighton will be building on this momentum, providing the winning Disruptor the ultimate spot for kickstarting their business.

  Jonathan Sharrock, Chief Executive of Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, which contributed £7.7 million from their Local Growth Fund to help create Plus X Brighton, said: “We are excited to be supporting this transformational project which will create a thriving space for local businesses, bringing tangible benefits to the local community and the city as a whole.”

Disruptors: More than a competition

Disruptors is not just a local competition. It is a spotlight on positive social and economic impact. Brighton is a hub for inventive and creative business. Through wider connection, collaboration and celebration, Plus X aims to support and nurture local business and community, driving prosperity, social and economic success.

Demo Day: Where an amazing journey begins

On 26th November, CRL partner U+I will be hosting the latest showcase from our resident modern British inventors… It’s time for the CRL Demo Day
Five exciting hardware startups are near the end of their CRL Accelerator Programme and they’ll be celebrating with an evening of pitches, and product demos, aimed at piquing the interest of invited investors and potential partners. 
But the CRL Demo Day isn’t only about finding investment… it’s much more than that. It’s the start of an amazing journey. Demo Day is a great chance for the Accelerator cohort to pull together everything they’ve learned, and to showcase their new and improved hardware concepts, before taking the next steps. 
They’ll each take to the stage, in front of friends, family and special guests, to give a five-minute presentation on their business and product plans, and to ask for whatever they need to make it happen. As well as their five minutes in the spotlight, they’ll also have a demo stand, in the main room, where guests will be able to get hands-on with their prototypes and chat with the entrepreneurs over drinks.
In the remaining weeks, between now and Demo Day, our tech entrepreneurs will be busy getting prototypes, pitch decks and presentation skills, to a professional standard. After all, those tangible assets will be the key to conveying the credibility of their business to potential partners, funders and customers. 
For those going through the process, at CRL or elsewhere, here’s a little reminder to make sure you get the most from the opportunity that is a Demo Day.

Countdown to D-Day

Make the most of external resources: You don’t have to do it all alone. If you’re lucky enough to have access to resources like the CRL team, a co-working space and high-tech workshops, and mentors… make them work for you. For everything from last minute advice, to a sounding board or a sanity check… they’ll be happy to help you get it right.
Practice, practice, practice: If you’re comfortable that you know your stuff inside out, and you’re happy with how your AV is working, that will be one less thing to worry about. So, practice everything you want to say including how you’ll deal with questions or presentation gremlins. 
Research your audience: Find out who’ll be there on the day, make sure you know who you’ll want to speak to and what you’ll want from them. Get your elevator pitch ready so that you know what you’re going to say if you suddenly find yourself face-to-face with a potential investor, advisor or customer, with only a minute to make that impression.

On D-Day

Don’t forget to breathe: Presenting isn’t everyone’s thing (to be fair, most people hate it!), but remember, everyone will be rooting for you. Try to enjoy it… you’ll be in the best company.
Make an announcement: If you’ve got something big, new and exciting to announce, like a new deal, order or business partner, this is a great place to tell the world about it. Also, whether it’s an investment, a mentor or additional partners, you’re after, make sure you tell the audience what you need next.
Network: Take the opportunity to speak to key contacts and work the room, because you never know who you might meet unexpectedly. Also, don’t forget that networking isn’t just about you… you might be able to help someone else and, who knows, it might come back at a later date…

Post-D-Day: Don’t let the dust settle

Follow up: Don’t forget to follow up with your contacts as soon as possible after the event. Remind them about your conversation and, if it’s appropriate, suggest meeting up for a proper discussion.
Share your experience: Write a short blog piece, for your website or a guest blog, about how it all went… and don’t stop there. Your supporters will want to know how things go so keep them up-to-date with a regular e-newsletter.
Stay in touch with your accelerator: Even after the programme, the CRL team and mentors will still be around to support you so make sure you stay in touch and ask for what you need. 
The CRL Demo Day is a big milestone. It may be the end of the Accelerator programme but it’s the beginning of your journey as an entrepreneur. It’s also a great chance to show all the people that have supported you up to now (even when they didn’t quite get it) what it is that you’re so passionate about.

Tips from someone who knows

Lauren Bell, Founder of Cosi Care and previous cohort member, is an award-winning tech entrepreneur who has gone through the CRL Demo Day. We asked her what advice she would give to the cohort members who’ll be pitching in November.
LB: The best advice I would give is to mentally prepare for an investment journey. Have a good idea in your mind of how you want to raise money and who you would like on board. Talk to as many people as you can on the evening, make notes on any business cards you receive that will remind you of your conversation, and always follow up with them after the event with an email to solidify that connection. You may have met someone that evening that seemed like a relatively brief encounter, and it could transpire that they will become a valuable link for your company for either securing investment or a contact that will help your company grow to the next level. 
We were also keen to find out the first thing she did straight after the high of her Demo Day.
LB: It’s an exciting period after Demo Day with a lot of ups and downs. The first thing I did after it was get incredibly upset that I hadn’t signed a shareholder’s agreement on the spot. I was very naive about how securing investment would work and expected an instant result. I realise now that it takes time to make these relationships and generate interest with an investor. Stay positive and proactive and you will get results. 
Book your place now and join us in supporting our tech entrepreneurs at Demo Day on 26th November. 
Applications are now open for the next CRL Accelerator programme. The deadline for applications is 1st December so, if you want to follow in the footsteps of many other successful tech startups, you can find more details and apply here.

BOOST is coming soon

As we get ready to launch the next iteration of BOOST, reacquaint yourself with what the programme consists of, how you can get involved and what those that have been involved have gone to achieve! BOOST launches in March 2019, if you’d like to express your interest prior to this, please see details below.
CRL gives a BOOST to established start-ups with its new programme
There’s no denying that the business of hardware is highly competitive and start-ups can fail without a helping hand. After the initial joy of developing the perfect product, some start-ups then struggle to scale up and grow their business. So, how do they get the much-needed business support to take them to the next level…?
Businesses that have gone through the CRL Accelerator programme will already have had the advantage of six months of product development support, mentoring and investment advice, to get them on the right road… But, where to next…?
CRL’s latest BOOST programme covers the next stage for hardware businesses that are ready to take that step. It’s aimed at established entrepreneurs, not just CRL cohort members, and focuses on the big topics that growing businesses need to get to grips with. It’s designed to support them in developing robust business strategies, securing further investment and generally improving on key business and leadership skills.

eligible entrepreneurs… can choose more than 12 hours of workshops, and training events, to suit themselves, over the 12 months

The BOOST programme is flexible and built up of training blocks, and mentoring, delivered by high-profile entrepreneurs, and industry experts, who’ve been there and successfully done that. As businesses generally have different skillsets, and time pressures, another big advantage for eligible entrepreneurs is that they can choose more than 12 hours of workshops, and training events, to suit themselves, over the 12 months. At the moment, block sessions cover: partnerships, investment, finance, HR and organisational development, product development, and sales.

The BOOST programme is flexible and built up of training blocks, and mentoring, delivered by high-profile entrepreneurs, and industry experts, who’ve been there and successfully done that

BOOST is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) so it’s free for eligible businesses. Since its launch, BOOST has supported more than 40 businesses. In that time, 20 of them have finished the programme and gone on to even greater things.
If you’re an established hardware entrepreneur who wants to give your business a BOOST, and think you might be eligible for the programme, you can find out more here or contact Programme Manager, Alice Johnson, alice@centralresearchlaboratory.com.