The third annual finals of the Discovering Start-Ups competition took place in central London in November. David Taylor was there to see the winners announced
Wireless entrepreneurs from across the UK gathered in London last month at the finals of the Discovering Start-Ups 2012 competition. The competition, run by Cambridge Wireless in partnership with Silicon South West, gives an annual opportunity for technology start-ups and early-stage companies to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges made up of leading venture capitalists, ‘angel’ investors and wireless industry experts.
This year’s 20 finalists were each given five minutes to explain their technologies and business plans. The judging panel, which included senior executives from Broadcom, Vodafone Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Google, Orange, TTP Ventures, Cambridge Business Angels and Silicon Valley Bank, then whittled the list down to five winners.
Chairing the panel was Dr David Cleevely, chairman of Cambridge Wireless, a not-for-profit industry forum with a network of over 400 members involved in the development and application of wireless technologies. He summed up the day by saying: “Anyone who worries about the future of innovation and entrepreneurship in the UK only had to be at today’s pitches to see that we are still very much at the forefront of wireless and mobile technology”.
Simon Bond, founder of the Silicon South West industry network, added: “From chips to social media apps, the quality and diversity of finalists in this year’s Discovering Start-Ups clearly impressed the experienced panel of judges, who had a tough job choosing five deserving winners from the 20 different pitches. Discovering Start-Ups is a great showcase for emerging wireless technology and talent and we are already looking forward to next year’s competition.”
Along with their Discovering Start-Ups trophies, the five winners were presented with a £500 cash prize sponsored by Qualcomm Ventures and a free delegate ticket to the Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona provided by UKTI, plus an opportunity to speak at the Future of Wireless International Conference next July, organized by Cambridge Wireless, and a year’s free membership to SETsquared – a total value of around £5500.
As well as getting expert advice from the judges, the finalists heard from Debu Purkayastha, principal of new business development at Google, who presented the keynote address on entitled ‘Why Start-ups matter to the Big Tech Giants and what they look for in M&A or Investments’. And Miles Kirby, managing director of Qualcomm Ventures, Europe, gave a presentation on working with corporate venture capital to accelerate the success of a start-up company.
Anvil Semiconductors – this Coventry firm is using patented technology to develop silicon carbide power semiconductor devices for the same price as silicon technology. Jill Shaw, chief executive officer, said: “Silicon carbide has the ability to make systems more efficient, smaller, lighter and cheaper. That allows efficiency savings across the whole power spectrum.”
Dr David Cleevely, the chief judge, commented: “One thing that’s a bit of an issue is that with semiconductors the price tag for investment, as far as I’m concerned, is between $40 and $50 million to get you anywhere.
“One of the issues that you have is the difference between your licensing model and your make model – the transition there is not really clear. £200 million worth of revenue is possible, but I’d like to know if I were to invest a lot more about whether you’re going to emulate Arm, how you’re going to do that licensing and how all that is going to work. If you get that right, you could be sitting on a billion-dollar company.”
D-RisQ, from Malvern, offers automation of formal methods techniques to reduce the development cost of complex systems and software by up to 80 per cent while maximizing compliance. Business director Nick Tudor, said: “Formal methods is basically mathematics for software. It’s proving that the thing does do what you want it to do and nothing else.”
Dr Cleevely concluded: “If you can get anywhere near quantifying the cost savings so people can actually see that it’s worth paying, then you can start to do value-based pricing for this kind of approach and then you can start to make some serious amounts of money.”
Skin Analytics is a Cambridge firm offering a cloud-based service that uses smartphones for monitoring small changes in moles to detect melanoma skin cancers.
In his pitch, founder and director Julian Hall said: “Our technology is capable of analysing over 50 unique features of digital images of the skin, comparing them over time, and removing the noise that’s introduced by different camera angles, rotations and lighting conditions, and being able to pick up the physical changes in the legion itself.”
Dr Cleevely was impressed. He said: “If you went back 10 or 15 years and just thought about what the power of the devices that we now carry in our pocket and what we could do with them, you might come up with some lists of various things, but it’s stuff like this that makes you go ‘wow!’ How many more things that are yet to come forward will be sitting on our phones and helping save lives, helping save money and helping us improve our lives?”
Smart Antenna Technologies, from Bath, has developed an innovative single-antenna technology for portable devices, including 4G handsets.
Rick Hillum, chief executive officer, declared: “One antenna replaces all. The benefits are it’s highly efficient so it extends the battery life. It is also very low-cost – typically a 100-times saving on what is being used at the moment. It is also very compact and saves up to 75 per cent of the space used by current antennas.”
The judges were clearly excited by the concept. “Do your due diligence on all of this, make sure it’s all right”, Dr Cleevely advised. “But I suspect you’re on to a winner.”
TopicLogic, also from Bath, offers a web service to help busy professionals instantly find and share their files wherever they are.
Sebastian Toke-Nichols, chief executive, said: “Consider a marketing manager whose sole job it is to make sales collateral available to the sales force. What TopicLogic does is it goes through all the selected sources of information and it determines the topics of interest to that marketing manager. It then creates a map of those topics in the cloud, so that when the marketing manager enters a query they can find those results wherever they are, no matter what order they enter the subjects in.”
Dr Cleevely advised: “The one cautionary thing I would say is that any user who found they didn’t find the thing or it didn’t go into the right place, or even worse an email you didn’t expect to be accessed by somebody, is really a danger. For me that’s where I would get a bit nervous. On the other hand I think your general approach looks extremely good.”
• For more information on the finalists and winners and a full list of the panel of judges, visit www.cambridgewireless.co.uk/dsu