It’s a start that seems familiar as start-ups go: a young entrepreneur developing websites in his bedroom. Yet what distinguishes Zain Jaffer from the thousands of others who will recognise the beginning of his journey, but for one reason or another let their dream fall by the wayside, is that he’s made it.
Zain – whose company, Vungle, so impressed internet giants including AOL and Google that he raised investment from them to the tune of £1.2 million earlier this year – is just one of several UCL graduates who have recently made an impact on the entrepreneurship scene in London, Silicon Valley and beyond.
The former UCL student, 24, and his business partner Jack Smith, 23, were awarded the money after attending what he described as “an entrepreneurs’ boot camp” in California.
Many, including Zain, are former students of UCL’s MSc Technology Entrepreneurship programme, one of the most popular with international students, who often chose to study with us to experience the thriving entrepreneurial culture of London and the cutting-edge curriculum the degree provides for those interested in starting their own business in the tech or media industries.
Students have come from China, Malaysia, Chile and mainland Europe to benefit from the programme in recent years.
Michael Langguth, 26, is one of those who has made the journey – in his case, from Germany – to benefit from the programme. His business, Poq studio, is a mobile retail app developer focusing on small and medium enterprises in the fashion industry and was started when he met his business partner, Oyvind, 32, during the course.
Since graduating, Poq studio has gone from strength to strength – and its success has recently attracted significant funding from Venrex Investment Management, a leading UK fashion investor, to develop their business further.
Despite the global recession, London has become a prime centre for investment in promising start-ups. Another graduate of UCL, and a beneficiary of the support programme we have in place for students and graduates keen to start their own business, is Raoul Tawadey, founder of Circalit, which has just gained funding from investment group the London Business Angels.
Raoul’s business – an innovative digital publishing platform which aims to become the ‘Youtube for eBooks’, and a place where writers can publish their books on the web and mobile devices – has benefitted from long-standing support from UCL Advances, including a Bright Ideas Award to provide seed funding for his idea and space, free of charge, in the university’s hatchery.
Thanks to the success of the Olympics, the eyes of the world are on London this year – not just as a sporting venue, but as a cultural hub, a financial centre and as the nexus for one of the most exciting habitats for entrepreneurs in the world. UCL is taking every step to ensure we’re part of it – through building incubator space in Tech City to supporting students and graduates wanting to set up their own businesses with funding, mentoring and encouragement. There is no better time to be part of it.
Timothy Barnes is Director of UCL Advances, the university’s centre for entrepreneurship.
For more information about the MSc Technology Entrepreneurship at UCL, please visit http://www.ucl.ac.uk/msi