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Student entrepreneurs create businesses for 'Dragons' Den' competition

Screenshot 2022 05 18 162114

On Tuesday 15 March, as part of the Management in the Real Estate Sector module, undergraduate students presented their own business ideas in a 'Dragon's Den' style competition. The event was organised by Dr Matteo Borghi, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Henley Business School, through a collaboration with the Real Estate and Planning department and the Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship (HCfE) hosted the Dragons’ Den 2022 event.

Six 'dragons' - experts in Entrepreneurship and Real Estate - were invited to create two panels. They assessed a total of 15 teams presenting their new venture ideas. The challenge for students was to apply entrepreneurial tools to develop a business idea, with a unique selling point able to disrupt existing practices in the real estate sector solving a real-world problem.

Professor Andrew Godley, academic director of the HCfE and Jurek Sikorski, Executive Chairman of the HCfE were part of the Dragons’ panel alongside industry experts, such as Hugo Silva, investment manager at Pi Labs and Matthew Partridge, founder & CEO of Infabode and chairman of the UK PropTech Association. Rita Nasr, doctoral researcher in Real Estate and Planning and Lottie Watts, director of Construction & Real Estate also featured as judges.

During the final commentary, Jurek Sikorski and Lottie Watts provided feedback on a collective basis. Dragons commended students for their passion and energy in their presentations. They were pleased with the effort put by students into their projects especially in conducting primary research to support their new venture ideas providing early proofs of desirability.

Winning teams – MetaStates and JustSpace

The winning teams for this year's competition were the businesses MetaStates and JustSpace.

Metastates aimed to provide a sustainable future for the world of investment and real estate, bringing it to the metaverse and was created by Ellis Charalambous, Jack Gotley, Joe Kinahan, Ben Kirwan, Tom Lewis and Zeyn Peel.

JustSpace, a company designed to effectively utilise free space and create a sense of togetherness by supporting businesses and communities across the UK, was created by Joshua Brody, Edward Hardwick, George Paraskeva, Edward Williams, Abigail Harris and Adina Roman.

The winners were asked what they enjoyed most about the Dragon's Den event, what their experience as a team has been and how they felt during the presentation and final prize-giving ceremony.

On the one hand, Joe Kinahan, Corporate Director of MetaStates commented saying:

“This project was a great chance to meet other real estate students to further our connections when we inevitably leave Reading. We all thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of persuading the Dragons’ that our idea had potential and a future.

The team building was brilliant and allowed us to rely on each other to present comfortably on the day. Dragons' Den gave us a chance to really work together and show the importance of hearing other people’s ideas. In the end, we developed a creative service that wouldn’t have been possible if the team didn’t listen to each other's thoughts. Despite this being a project, this was a serious chance to show our entrepreneurial side, which we will have to utilise outside of university and find innovative ways to resolve issues.

With regards to presentation day, we were nervous before entering the Den. However, after practising several times, we were confident that there were no gaps and eager to show the Dragons how passionate we were about our service. When the time came for the Dragons to ask questions, we were so well rehearsed and confident that our answers came with ease. It was great that the dragons could see all the hard work we put towards this project by awarding us as one of the two most investible ideas.”

On the other hand, Josh Brody, CEO of JustSpace:

“The idea of Just Space came to use surprisingly quick, with just a few group meetings. We constantly worked on the concept and developed it to ensure it was as viable as possible. There were many ups and downs when working together as a group, but we eventually clicked and worked very well as a team, and we even had some fun along the way!

We were all most certainly nervous on the day of the presentation, as public speaking is not something we were all confident with. However, we practised our parts and rehearsed many times before the day and the presentation went smoothly.

This project really helped improve our teamwork, public speaking and creative thinking skills. It was great to have the opportunity to present in front of the dragons, who made some kind and helpful comments at the end of our pitch. So overall, although it was an incredibly challenging project, as we had little time to develop the business idea, it was definitely an enjoyable experience!”

As a final remark after the event, Dr Matteo Borghi said:

“The Dragons’ Den [event] is a unique challenge for Real Estate and Planning students to help them think creatively and build the entrepreneurial mindset that can make the difference in their future career path. I am thankful for the high level of commitment displayed by our students and acknowledged by the Dragons which has made this year’s Dragons’ Den a big success!”

Professor Andrew Godley added:

"The Dragon’s Den event showed us just how many Real Estate and Planning students were totally captivated by the idea of creating a new business related in some way to their degree subject. The results were amazing!"

Dr Matteo Borghi

Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Published 18 May 2022
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