Two Kent students have received £1,000 prize money at Kent Business School’s Business Start-Up Journey Finals for their automated plant-watering product, Plantix.
The co-curricular Business Start-Up Journey is open to all University of Kent students interested in setting-up their own business and gaining entrepreneurial skills.
The 15-week programme welcomes all students at the University of Kent. ASPIRE (Accelerator Space for Innovation and Enterprise) is based in Kent Business School in the Sibson building, Canterbury and at the Medway campus.
This programme provides a step-by-step guide to starting a business, teaching students skills that are required to be a successful entrepreneur
In the thrilling pitching finals held on Wednesday 6 April 2022, students from across the University were competing to win the prize fund to invest in their product via a Dragons Den style pitch to a panel of judges.
The winning students were Computer Science student Lorenzo Chinole and Artificial Intelligence student Simona Paraskevopoulou, who together developed Plantix – a plant self-watering device designed and made by the founders with an app sending notifications to ‘plant parents’. The idea was inspired by saving house plants that were left to the mercy of busy homeowners.
‘Plantix is aimed at people who accidentally kill their plants by not watering them due to their busy lifestyle, everyday distractions, or lack of knowledge about their plants’ proper care,’ Simona explained. ‘Lorenzo first developed the product as part of an Internet of Things course at the University. Later, we started seeing the device as a solid business idea, so I developed the application prototype and designed all things branding. Since then, we have improved the device, sourced new components, and continued working on the product to make it look presentable and user-friendly.’
The duo aims to use their winning funds to ensure Plantix is fault-proof before they release it to market.
Lorenzo said: ‘We want to help people fully enjoy all the benefits that come with owning a plant. We will continue improving the quality of the product through research and development. After that, we will extensively test its performance. Finally, once we get satisfactory testing results, we will be ready to launch.’
The judges were: Alan Grogan, Global lead for Microsoft Azure Data Platforms; Laura Bounds MBE, owner of Kent Crisps; Dean Johnson, CEO at Haag-Streit UK; Emay Enemokwu, founder of JEHUCAL; Nadia Esi, founder of Nu Elefa; Adam Bryan, CEO at South East Local Enterprise Partnership; and Daniel Rubin, founder and the CEO of the Dune Group.
Daniel Rubin, who was also Head of the Judging Panel, said: ‘It was a difficult task to choose the winner this year. It’s impressive that all finalists were focused on sustainability.’
The Runners Up
Second place went to Law student Saif Aleem cotton and hemp blend fabric business idea, Better Fabrics.
He said: ‘I saw an opportunity to address an important issue. Better Fabrics seeks to empower people and reduce global water consumption. Any product that seeks to make the world better should win.”
Third place went to Toufan Bracke and Rens Van Steenes who are both studying International Business, They are the founders of The Vanquish – a sustainable online marketplace powered by the next generation of blockchain technology.
“When Rens and I tried hopping onto the NFT trend, we quickly noticed that there were many problems involved in the purchasing process,” explains Toufan. “Buying an NFT is very expensive, the process is complicated, many people get scammed, and it is extremely bad for the environment. Most NFT marketplaces use the Ethereum blockchain, which together with Bitcoin consumes the same amount of energy as the country of Thailand with a population of 90 million people. Therefore, Rens and I signed up for the ASPIRE Business Start-Up Journey and took the initiative of building Vanquish: an online, sustainable marketplace that addresses these issues.”
The pair use Solana blockchain, instead of Ethereum because it is carbon negative.
“Our website is based on simplicity and allows buyers to pay with established fiat currencies,” continues Toufan. “To tackle the safety problem and reduce scams around NFTs, vendors on our website only receive the payment after the buyer receives the token. As opposed to our competitors, we deliver simplicity by design, sustainability, and affordability. Furthermore, we see ourselves as pioneers of a concept we call “NFT 2.0”, a transition from useless collectables to online assets that truly benefit the customers.
“We believe in the power of the blockchain to bring security and transparency. We think we should win because we firmly believe that Vanquish can benefit our communities by helping to fight climate change and make the power of the blockchain accessible to anyone.”
For more information on the Business Start Up Journey email ASPIRE@kent.ac.uk