Scheme for successful student entrepreneurs to ‘pay it forward’ launched by University of Bristol

July 21, 2023

A former University of Bristol student-turned-entrepreneur has donated £50,000 to help fund its next generation of start-up businesses.

The donation from Rupert Baker has kick-started a new ‘founders’ pledge’ project through which entrepreneurs given funding by the university promise to donate some of their future earnings to student start-ups. 

Rupert, pictured, won the university’s New Enterprise Competition (NEC) in 2010 and was awarded £20,000 for his fledgling firm TeamUp.

The London-based business, which makes management software for gyms and sports clubs, went on to grow rapidly and was recently snapped up American group DaySmart Software.

Now Rupert, who studied Mechanical Engineering with an exchange year at the University of Texas in Austin, wants to help fund future winners of the competition – and has donated £50,000 to make that happen. He was also on the judging panel for this year’s NEC.

He said: “The competition was a pivotal moment in providing the validation, focus and confidence I needed to take TeamUp from a prototype and business plan, to an operational business with real customers.

“The preparation and process of entering the University competition put a spotlight on my initial assumptions and gave me valuable practice pitching and selling the business.”

Over the past quarter of a century, the university’s start-up competitions have given hundreds of thousands of pounds to scores of young founders.

These include recent successes such as PEEQUAL, the makers of the UK’s first women’s urinal, and Kaedim, which slashes the time needed to make 3D models on computers.

Many other university start-ups have also found success over recent years. Ultraleap, which allows users to touch virtual objects, raised £60m in its most recent funding round, while Ziylo, which is developing a new treatment for diabetics, was sold in 2018 for $800m (£622m).

The non-binding founders’ pledge is an aspirational intent to make a gift once the start-up finds success.

Founders’ pledges are common in the US, where they have been influential in building new start-ups.

University of Bristol associate pro vice-chancellor for enterprise & innovation Prof Michele Barbour said: “I am continually impressed by the ideas that our student entrepreneurs come up with – by their creativity and lateral thinking, as well as their determination and resilience in bringing those ideas to fruition.

“The start-ups that impress me the most have great people and solid business models, but also address meaningful problems or challenges.

“Our students and graduates create startups that address some of the biggest challenges of our time, and this Founders’ Pledge will help more of them turn their inspirational ideas into businesses.”

The university’s deputy vice-chancellor and provost Prof Judith Squires added: “Rupert’s generous donation will make a real difference to our budding entrepreneurs, giving them support at a critical time in their business journey.

“I hope that Rupert’s kindness, acumen and hard work will provide inspiration to all our students. We thank him sincerely for his donation.”

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