Enterprise SU

ESU Dragons Den 2021

Three winners share £15k prize fund at St Patricks Day final.

March 2021

This year’s Enterprise SU Dragon’s Den final saw twelve groups and individuals pitch before a panel of business leaders, competing for funding to help develop innovative business ideas. The virtual final took place live on St Patricks Day, the culmination of this major student business competition run annually by Enterprise SU.

Our student finalists were from various courses within Queen’s and had to make it through a competitive application process, quick pitch semi-final round and mentoring workshops before facing the Dragons. £15,000 worth of support was up for grabs, with former RTE TV Dragon’s Den member Eleanor Chambers (McEvoy) among the judges. Business ideas presented ranged from the equine industry, to health and fitness and cyber security.

The final was broadcast live from the Accidental Theatre in Belfast in a socially distanced environment. Students had ten minutes to pitch their idea via video over Zoom to the Dragons watching from home, followed by a Q and A session to clarify details on the business proposals.

The panel of ‘Dragons’ was made up of six industry professionals, including insight from QUBIS courtesy of Head of Innovation Partnerships, Anne Dornan. Each student team was judged by Invest NI Entrepreneurship Ambassador Eleanor Chambers, Partner at Cavanagh Kelly, Catherine Martin, Partner of Tughan’s Solicitors, Andrew Kirke, Senior Consultant at MCS Group, Sara Mitchell, Business Relationship Director at Santander, Lindsey McArthur, and Managing Director of Linkubator, John McKee. The £15k prize pot was shared between three lucky winners; each whom the judges believed to have viable, innovative, and high-potential business ideas. The winning students also receive mentoring and further support to take their business idea to the next level.

They were:

Jonathan Smyth from Linc Technology. Jonathan is a recent Masters student who has developed revolutionary digital measuring technology for the jewellery market.

Medical student and cancer researcher Daniel Duffy won backing for his idea Day to Day. He is working to design products aimed at enhancing the day to day lives of people with limited physical independence. 

Barry Cheevers an IT undergrad convinced the Dragons with Effortless Security and a proposed network security device,

ESU Dragon’s Den is one of the signature business competitions and entrepreneurial supports provided by Enterprise SU. As well as the prize money, it really offers students a great opportunity to put their business idea to the test, learn new skills and hone their boardroom pitch.

There is always a sense of anticipation and interest when applications open. The aim is not only to give students the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the Dragon’s in the final, but to avail of mentoring and training during the process. Each applicant is judged based on the strength of the individual or team to take the idea forward, the validity of the problem they were addressing, the viability of the solution they had come up with, the quality of their market research, their plans moving forward, and their need for Dragons’ Den funding. It’s a supportive environment where all our finalists can walk out feeling they got something out of participating.

The competition opened in December 2020 and there were nearly 50 initial applicants. Given Pandemic restrictions, we had to adjust the format and opt for online and socially distanced workshops and events. Enterprise SU would like to thank our sponsors and judges for their continued support in all aspects of what we do. 

Enterprise SU would like to thank each student that applied and participated and congratulate them on their innovative and intelligent concepts. All the finalists deserve great credit for the work they put in through the competition and their final pitches. We hope this is a stepping-stone to success for all of them.

The team would also like to thank all sponsors, observers, and startup champions for their continued support, particularly MCS Group, Tughan’s Solicitors, Santander Universities, Engineers in Business Fellowship and Queen’s University KTP without whom the competition would not be possible.

Dragon’s Den will return next year, so keep an eye on our website and social channels for updates on when applications open. 

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