QUB Dragons’ Den is back for 2024, giving students the chance to walk away with everything they need to make their business idea a reality.
This year there is a share of a £20,000 prize pot up for grabs for QUB students who can successfully impress the Dragons.
We take a look back at some of the biggest success stories of the competition to date.
Naomi McGregor: Supporting athletes with wearable rehabilitation technology
In pursuit of a ballet career at 14 years old, Naomi injured her knee. It took three years and eight different specialists for Naomi to finally be diagnosed and she was eventually told that she would never be able to dance again.
The ordeal inspired Naomi’s invention Movetru, a cutting-edge wearable technology that allows athletes to customise their performance tracking, providing them with the insights and data they need to improve their game.
In 2020, Naomi secured £4,000 from the Dragons which allowed her to kick start her business idea. Since then, Naomi has secured over £555k in funding for her idea, from investors including InnovateUK and UKRI.
Lewis Loane: Improving the sound quality of amplified instruments
Budding musicians will know all too well that the sound quality of an instrument can vary between different amplifiers. In his second year of an Electronic and Engineering degree, Lewis came up with a solution to ensure that the sound quality of an instrument wasn’t lost from amp to amp.
In 2019, Lewis walked away with 10k in funding from the Dragons for his start-up Torann – the Irish word for noise. Since the win, he’s secured a further £100k from the likes of Santander, INVENT and Techstart. The idea is now a manufacturable product, ready for market and about the patented.
Maebh Reynolds: An Airbnb for electric car chargers
GoPlugable co-founder Maebh Reynolds walked away with £10,000 in 2023, after impressing with her pitch – an Airbnb for car chargers.
There are only 2,500 public EV chargers on the island of Ireland – a huge barrier to those considering an EV vehicle but unable to have a charger installed at home. In comparison, there are approximately 20,000 home chargers installed on the island. Go Pluggable allows EV owners who need charging points to connect with local homeowners who are willing to let drivers use their chargers for a fee.
Since the win, GoPlugable has secured a further £150k in funding and picked up the title of Best Small Business in the 2023 All-Sustainability Awards. Earlier this year, The Irish Times featured Maebh in its 50 People to Watch in 2024.
Peter Gilleece: Revolutionising the stab protection market
Peter pitched a sustainable material made from 100% chicken feathers to the Dragons in 2020 and was awarded £4,000. Peter has since turned his attention to body armour and is the driving force behind Vikela. Following significant investment, including £350k from InnovateUK, the company is now launching its first product, the APIS protection range.
The range addresses the current problems of heavy, uncomfortable armour with a recyclable, sustainable material, optimised for strength and flexibility.
Pragya Sharma: Game changing skin care inspired by Grandma
Pragya is the founder of Gran Lab, a business venture named in honour of her Grandmother, whose skin problems inspired Pragya’s work. Gran Lab’s mission to provide relief to millions suffering from psoriasis and eczema with its patent-pending formulations, which are free of steroids and inclusive of all skin tones.
Pragya received funds from the Dragons in 2023 for Gran Lab. In the same year, Pragya submitted her PhD thesis in biochemistry and was named in Belfast Telegraph’s 30 Under 30. To date, Gran Lab has received upwards of £150,000 in grants from Innovate UK, UKRI, Techstart Ventures, and Invest NI.
Shea Quinn: Assistive and rehabilitative robotics
Bioliberty co-founder Shea Quinn pitched to the Dragons in 2021 with an idea for a unique soft robotic glove which can restore upper limb mobility in patients following a stroke. The robotic glove works by assisting a patient to open and close their hand.
Three years later, the team are now 14 people strong and have received £3.5m in grants and investment, most notably a £2.35m Seed round let by Archangels.
The significant investment has allowed Bioliberty to accelerate trials and expedite their US market launch.
Could you be the next Dragons’ Den success story? Entrepreneurs have until midnight Monday 12 February 2024 to submit an application. As well as a chance at winning a share of the prize pot, you’ll have the opportunity to gain access to specialist mentoring and support, and meet with successful and ambitious and successful entrepreneurs.