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Students showcase new ventures at York enterprise awards

Posted on 18 June 2015

Students scooped top awards at two University of York enterprise competitions this week, celebrating innovative ideas for new ventures.

York enterprise award winners. Left to right: Karl Kontus, Ambitio; Ben Ezard and Tara Annison, RateMyUniHouse; Fozia Parveen, Fifteen21 Magazine; Sam Heather, pingWHEN; Chris Saunders, freelance app developer
York enterprise award winners. Left to right: Karl Kontus, Ambitio; Ben Ezard and Tara Annison, RateMyUniHouse; Fozia Parveen, Fifteen21 Magazine; Sam Heather, pingWHEN; Chris Saunders, freelance app developer

Sam Heather, a third year Computer Science student, and Chris Saunders, a Biology PhD student, both won awards in the Plan ENVY (Exciting New Ventures at York) competition and the Freelance Challenge competition respectively.

Sam collected a £2,000 prize for Outstanding Business with pingWHEN, a personal safety app that sends automated notifications for when you arrive to a destination or more importantly, if you don't. Designed in response to the number of female students in the USA facing sexual assault, pingWHEN is currently in a private beta-testing phase and will officially launch to the public in August 2015.

Sam was one of four finalists selected from over 50 entries to the annual Plan ENVY competition. Amongst them was final-year Mathematics and Philosophy student Tara Annison, who won the Most Robust Plan category for her student property rating website RateMyUniHouse.co.uk.

Other finalists were Global Marketing student Ben King, founder of KinYu, a business that facilitates British companies’ manufacturing contracts with China, and Economics and Finance student Karl Kontos with his motivational tracker app Ambitio.

Chris Saunders was the second big winner of the night, collecting £1,000 in a new competition to launch yourself as a freelancer, the Freelance Challenge. Selected for his work as an app developer, he was joined by runner-up Fozia Parveen, MA History student and Editor of youth magazine Fifteen21, who won £500.

Sam Heather said: “Careers at the University of York have been amazing in helping us. Winning Plan ENVY is really going to help drive our business forward.”

Chris Saunders said: Winning the Freelance Challenge has given me more confidence, both in my own skills and my long-term business plan. Furthermore, the Careers team have been really helpful throughout my enterprise journey, from helping me with start-up funding to giving me general tips and advice when needed.”

Hosted by the Careers team at the University, the Plan ENVY competition and Freelance Challenge provide an opportunity for York’s many young entrepreneurs to showcase their businesses. Funded by Santander, the competition leads to a final dinner where the top entrants present their ideas and progress to date.

Previous winners of the competition include Charlie Thuillier, winner of the 2013 Outstanding Business category, for Oppo Ice Cream. Offering a naturally indulgent dessert with a fraction of the calories of traditional ice cream, Oppo is now stocked in 117 Waitrose stores and on Ocado.com. Recently winning the Guardian’s Startup of the Year Award 2015, Thuillier encourages others to try out their ideas with the range of support available to them through the University.

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