Hustle Heart: In search of the best DS15 Start-Up Story by Anna Nadolna

6th Discovering Start-ups Winners + Sponsors resized

DS15 winners Greg Law (Undo Software), Stuart Laidlaw (Cyberlytic), Tamzin Byrne (GeneAdviser), Stan Karpenko (GiveVision), Raphael Scheps (Converge)

I bought Gary Vaynerchuk‘s book based on the power of this one line: ‘While most eight year olds were learning how to properly squeeze a lemon, I was managing seven lemonade stands across my neighbourhood in Edison, NJ’. In a witty way it illustrates pure entrepreneurial spirit, you can actually picture that little kid running his lemonade business and earning his keep. It evokes that incorruptible drive to build and own something, to watch it grow and become ‘awesome’, that’s at the very core of the start-up culture.

Vaynerchuk brought two things back to the table – the notion of hustle (‘The most important word ever’) and storytelling: “the perfect story is spun from your intimate knowledge of your history, your competition’s history and increasingly, what you see going on in the world and what you discover your consumers want to talk about”.

He reminds us about a story that actually resonates with the audience and ultimately ‘sells stuff’. When you take early stage businesses, the one thing they start with is their founders’ story that comes to life when they pitch. That’s the moment when the narrative unfolds aiming to woo VCs, angels and tech savvy crowd. And that’s the juice of the start-up pitching battles and events across the globe.

I was very lucky to join my colleagues, David Gill, MD at St John’s Innovation Centre (SJIC), and Dr Soraya Jones, Entrepreneur in Residence for such start-up battle in London, where they were judges at the 6th Discovering Start-Ups Competition. The central idea behind SJIC is to support innovative and ambitious companies to grow and we are always excited to support partners who are trying to promote this in their communities.

Jointly delivered by Cambridge Wireless and SETsquared, the Discovering Start-Ups Competition final ran for the 6th year at the Deloitte’s London offices. It’s a unique event on the UK tech start-up scene revolving around 10 minute pitches and expert insights into the pitched early stage business models from the Judging Panel represented by the likes of Google, IBM, Qualcomm Ventures, London Business Angels, Cambridge Angels to name just few. It’s a great mashup of start-ups, young engineers, VCs, angles and industry professionals. And on top of that there’s the immediate feedback after each pitch from serial entrepreneur David Cleevely CBE FREng FIET.

Call it zeitgeist, but this year’s shortlisted finalists represented a strong Internet of Things/Connected Devices/Smart Sensors trend. What initially stood out? Give Vision, a software developer for wearable devices with a promise to ‘transform the lives of millions of blind and visually impaired people across the world’, Zap to Buy with an app and a potential to revolutionised product placement in entertainment industry and Undo Software, supplier of Linux and Android reversible debugging tools. I also liked Thingful® (a search engine for the IoT) mention on their website about the shark which you can track while it explores the oceans, thanks to their ‘powerful search capabilities’.

Stan Karpenko - GiveVision resized

Stan Karpenko, CEO of GiveVision

From the very start it was an even start-up battle with solid pitches and in-depth insights into their business models. There were also great presentations revolving around innovation by Ben Timmons of Qualcomm Ventures and Hoi Lam, IoT and Android Wear advocate at Google whose talk was packed with witty pointers such as ‘If you fail, that’s fine cause you can always grab a job at Google‘, ‘Give people as much autonomy as possible but also a high level mission’. While discussing prototyping and validating start-up ideas, he showed the audience the first ever pair of Google glasses that was invented within two hours. He emphasised the fact that it’s good to be ‘extremely scrappy’ at first and experiment when developing your ideas.

And then, there was this fascinating, killer feedback after each pitch from David Cleevely who shared his insights on the potential market / niche position of some of the start-ups in these “slightly bubbly days”.

With an extremely noisy media hype surrounding today’s start-up scene, saturated with ‘unicorn’ boom and ‘tech bubble’ speculations, it was remarkable to actually see the real people and their ideas behind this global phenomenon. To hear genuine founder stories not only about the perks of building something off your passion but also on the hardships of taking your business off the ground.

It’s what Nick Woodman, the GoPro founder said ‘I used to wake up scared as hell of having failed in business. I still wake up scared. You have to stay scared. And be relentless’ that constitutes the hustle heart. And trust me, I did see that heart at the DS15 final..

Super Congratulations to the Winners!

Converge: Connected sensor networks driving a smarter physical environment
Cyberlytic: Security intelligence software that prioritises the workload of security teams and reduces response times from cyber attacks to second
Gene Adviser: Online marketplace for genetic testing
GiveVision: software developer for wearable devices that has the potential to transform the lives of millions of blind and visually impaired people across the world.
Undo Software: Supplier of Linux and Android reversible debugging tools.

It’s also great to see two Cambridge-based companies among the winners: Gene Adviser, Undo Software and one that originated here, Converge.

Keep the conversation going on Twitter: @CambWireless

Want to find out more about Cambridge Wireless? Visit