Pitch Final 2017

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We are pleased to announce Kahoots as the winners of the Imperial Innovation Pitch Final 2017 (previously I&E START! Challenge 2016), organised by Imperial College Business School and Imperial Enterprise Lab.

Kahoots, co-founded by Full-Time MBA students Byron McCaughey and Henry Oakes, are developing an AI driven tool that helps homebuyers make complicated financial decisions more easily and transparently. As winners of the Imperial Innovation Pitch Final 2017, Kahoots took home £10,000 in business funding.

n this interview, we talk to Byron and Henry who share how Kahoots started, what they will do with the £10,000 prize money, and where they hope to be in five years.

How did you come up with your business idea?

The idea for Kahoots was born after we decided to tackle the problem of UK housing unaffordability during the Entrepreneurial Journey module, which was part of our Full-Time MBA programme at Imperial. We spoke to lots of people and repeatedly heard the feedback that while the common workaround for sky-high house prices – buying together with family, partners or friends – makes it more affordable, it’s a tricky process! 

How did you come up with your business name?

The business is called Kahoots. It’s an adaption of the saying ‘going cahoots’ – which means to do something together, like buying a house. We like it because we wanted a character to be the voice of our smart online tool – and a wise owl was perfect. Hoot hoot!

Who’s in your team and who does what?

At the moment, it’s just the two of us – Henry Oakes and Byron McCaughey. Henry uses his experience as a past founder of a successful tech start-up to focus on building an amazing product. Byron makes use of his time in marketing and partnerships, working with the likes of eBay and Allianz, to help us spread the word.  

What does your business hope to achieve in 1 year?

In a year, our aim is to have a live product in the marketplace and to have helped lots of people buy a house together. Who knows, we may have even made some revenue!

In 5 years?

The longer-term vision for Kahoots is to use smart technology to offer financial products of our own. We believe that we can help people buying together throughout the entire process. Imagine for example a Kahoots money tracking tool that helps you plan joint expenditures, or a simple home loan product to pay for that extension you always dreamt of.

What will the £10,000 prize money be spent on?

The prize money will be used to build an alpha version of the Kahoots web app, our main product, in order to market test with users. It won’t have many bells or whistles, but it will help us to learn exactly what customers want and what we need to focus on.

What would be the next steps if you didn’t with the £10,000 award?

We certainly didn’t expect to win, so it would have been business as usual. We’re out meeting people, talking to customers, and ultimately trying to build Kahoots from the ground up. Winning the Imperial Innovation Pitch has given us a massively welcome kick-start, but we can’t rely on things like this happening in future! 

How have you been preparing for the competition?

It was a real challenge to trade-off doing work that is specifically geared towards the competition, versus doing general tasks that help move the business forward. Ultimately, we were pragmatic and asked ourselves what we needed to do to win. And then we executed on that strategy!

How did you find the first round? What was it like working with the pitch coach?

The support we got from our business coach and pitch coach was amazing – can we have some more please? When you’re pitching a new business you can never get too much feedback. The challenge is to synthesize all the feedback into a plan of action.

What three points do you want the panel of ‘dragons’ to takeaway?

We’re a great team, with an interesting product, tackling a huge societal problem.

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