It all started one morning on campus when Chris was sharing his story with his classmates about how he had spilled his takeout curry all over his laptop the night before. This was the end of his Mac but the start of the next great idea, and the Lapkin was born.
This team of Imperial students recognised that in modern society it is common that someone’s laptop or tablet is within arm’s reach at all times. One can only imagine the germs that laptops pick up during the day, not to mention the crumbs and splashes that cause wear and tear over time.
From this everyday problem Lapkin evolved, becoming “the world’s first biodegradable and disposable laptop keyboard cover”.
The thin adhesive seal developed by the team can also be used on a touch pad and even allows the user to write notes on it without damaging the device underneath.
So who are the architects behind this modern day necessity?
The team’s success is largely due to its founders’ diverse mix of skills and experiences. All five met on the MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management programme at Imperial College Business School, but their experiences before the programme were completely different. The team consists of Andreas, a computer scientist with diverse work experience from Cyprus, Chris a teacher from the US, Michaela a lawyer from Moldova, Weal a food scientist from Thailand and Valash with a background in chemistry and digital marketing from Thailand.
The Lapkin founders, who were partnered up by the Programme Director, were able to find an immediate bond, as Chris explains;
“The great thing about our team was that everyone came to Imperial focused on the entrepreneurial component of the course. Some of us had come from family businesses or worked at start-ups in the US, so we all had a few ideas in mind.”
Once the idea was hatched, they took advantage of workshops and networking events during their studies to gain as many professional opinions as possible.
“The entrepreneurial journey of the programme helped to shape our Lapkin business model”, says Valash.
“We got professional opinions from renowned investors, entrepreneurs, designers, marketers, consultants and professors, who helped us develop and improve our product and our marketing strategy.”
All of these professional opinions contributed towards the business strategy that would be used for the launch of the Lapkin at The Business Plan Competition, which is part of the MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management programme. Teams of students pitch their ideas after developing business plans during coaching sessions.
Chris attributes this Imperial competition as a major support to their success: “The Business Plan Competition forced us to slow down and take a closer look at the different components of the business plan that we were neglecting. It was really helpful to have workshops focused on other important areas like market segmentation, user experience and intellectual property,” he said.
The second factor in their success was funding, which was set when they entered the student video competition at the School and won a £5000 prize.
Valash commends his time at Imperial as a strong foundation and the nurturing environment needed to turn this innovative idea into the marketable product that it is today.
“Imperial College gave me the inspiration and courage to fulfill my entrepreneurial dream. I never had the guts to actually start running my own business. At Imperial I was with the right people, with the right idea, at the right time and right place to get it done”.
“My advice to other students on the programme would be to take advantage of the advisers, experts and professors that you will have access to on the programme. There are a lot of great resources and people here that are willing to help grow your business idea into something real.”
The MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management is a one year intensive programme that guides non-business graduates to a variety of career prospects by providing opportunities to build connections and skills to develop ideas into start-ups and lead innovation within organisations.
So what’s next for the Lapkin and its founders? They are continuing to grow as their product enters new retail and online stores and attracts a strong interest from international markets.