On this year’s Entrepreneurial Journey (EJ) module, students across our Full-Time MBA, Executive MBA and Weekend MBA developed a live entrepreneurial project to simulate launching a startup and build entrepreneurial skills.

This team-based startup project sees students taking an idea for a new product or service, developing a value proposition, carrying out customer discovery research, validating the product or service, and creating a plan for how to realise the business proposition.

The whole project takes place over six months, which allows students to really explore their idea in-depth. Specialist workshops in lean innovation, as well as expert startup and pitching coaching sessions, helps students develop their concept.

At the end of the EJ, the teams pitch their proposition to a panel of investors with the winning teams from the Full-Time MBA and Executive/Weekend MBA awarded a £5,000 prize respectively, as well as the new Grand Challenge prize of £3,000, established thanks to the support of Renal Services (UK) Limited and alumnus Stefano Ciampolini.

Entreprenurial Journey final pitchInside the Entrepreneurial Journey final pitch

What is the purpose of the Entrepreneurial Journey and what makes it unique?

The module is an amazing opportunity for students their MBA learnings to practice on an entrepreneurial project. They finish the module fully equipped with an entrepreneurial toolkit to use in their post-MBA career!

These skills are not just useful for those who go on to be entrepreneurs, as Dr Harveen Chugh, Senior Teaching Fellow in Entrepreneurship and one of the EJ module leads says:

Doing the EJ within the College environment and over six months gives students the time and space to explore the idea in-depth and develop their entrepreneurial skills. The EJ is also highly relevant for those innovating within existing companies, as the entrepreneurial method is relevant equally to these different contexts. So this is the perfect takeaway from the module for both their own startup or for a corporate role.

The EJ also offers students the unique opportunity to collaborate with the Royal College of Art design students and Imperial scientists or engineers to build their business ideas. The module is also supported by the Imperial Enterprise Lab, and provides a great opportunity to tap into the amazing innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem at both the Business School and wider College.

This year our students developed incredible ventures. We profile the winning teams from the Weekend/Executive MBA and Full-Time MBA cohorts.

Reef: optimising time on public transport

The winner of the Executive/Weekend MBA EJ prize and the Grand Challenge prize is team Reef, made up of Executive MBA students Fabio Di Memmo and George Clarkson, Weekend MBA students Flavio Menichino and Umair Patel, as well as Fanghui Song and Irene Liao from the Royal College of the Arts and an external team member, Simone Di Cicco.

Reef is a low cost, real-time public transport app. The concept behind it is to ensure that passengers on public transport are well served with real-time information, ensuring they spend more time doing what they want and less time waiting for public transport.

It leverages smartphones of bus drivers and passengers to ensure that both bus companies and passengers know where their bus is and when it will arrive. It looks to replace the high cost and time investment needed for standard GIS tracking (the GPS systems used in major cities) to bring this level of real-time data to underserved areas.

The idea for Reef came when Fabio Di Memmo, Managing Director, struggled with dropping his children off on the way to school at a public bus stop. He’d drive to work before receiving a phone call from them saying the bus hadn’t arrived. This inspired him to come up with the concept of Reef, where others could share real-time information on public transport to improve its service.

The team’s vision is to save the planet from poor public transport, encouraging more users and giving a more sustainable and mobile future. Reflecting on their experiences on the Entrepreneurial Journey, the team said:

The EJ offers the great opportunity of learning by doing in a very exciting way. We have been lucky to have a great team and we have had a good time together. What we have learned is applicable in our daily work and it is of great value for our current roles and future careers.

They attribute their success to working collaboratively as one team with their Royal College of Arts student teammates:

We genuinely could not have achieved what we did without the whole team. Carrie and Irene brought inputs on all aspects of the project, not just service and UX design. We’re very much one team and don’t distinguish between those studying at Imperial, those at the RCA and those who aren’t studying at all. We’ve all got other commitments that we sacrificed to make Reef a success.

What’s next for Reef? The team will continue the startup and use the £8,000 prize money to deliver a successful pilot to demonstrate proof of concept to transport authorities and bus companies.

Flying Pump: a fitness solution for transit passengers

The winner of the Full-Time MBA Entrepreneurial Journey is Flying Pump, comprising of team members Ziyao Liu, Chaiyong Paniengtong, Luis Saad and Paveenuch Sritragul. Flying Pump aims to transform the way people travel by presenting a fitness solution in transit.

They came up with the idea from spotting the opportunity to offer airport transit passengers an active leisure option to mitigate the impact of long waiting hours at airports, which are usually filled with unhealthy eating and binge shopping. As a team, they agreed that time is a precious gift that one doesn’t get back, and thus felt that their idea could help people to spend their time wisely.

And so Flying Pump was born – offering a space for those who have the motivation to keep healthy while travelling. Flying Pump gives transit passengers access to a professional workout experience in the airport. Features include complimentary clothing and shoe rentals, and opens up opportunities for collaborations with external gyms and suppliers.

Going forward, their business plan is to build creditability by engaging a variety of partners and potential investors before negotiating with the airports. The team are really excited about the prospect of starting a business from the Entrepreneurial Journey.

Hear more about the EJ experience from the team members:

Ziyao Liu

“The structured curriculum of the MBA gave us essential business knowledge and insight that we used to develop our EJ idea. We applied knowledge learned in our Design Thinking module to understand our customers and develop our value proposition to match customer needs. We used tools from the Imperial Innovation Week challenge, including the business model canvas, to convert our value proposition to competitive differentiation. Knowledge gained from Corporate Finance allowed us to establish our financial model for sustainable business growth. We used fundamental marketing terms, concepts, and principles from Marketing to design our marketing strategy and develop business partnerships.”

Chaiyong Paniengtong

“Being an Imperial MBA student opens doors. I found that it was much easier to approach potential clients or partners as student-entrepreneurs on the EJ. This has helped us to gather a lot of useful insights and effectively adjust our business plan. I really appreciated this privilege and would advise future students to make full use of this opportunity in their EJ.”

Luis Saad

“From the EJ, I learned that there is no “absurd” idea. While exploring numerous project options during the initial stage, I realised that every unsolved condition consumers bear represents a profitable business opportunity. The EJ pushed us as a team to address one of these existing problems from different insights and backgrounds, and collectively, we could come up with a feasible solution after many practical coaching sessions.”

Paveenuch Sritragul

“Having such an experienced tutor as Dr Harveen Chugh was my favourite part of my EJ. We had the opportunity to explore new ideas and come up with innovative ways to solve a problem, but at the end we know that there will be support from someone who has extensive experience and a positive mindset, to give us suggestions and encourage us to go for something beyond our limit. That was such an amazing feeling that we hope to receive from Imperial College Business School, even after we graduate.”

Introducing the Grand Challenge prize

We were also delighted to present a new prize for the Entrepreneurial Journey called the Grand Challenge prize. The prize is supported by Renal Services (UK) Limited, a company co-founded by Imperial MBA alumnus Stefano Ciampolini.

Stefano Ciampolini (far right) with the winners of the Grand Challenge Prize, which is supported by Renal Services (UK) Limited

Stefano earned his MBA at Imperial College Business School in 1994. Today he is a successful healthcare entrepreneur and the CEO of Renal Services, a UK leading dialysis services company.

Stefano was inspired by his Imperial MBA experience and connection to the Business School in the creation of the new prize:

It is exactly 25 years since I participated in the business plan competition at Imperial College Business School as an MBA student. My team was the winner and we went on to compete with the top ten European business schools at INSEAD and received a special award as best technology venture. It was an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience which encouraged me to become an entrepreneur.

For over 10 years I have been mentoring and coaching students at Imperial College to share my experience and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. By establishing an annual Grand Challenge prize, I wish to encourage the next generation of students at the Business School to let their entrepreneurial spirit loose and present value by creating impactful solutions to current challenges.

The Business School thanks Renal Services (UK) Limited and Stefano for supporting this new prize.