Venture Further 2013 finalists Simon Specka and Markus Hänel are set to launch ZenMate, the first product from their online security business, ZenGuard.
Following their success in the Technology category of Venture Further 2013 they have gone from strength to strength. They recently joined the Berlin-based Axel Springer Plug and Play accelerator programme for digital entrepreneurs to further develop and grow their business.
We recently caught up with Simon to find out more about their progress.
Tell us about the product that you recently launched.
“ZenMate for Google Chrome provides a one-click solution which uses a lightweight browser plug-in to allow users to surf the net securely using encryption, thus securing all browser activity. With IP addresses hidden and internet unrestricted, users’ privacy is protected.
“Following the soft launch our product went somewhat viral. We’ve had more than 17,000 downloads across 138 countries with zero marketing spend. We’ve had evening peaks of up to five sign-ups per minute.
How did you get the place on the accelerator programme?
“When we were in Manchester I made a list of all of the relevant accelerator programs in Europe, focussing on Germany where our network is strongest.
“I found out about the Axel Springer Plug and Play accelerator as I knew the Axel Springer company from other sources and was aware that it is a very open and innovative multinational. Furthermore, the connection to the Silicon Valley accelerator was very appealing.
“We applied in a two-step process. We submitted a business plan and then we received an invitation to come to Berlin to pitch in front of a panel of judges. The panel included the founder of Alando – which later became later Ebay Germany/Europe, a venture capitalist from Wellington Partners, the CEO of the Silicon Valley Plug and Play Accelerator and three top managers from Axel Springer.
“There were more than 100 applications and we were one of eight start-ups to be accepted.”
What support and funding will you receive as part of this accelerator programme?
“The package is great! We receive initial funding of €25,000 for 5% equity in our business, fully equipped office space in Berlin, a variety of workshops, access to intensive coaching by highly experienced internal and external experts, mentoring days and weekly sessions by highly-renowned speakers.
“It also gives us the chance to grow our network, build business relationships and meet potential investors. Also, the access to everything that Berlin and Silicon Valley have to offer is fantastic.”
How will this opportunity help your business?
“This opportunity not only helps but is one of the very core elements that will enable us to develop the idea and progress.
“In this period we can grow our team, have the public beta launch, secure further funding, handle legal issues with the support of our investor and will be able to cover our own salary and expenses.
“The accelerator has made our start-up ‘frictionless’ in that we got a fully equipped office in the Berlin Start-up Eco System and all the relevant contacts at hand. It has enabled us to really focus on the product and business development, as well as our mid to long term vision.”
How has the enterprise support at Manchester helped you?
“I studied for the MSc in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at Manchester Business School, with some units taught by staff from Manchester Enterprise Centre which were very useful. The things I learnt as part of the Venture Further competition were also great.
“We were the first start-up in The University of Manchester Innovation Group's (UMI3) IQuBit office for tech start-ups and got a free office for four months. We used this to build the prototype and establish the first business structures. UMI3 also gave us valuable introductions to some good contacts.
“I was also involved with the Manchester Entrepreneurs student society. The network, exchange of thoughts and creative input was very helpful and valuable for testing, refining and improving our initial idea.
“I chose to study at Manchester as I believe it is one of the top universities in Europe for entrepreneurship. The support was very helpful for us and helped us to our current achievements. The Venture Further competition and support of UMI3 enabled us to prepare the application for the accelerator.”
ZenMate for Google Chrome can be downloaded from our website or the Google Marketplace.
ZenMate Chrome homepage >>
Find out more about the Venture Further business start-up competition >>
Visit the UMI3 website >>
The University of Manchester through its programme delivery team consisting of its Innovation Group, UMI3 Ltd and Manchester Enterprise Centre, MEC, have been recognised for their work in supporting and developing social enterprise innovation at the University by winning the ‘Outstanding HEI Supporting Social Entrepreneurship Award’ at the UnLtd National Conference held in London on 17th July.
Professor Luke Georghiou, Vice-President for Research and Innovation, comments: “The University is committed to maximising the impact of our research and to a strong emphasis upon social responsibility. The excellent achievements of our staff and students fulfil both of these agendas. Particular credit goes to colleagues from UMI3 Ltd and the Manchester Enterprise Centre who provided the encouragement and expertise needed to support the emerging successful social entrepreneurs.”
Over the past 12 months, UnLtd and HEFCE have supported 56 Higher Education Institutions in England to take up the challenge of finding and supporting social entrepreneurs within their institutions. The University’s selection allowed the further development of its social enterprise strategy with the announcement of a Social Enterprise Competition to find, fund and support social entrepreneurs from across the University. This undoubtedly expanded the support and offering to social entrepreneurs as well as developing additional tools and resources whilst growing internal and external networks. Social enterprise was incorporated as a specific theme into the Venture Competitions run by MEC and alongside these competition rounds UMI3 Ltd and MEC developed a programme of intensive support from idea generation and application support to mentor brokerage and specialist support.
On hand to offer advice have been established University of Manchester social entrepreneurs, Dr Gill Green of STORM CIC, a company providing self-harm, suicide and self-injury mitigation training for frontline staff and Joanne Tippett of Ketso Ltd, which produces a ‘hands-on kit’ that provides table-top tools to record and display ideas in meetings and workshops. Ketso is the only documented spin-off company from Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded research. The Social Enterprise Brief Case, a workshop and workbook designed by specialist innovation company Novomodo Ltd, to inspire social enterprise thinking in Higher Education was launched at the Innovation Centre. This encouraged participants to think in a deeper and more focused way about their hidden potential as well as providing practical advice to assist with the construction of well rounded applications for the competition.
Dr Laura Etchells, UMIP’s Enterprise and Business Development Manager comments: “It has a been a double success for Manchester today with Helen Power from MBS, receiving runner-up in the most outstanding social entrepreneur category. This reinforces the success of the competitions with over 100 ideas being submitted by entrepreneurial staff, students and recent alumni. In total we have allocated over £59000 to 27 award winners from across the whole University Campus and look forward to helping these budding entrepreneurs continue in their journey to success.”
Dr Martin Henery from MEC and our HEFCE Social Enterprise Ambassador comments: “The potential benefits to students, staff, the University and the wider community in the form of experience and skills development, measurable impact of research, experiential learning opportunities and real social impact has only just been begun to be explored. These awards indicate that we are moving in the right direction and we all look forward to working with our current award winners as well as continuing to uncover more exciting ideas and enterprises in order to really scale up our work and more importantly these valuable social benefits over the next few years.”
Image: Lead The Change UnLtd National Conference, UCL. 17th July 2013
(1-r: Rick Watson, Novomodo; Laura Etchells, UMIP; Martin Henery, MEC; Tony Walker, UMIP; Jim Ineson, Enactus)
The University of Manchester Innovation Group (UMI3 Ltd) is pleased to announce the Social Enterprise Competition 2013 has resulted in 19 outstanding social venture entrepreneurs receiving awards to further develop their ideas.
The competition was launched in 2012 as a direct result of the University’s selection as one of 56 partner institutions in the HEFCE/UnLtd Higher Education Support Programme and has been delivered by UMI3 Ltd and The Manchester Centre for Enterprise Learning, MEC. The competition was open all staff, students and recent graduates of The University of Manchester and individuals were encouraged to submit ideas for entrepreneurial solutions to social or environmental problems.
The Grand-Prix Final, held on June 28th at The University of Manchester Innovation Centre, UMIC, showcased a wide range of innovative ideas, addressing social or environmental needs, to an audience which included representatives from the University, successful social entrepreneurs and the local business support community. Ideas ranged from virtual reality therapy as a treatment for phantom limb pain to a mobile app assisting healthcare professionals in screening for domestic violence. In addition one Achievement Award of £1000 was awarded to Helen Power, a member of staff from The Manchester Business School, for the development of her social enterprise, Levenshulme Market. Helen received this award due to her exceptional drive and effort in ensuring the progression of the market in a short space of time with a small amount of money.
Paul Monaghan, Director of Up the Ethics, comments: "The calibre of the social enterprises on show was inspiring, as was the University’s ambition to embrace this area and become a beacon university for social enterprise. Staff and students alike can feel real pride in what has been created in such a brief period of time."
UMI3Ltd has awarded over £41,000 worth of funding to applicants from all four faculties of the University. There were two categories to reflect the development stage of the enterprise idea and over the course of the competition we have awarded:
11 Try it Awards: for social entrepreneurs to try out their ideas by finding out if their idea is viable, learning more about what is needed and trying the project on a small scale initially.
8 Do it Awards: to allow an entrepreneurial idea to grow. Do It Awards are for social entrepreneurs who are confident their project will work and have the basic skills to ‘do it’.
Professor James Thompson, Associate Dean External Relations, commented: “The University has a great record in commercialisation and now the emphasis on social enterprise demonstrates further the innovation within the institution coupled with our mission to contribute positively to society. The diversity of applicants and awards to this year's competition was outstanding.”
Dr Laura Etchells, UMIP’s Enterprise and Business Development Manager, comments: “The UnLtd programme has enabled us to build on our existing commercialisation operations to find, fund and support social entrepreneurs from across the University. The competition has been very successful and we received over 47 applications from entrepreneurial staff, students and recent alumni, identifying social enterprise ideas which could help solve social and environmental issues.”
Future activity will include securing a range mentoring opportunities for the Award Winners to ensure their enterprises continue to flourish alongside their funding. There are plans to run this competition again next year and the programme team aim to build on the success and interest which has been generated over the past eight months.
Image: Social Enterprise Competition Award winners present at the Grand Prix
(1st row l-r: Magda Sibley, Joanne Tippett, Dongshuo Wang, Joanne Worthington, Nickala Torkington, Jane Placca. 2nd row l-r: Sophie Dawes, Amy Win, Nigel Jay, Erinma Ochu, Kirsten Windfuhr. 3rd row l-r: Haider Khokhar, Helen Power, Rick Watson, James Thompson, Paul Monaghan)
Image: Helen Power with her Achievement Award (l-r: tony Walker, Helen Power, Nickala Torkington, James Thompson)
Dynamic solution structure of streptomycin in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry
C4X Discovery (C4XD), a leader in conformational drug discovery and design, announces the publication of a seminal paper describing the use of its novel NMR-based technology to determine the dynamic 3D structures of ligand molecules in solution. The publication in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry1 is the first peer-reviewed description of the technology, and demonstrates its potential value in drug discovery and development.
In the study, C4XD’s technology was used to quantify the range of 3D conformations that the antibiotic streptomycin occupies in solution, which reveals that its preferred conformation is the same as its shape when bound to its target (its ‘bioactive’ conformation). Knowledge of the bioactive conformation is crucial in driving rational drug design and, until now, X-ray co-crystallography has been the only method that can routinely measure it. The results demonstrate that C4XD’s technology reveals the bioactive conformation via a much-needed alternative route which, in contrast to X-ray co-crystallography, takes only a few weeks and works for all target classes.
C4XD has applied its technology to a wide range of ligands including peptides, carbohydrates, co-factors and small molecule drugs. In every case, its dynamic 3D structures capture the bioactive conformation. This has powerful implications for drug discovery, significantly accelerating the design of improved molecules during the hit discovery, hit-to-lead and lead optimisation processes.
In its in-house programmes, C4X Discovery has used the technology to identify hits and leads against high-value targets that are intractable to co-crystallography, including GPCRs and ion channels. Moreover, for targets that are amenable to co-crystallography, C4XD's technology provides surprising insights into how to optimise ‘druggable’ metrics such as affinity, selectivity and ADMET properties.
Dr Sam Williams, CEO of C4X Discovery, said, ‘The publication of this study brings an important validation of our innovative NMR technology and its utility in drug development. We believe our technology is an important complement to the discovery tools already used by the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, with the potential to be integrated across multiple R&D programmes.’
1Quantification of free ligand conformational preferences by NMR and their relationship to the bioactive conformation, Blundell CD, Packer MJ and Almond A, Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry In Press, Accepted Manuscript. Available online July 3 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bmc.2013.06.056
For further information please contact:
C4X Discovery Ltd
Sam Williams, CEO +44 (0)7881 588947
Emma Palmer Foster, Strategic Communications Consultant +44 (0)7880 787185
Launched in February this year, our App Development Competition was open to both staff and students who were invited to enter with functional innovative app concepts. By the submission deadline, 91 applications had been received which made the judges job a very difficult one!
The overall competition winner was Dr Ursel Bangert, a Reader in The School of Materials. Ursel’s app concept, called ‘Virtual Microscope’, will mimic the actions carried out by an electron microscope and display unique images of the fascinating world of materials – alloys, steels, ceramics, carbon fibres, nano-crystals, graphene and other novel 2D materials. Using images from the University’s vast archive of electron micrographs, the user will be able to view materials at 1 million-fold magnification – right down to individual atoms.
Dr Bangert comments: “I am delighted to have won this competition; I am very enthusiastic about microscopy and the opportunity, through this app, to help people ‘see the truth’, of what materials really look like on the atomic scale. Having taught materials science for over 20 years I know that students are always fascinated and motivated by seeing images of things that escape our eyes because they are too small; that’s why I came up with the idea, and there is not much out there to show this in the way proposed in this app.”
Dr Ed Maughfling, the competition organiser, comments: “The entries to this app competition exceeded our expectations, both in terms of quality and quantity. I am looking forward to working with Ursel and developing an app that will really bring to life materials like graphene by revealing their hidden structure.”
UMIP will fund the winning app concept, which will be designed and developed by a professional team of app developers .
If you have an idea for an app, please contact Dr Ed Maughfling firstname.lastname@example.org, to discuss your concept further.
UMIP’s Dr Ed Maughfling presents competition winner Dr Ursel Bangert with an iPad