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Pitch@Palace: A festival of ideas from Cardiff’s innovators

Startups gathered in Cardiff for a day of competition and idea exchange, making the city a hub for creativity.

The entrepreneurs came from Wales and beyond to pitch their ideas to the Duke.

Rising entrepreneurs from Cardiff and beyond competed by presenting their ideas to HRH the Duke of York last Friday, showcasing their efforts for innovation.

A number of projects were supported by Cardiff University. One startup in particular, Vision Game Labs, is the brainchild of alumna Stephanie Campbell, from the School of Optometry, who succeeded in advancing to the next round of the Pitch@Palace competition.

Here are some of the budding entrepreneurs we spoke to during the event, held at Tramshed in Grangetown.

Stephanie Campbell, Vision Game Labs

Vision Game Labs allows to monitor a childs eyesight from a comfortable home environment.

Stephanie earned both her BSc and PhD at Cardiff University. Her company focuses on solutions to monitor eyesight remotely and continuosly, without frequent trips to the NHS – for example, through a children’s game on a tablet.

“What I think is fundamental to this [Vision Game Labs] is a really good undergraduate teaching. I’m so fortunate to have had such awesome lecturers and to have been exposed to some awesome science right from the age of eighteen.”

She says her PhD supervisor had already developed her own system to measure vision in toddlers, twenty-five years ago. Through her startup, she hopes to modernise the technology again.

“Without that kind of academic support, this would not have been possible.”

Chris Parry and Dale Bradley, Learnium

Co-founder Robert Dragan (pictured) wants Learnium to provide a new experience of collaboration in academia.

As Cardiff alumni themselves, Chris and Dale are well familiar with LearningCentral – the portal lecturers use to distribute materials for their courses – and saw more than one flaw in it.

It’s also this experience that shapes their work on Learnium, a platform and app to share academic resources.

“Forums were never used on LearningCentral,” Dale recalls. “My workflow would be log on, download these notes, log off.

“[On Learnium, however], all resources are there, but you also collaborate and ask questions around.”

Yash Todar, AlkoSens

AlkoSens uses everyday technologies to better monitor alcohol levels in the body.

But not all of the companies attending were Cardiff-bred. Stockholm-based AlkoSens, for example, counts team members from Sweden, Germany and India. Their focus is on alcohol control solutions, like a bracelet capable of reading alcohol levels from one’s skin.

“I know two previous winners [from Pitch@Palace], so I thought I’d give it a chance,” says co-founder Yash, originally from Mumbai and currently a student at UCL.

“It’s exactly what they promise. Helping you not with [just] with money, but with feedback.”

Yash’s bet paid off: AlkoSens is one of the companies who will advance to the next round.

The Duke was in good spirits himself.

He had a personal chat with each of the entrepreneurs.

The Duke of York described himself as “fascinated” by how innovative enterprises thrived in different parts of the country.

“The devolved administrations in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are probably further ahead than much of England in their ability to be able to support and create these sorts of hubs and places and communities where they can thrive,” he told Alasdair Keane of CJS News.

Pitch@Palace came to the city on invitation from Cardiff Start, a collective that ties together creatives, entrepreneurs and investors in the Welsh capital.

Robert Lo Bue, Cardiff Start co-founder: “I cannot believe the buzz that is going on in this room.”

“[Cardiff Start] has always been free to join and access for anyone who has entrepreneurial ideas that they wanna share,” said co-founder Robert Lo Bue.

The Cardiff stop was just one of many for Pitch@Palace. The scheme was launched in 2014 by the Duke of York, to provide emerging startups with funding and visibility. The projects chosen during each event will go onto additional rounds, up to the final event at St. James’s Palace, on March 23.