I’m writing this perched on a crowded sofa in Las Vegas watching over the Future Worlds incubator stand at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). As a serial entrepreneur, I launched Future Worlds in December 2015 at the University of Southampton to help aspiring innovators change the world with their ideas. Ever envious of US west coast universities like Stanford who’ve had a hand in over 40,000 active companies, I’ve always believed that UK universities also have the ingredients required to grow a similar startup culture.
So through Future Worlds, in just over a year we’ve created an ecosystem which supports every aspect of an entrepreneur’s needs. We’ve grown a network of over 40 seasoned founders, investors and industry leaders who mentor our students and researchers, helping them get funded and bring their products to market. No money changes hands here – the mentors all help for free, eager to assist our passionate innovators and driven by memories of how they too were helped by their own mentors when they were new to the game.
Bringing University of Southampton innovations to market
We use our professional photo video studio to capture compelling content for the startups that is uploaded onto the ‘discover’ section of our web platform, www.futureworlds.com. This helps the founders communicate their ideas to investors and early adopters. Since launching a little over a year ago, Future Worlds has supported 60 entrepreneurs from the University of Southampton who have raised over £2 million of investment between them. We’ve promoted over 190 events, competitions and funding opportunities, and many of our mentors end up investing in the startups they support.
One aspect of the support we provide is to introduce Southampton technologies to global stage and this year at the Consumer Electronics Show we are promoting over 20 startups from the University. Attendees have been captivated by our StarkStream motion capture demo, a full body system which animates a character through sensors placed all over your body. Another demo on the stand is the Sound Virtualiser soundbar which delivers true immersive 3D audio, giving the experience of a dinosaur pacing around your head or a child whispering behind your ear.
Making an impact through acceleration funding
Future Worlds has been supported by Government Impact Acceleration Account funding, without which we would have struggled to attend CES. So it was exciting earlier today to meet Matt Hancock, the Minister for Digital and Culture, who dropped by the stand after citing Future Worlds in a BBC interview yesterday evening. We discussed the UK technologies that are present at the show and he even had time to try on the SharkStream motion capture system, entertaining onlookers by making the animated soldier do press ups on the screen. For me, it’s important to show the world what the UK has to offer and using government funding to bring technologies to places like this is an important part of making that happen.