Imperial College London: Imperial launches first-in-UK ‘Founders’ Pledge’ for student entrepreneurs

Imperial College London entrepreneurs are pledging philanthropic support for future generations of innovators when their businesses take off.

Imperial is the first UK university to launch a Founders’ Pledge programme, which will see alumni entrepreneurs who have benefited from the College’s support promise to give back through philanthropy when they are in a position to do so.

The Founders’ Pledge model has led to transformational gifts to other world-leading universities. Many universities in the United States use the model, which has seen the likes of one of the founders of Nextdoor, the social networking service for neighbourhoods, giving back to UC Berkley.

Imperial startups generated £134 million of investment in 2020-21, with £91 million raised by students alone.

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Many student-founded businesses go on to see phenomenal success. These include $1 billion virtual reality company Improbable, founded by Imperial graduate Peter Lipka; Magic Pony, founded by Rob Bishop and Zehan Wang, which was bought by Twitter for around $150 million and AI company Tractable, founded by graduate Alex Dalyac, which has been valued at $1 billion.

Lasting impact
Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: “Every year I am inspired by student-founded startups which have the potential to revolutionise industries, transform lives, and tackle major societal challenges. We have created a rich network of support for their businesses that will persist long after their graduation.

“Imperial Founders’ Pledge creates the structure for those entrepreneurs who have benefited from this unique ecosystem to support those that follow them. The momentum it generates will have a lasting impact on innovation at Imperial and beyond.”

Unique network of support
Imperial has a unique network of support for student entrepreneurs at all stages. The Enterprise Lab provided almost £200,000 of grant funding to student startup businesses last year alone, along with mentoring, training and access to investor networks. Free facilities like Imperial College Advanced Hackspace (ICAH) give student inventors access to specialist manufacturing equipment and training to turn their ideas into breakthrough prototypes. Imperial students own any IP they generate in the course of their studies at College.

Any Imperial founder can make the Founders’ Pledge once they’ve graduated, which is voluntary and non-binding. Founders can choose how their gifts will support the College and many will support initiatives for future Imperial entrepreneurs.

The startup founders who have pledged their support so far are:

Dr Olivia Ahn, Co-Founder, PLANERA
Alex Bond, Co-Founder & CEO, Fresh Check
Henrik Hagemann, Co-Founder and CEO, Puraffinity
Dr Theodora Kalentzi, Founder and Director, Medical Prime
Dr Kevin Koh, Founder and CEO, Vivo Surgical
Nate Macabuag, Founder, Koalaa prosthetics
Michael Moses, Founder, Donaco
Alex Bond, co-founder and CEO of Fresh Check, which is developing colour change technology to help people identify areas of poor hygiene, said: “Imperial has supported me and Fresh Check for the entirety of Fresh Check’s existence. Imperial’s network, support and connections to other startups have all been fundamental.

“The whole reason we created a startup was to effect change and being able to encourage other people to do that is inspiring.”