June 2011

NACUE Varsity Pitch 2011

Joanna Montgomery, a university graduate and the winner of the NACUE National Varsity Pitch Competition 2011, speaks about her innovative product and the experience of winning the competition

The National Consortium of University Entrepreneurs (NACUE) is an organisation which supports and drives the young entrepreneurial spirit across Britain. It hosts the National Varsity Pitch Competition every year, which is open to students who have started exciting enterprises. Participants can enter the competition under any one of seven categories, with the winner of each going on to participate in the grand final. In this year’s competition held in May, Joanna Montgomery, a New Castle Univeristy graduate and winner of the semi-final event in the Tata Blue Skies Award for Disruptive Enterprise category (which was judged by executives from Tata Capital, Tata Global Beverages and Tata Consultancy Services) marched on to victory in the grand final.
Ms Montgomery’s company, called 'Little Riot, produces an innovative product called Pillow Talk, which uses digital technology to connect long distance lovers by transporting their heart beats to each other’s pillow.

We caught up with Joanna to find out how the competition has helped her business:

What does it mean to be crowned NACUE National Varsity Pitch Champion?
I'm honoured, of course. It's a huge boost for not only the company, but for me personally as well. It's really hard work running a company and trying to develop a product all on your own, so to win something like the National Varsity Pitch Champion (NVPC) award is really inspiring and motivating as it helps reaffirm that I'm on the right track. I suppose knowing that so many people are behind me really helps me keep going when the going gets tough!

How did it feel to win the Tata Blue Skies Award for Disruptive Enterprise and go through to the finals?
I wasn't expecting it at all! I thought I gave quite a good pitch but all the competitors who followed were also really strong so I was surprised when they announced that I'd won. Getting to compete in the finals was an exciting experience and I met loads of interesting people both at the Tata Blue Sky semi-finals and at the NVPC final. 

Why did you enter under this particular category of the Tata Blue Skies for Disruptive Enterprise?
It's always really refreshing to see organisations — or indeed competitions — which consider 'disruptive enterprise' a good thing. My product is certainly disruptive and it really challenges existing methods of communication and the way people perceive them, and I think sometimes that overwhelms people. I was really excited to see it as a category in the NVPC and really pleased that the Tatas view it the way I do and were so supportive. 

Did you enjoy the competition?
Absolutely! For a budding entrepreneur just starting out to have access to senior Tata executives was invaluable and the constructive feedback they gave will really help me as I commercialise my product. The training day with Bill Morrow of Angels Den was also a brilliant experience and, of course, getting to stand up on stage in the British Library and tell an auditorium full of people about my product was amazing. 

Can we expect to see more from Little Riot in the coming years?
Yes, I'm not going to let anyone forget that name! I'm hoping to have Pillow Talk in the market by Valentine's Day 2012, and have plans in the works for several more products. My hope is to establish Little Riot as a renowned interaction design company and go on to improve the lives of millions of people with my products. 

I'm really proud to be supported by the Tatas. Having an international firm with a proven track record for innovation recognising my work is fantastic and I do hope they continue to follow Little Riot and the work we do.

For more information, go to:

NACUE: www.nacue.com/
Little Riot: www.littleriot.co.uk/