Young tycoons get peer advice

February 7, 2003

Undergraduates saddled with debt should consider setting up their own businesses rather than work part time in dead-end jobs, according to an organisation set up by Oxford students.

Oxford Entrepreneurs was launched this week to encourage undergraduates to market their business ideas.

Founding president Alex Hearn said: "We have noticed that student entrepreneurship is bursting with ideas and concepts, yet until now has had no real outlet. It heralds a significant change that students are taking responsibility for generating wealth."

The group's members, who come from Australia, the US and China as well as the UK, have started a number of successful business ventures, from a patented medical device to a medical informatics company and equipment for home yoga practice.

The motto of the new organisation is: "Your idea. Bounce with it." The group will provide the education, direction, promotion and networking that successful entrepreneurs need, and has the support of the Science Enterprise Centre at the Said Business School as well as the support of patent and trade mark lawyers.

In 2001, Mr Hearn, who is studying classics at New College, set up Bluefuse, a pharmaceutical lifestyle company. "I can't really talk freely about the ideas behind the company as they are being patented. But as a 19-year-old student I found it difficult to get advice and support," he said. He has also set up Bluefuse Productions, a film production company due to shoot a film this summer.

Financial development manager Safa Homayoon is studying for a masters in modern Middle Eastern studies at University College London. His entrepreneurial activities began when he was forced to drop out of high school because he had Crohn's disease, and he set up a website to chart his illness.

When illness struck again in his third year at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, he co-founded medGrasp, a limited company. "We built a website where patients could enter their biographical and medical details anonymously. Patients on certain drugs could compare experiences with similar patients," he said.

His entrepreneurship extended into the humanitarian field. He founded Mohabat, a refugee assistance group, to help Afghan and Persian refugees in Atlanta. "Mohabat means kindness in Persian and the foot soldiers of the centre were students," he said.

Kaori Kuribayashi, vice-president of the group, is doing a PhD in engineering science. She has developed a medical device that can be used to open up blocked sites, such as arteries. "I have used the Japanese art of origami to devise ways of using the stents," she said. She holds an international patent for the stents, supported by Isis Innovation, the university's technology transfer arm.

She did her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and completed her masters in biomedical engineering in Japan. She then studied medicine in the US as an exchange student.

She did an internship at Hitachi in Japan.

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