The Coillection platform aims to reduce the environmental impacts caused by waste cooking oil being disposed of down the plughole while simultaneously providing the cleanest available input for the production of biodiesel.
The idea originated with Waheedur, who explored the engineering application of waste cooking oil through its conversion to biodiesel as part of his final year project. The idea became clear when our team came together – we were all studying the same postgraduate course – and started exploring contemporary problems of society as part of a ‘Design Thinking for Innovation’ module. After experiencing a ‘Eureka moment’, we decided to further build on the idea during our MSc in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management. Each member of our team has specific key strengths. Our main aim was to include diversity, both in terms of culture and skillset, as well as ensuring a solid background in engineering – a huge bonus when trying to solve an energy-related problem.
So far, our main advisors include:
- Dr Dmitry Sharapov, a lecturer on the Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management programme. Dmitry has been really supportive of our idea, providing us with structured feedback and advice on how to improve our business model.
- Dr Harveen Chugh, a coach on the Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management programme. Her advice and feedback have been really valuable, especially when it comes to user research.
- Mr Ivan Borriello, a wealth advisor and a visiting coach who took a keen interest in our idea from the beginning. Ivan has shown us invaluable support throughout our entrepreneurial journey, always challenging our ideas and advising us on how to improve.
Enterprise Lab support
The Enterprise Lab has also been really supportive by introducing us to an extended network of industry-related people and guiding us through the process of turning an idea into a business. We have participated in a dedicated coaching programme, which included meetings with investors, industry experts and past entrepreneurs who further enhanced our insights. Additionally, the Lab is really inspiring, giving us the opportunity to meet like-minded people who develop a range of smart ideas and face similar obstacles.
Currently, we are at a very early stage and have been running a small pilot to test the idea. We recently won £5,000 at the Imperial Business Pitch competition and plan to invest it in expanding our pilot, getting more households on board and ultimately testing our hypotheses to be able to get back to water companies with solid data and proven traction.
Advice to aspiring students
Our advice to students thinking about starting a business would be: work, test, pitch, repeat. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback; surround yourself with dependable people such as advisors and coaches. Networking is very important, so reach out to people via LinkedIn, startup groups, and as many relevant events as you can find. The more times you validate or test your assumptions onfield, the more refined your idea will be. You’ll reach your goals more quickly.