Topwork: Former Birchwood and Hockerill student Karl Swanepoel wins £13,000 investment in his business idea
A former Birchwood High School student has secured a £13,000 investment in his latest business idea after winning a TV Dragons' Den-style competition.
Karl Swanepoel, who is in his final year of a computer science degree at Aberystwyth University, has developed a website and app called Topwork which matches talented freelancers with start-ups seeking digital services.
The concept was a hit with judges in his Welsh uni's seventh annual InvEnterPrize ideas contest, one of the biggest student enterprise competitions in the UK.
Karl said: "Topwork is a digital platform that connects entrepreneurs and small business owners with talented, remote-working freelancers and students who specialise in digital skills, including, but not limited to, graphic design, writing, programming and media.
"The goal of the platform is to pull down the barriers of entry to starting and growing a business online and earning a remote income."
The InvEnterPrize contest is organised by the university's careers service and sponsored by contributions from the alumni AberFund.
The six finalists in this year's event each delivered a 30-minute pitch – on ideas ranging from drinking straws made out of grass to thermally-insulated paint – and fielded questions from a panel of distinguished alumni.
Along with £10,000 to invest in equipment, facilities or professional services to turn his idea into reality, Karl bagged a prize of £3,000 sponsored by Engineers in Business, awarded to the winning entry from a student or student team from computer science, maths and physics.
Karl, who attended sixth at Hockerill Anglo-European College, said: "Ever since I was 14, it has been my dream to start a company and be my own boss – InvEnterPrize has now helped me take a big step towards this goal.
"The competition provided a fantastic opportunity for me to kick-start Topwork and I'm incredibly grateful to the judges, organisers and all the people who took time out of their busy schedules to help me along this journey.
"Winning the prizes has enabled me to fund Topwork so that it can launch very soon and help skilled workers, students and entrepreneurs across the UK, and I'm very excited to get started with that now."
Tony Orme, the university's careers consultant and entrepreneurship champion, said: "InvEnterPrize continues to be a highlight in the university calendar for entrepreneurial students with an idea for a business or social enterprise.
"Since we launched the 2021 competition 12 weeks ago, teams of enterprising students have been able to hone their business acumen through a programme of online workshops focusing on the vital skills needed for a business start-up, such as market research, marketing and branding and financial planning and control.
"The innovative nature of the business ideas and the quality of the pitches was impressive."
Karl was a teenage entrepreneur who started trading online while studying for his GCSEs at Birchwood and taught himself to code and build websites to supplement his pocket money.
He began carving out a career as a digital marketing specialist working with clients including the NHS, and his work led to him becoming the youngest ever ambassador of the Great British Business Show at the age of 15.
By 16 he was appointed chief marketing officer of a seven-figure social media marketing company based in Germany and acknowledged as a social media influencer.