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Ignite Founders’ Challenge

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Ignite Founders' Challenge.

Calling aspiring founders of innovative early-stage ventures. Do you have the desire to craft a successful startup?

Would you like the chance to win a £5,000 cash prize, sponsor’s tech package prize fund of up to £10,000 and part-funded place? For your chance to access these prizes and funding, find out more about the Ignite Founders’ Challenge.

We are ready and excited to back the next generation of ambitious entrepreneurs. If that is you, then we want to help get your venture off the ground and flying.

The Cambridge ecosystem is renowned for enabling innovation and entrepreneurship. It has helped the development of world-changing ideas like the jet engine, the Raspberry Pi, the webcam and a host of others. This same ecosystem continues to produce innovation and is the home of hugely successful companies such as DeepmindArmDarktrace and Improbable.

Over a single month, the Challenge focuses on developing startups like yours with an idea or an early-stage plan.

We're here to help

Would you like to find out more and apply for a part-funded place?

Book a call with our team

Programme overview

The Ignite Founders’ Challenge consists of a series of 10 half-day sessions. The programme takes place over a month, on Mondays and Fridays.

Programme dates: to be confirmed.

The programme will take you through a series of Injection sessions, seminars and workshops on specific topics. These are followed by Reflection sessions on Fridays, facilitated by business coaches. The format enables you to develop your idea over an extended period, surrounded and supported by peers, experts and experienced coaches, right at the centre of the Cambridge ecosystem.

Key dates

Please note applications have now closed for the Ignite Founders’ Challenge.

The programme is structured around specific milestones of achievement that you will manage using the Founders’ Challenge workbook. These will include:

  • Value proposition
  • Customer segmentation
  • Competitive analysis
  • Pricing
  • Costing
  • Marketing
  • Team requirements
  • Pitch deck and pitch video

As a Founders’ Challenge participant, you will receive a Founders’ toolkit before you start.

Completion of the Ignite Founders’ Challenge

By the end of the programme, you should be able to confidently pitch your idea to targeted audiences.

On completion of the Ignite Founders’ Challenge, you will receive an official certificate of attendance from the Business School.

Your venture will be entered into a competition and you will also have the opportunity to pitch for a place on our prestigious Accelerate Cambridge programme.


Cost per founding team is £1,450 (minimum two people team, maximum three people per team).

Cambridge Judge Business School alumni are eligible for a 20% discount. University of Cambridge students, alumni and partner organisations are eligible for a 10% discount.

There are a number of initiatives, discounts and part-funded places, available in support of the University of Cambridge commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI). Please book a call with the Ignite team to discuss how best we can support your application and the opportunities available.

Book a call with the Ignite team


We are offering all teams who apply the chance to participate in a competition to win a cash prize of £5000 and a free place on our Accelerate Cambridge programme. Our sponsors are offering a tech development package of first place £5000, second place £3000 and third place £2000, to the successful ventures.


Dr Keivan Aghasi

Research Associate

Before joining Cambridge Judge Business School, Dr Aghasi held a research fellow position at University of Sussex, where he joined Intrapreneurship Hub, a collaborative research initiative between the School of Business, Management and Economics at the University of Sussex, Renmin University of China, and SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy. Hub provides a platform to share the latest research findings and offers industry partners customised research projects, confidential analyses and metrics to assess corporate entrepreneurial performance. In his position, he developed a survey aiming at understanding how established companies adopt and apply different mechanisms such as startup programmes (accelerators and incubators), corporate venturing, and acquisition to support innovation, and growth, and instigate self-renewal.

Dr Aghasi obtained his PhD from a double degree programme funded under the Erasmus Mundus programme by the European Commission hosted at Politecnico di Milano, Italy, and the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, in 2016. In his thesis, he investigated the determinants behind the turnover of the acquired top managers in acquisition of small high-tech firms which are mainly entrepreneurial ventures. In addition, he worked at the European Commission and national funded projects related to understanding the challenges of growth for European entrepreneurial ventures as the driver of innovation in various sectors including high-tech, knowledge intensive, and cultural creative industries.

Keivan is a research associate at the Entrepreneurship Centre. He received his PhDs from Politecnico di Milano (Italy) and Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden). His areas of research revolve around unravelling and alleviating the challenges of growth and transformation of startups into viable businesses as well as measuring the impact of structured support programmes (e.g. accelerators and incubators) in the startup ecosystem. Keivan has participated and been consulted in several European Commission and national funded projects related to understanding the challenges of growth for SMEs as the driver of innovation in various sectors including high-tech, knowledge intensive, and cultural creative industries.

Babita Devi

Babita Devi is a coach and entrepreneur with over 25 years’ experience in marketing, strategy and business development. Babita started her career in Enterprise Resource Planning where she successfully built pipeline through clearly defined strategies with measurable outcomes. She quickly progressed into management in her early 20s and then went on to work for the world’s largest optics company. As part of the European Marketing team, her role encompassed brand strategy, communications development and implementation planning.

In 2004, Babita emigrated to Australia and set up bStrategic. Whilst in Australia, Babita’s work ranged from developing strategies for the launch of a major Civic Centre to raising investment for a major art complex.

Babita now resides in the UK where bStrategic has been operating since 2006. Clients have included the University of Birmingham where Babita was responsible for a complete overhaul of all commercial services offered by the university and successful implementation of a program that led to a direct increase in bookings. Other clients include Opus5K (clinical monitoring software) where Babita was responsible for identifying opportunities for commercialisation in the NHS. Babita has also worked extensively in the licensing industry during her time at Amscan International, where she advised on marketing and mentored the marketing team. Her role transitioned into Head of Strategy and quickly grew license revenues through product and market development in EMEA. She currently coaches and advises Gemar, Europe’s largest manufacturer of latex balloons, helping to establish them as an international business.

Babita set up a technology company in 2015, where she created an app to improve communication between communities. She has lectured on entrepreneurial narketing at Anglia Ruskin University and Lincoln University Business School and has co-authored a book aimed at female entrepreneurs.

Babita draws on experience from a broad range of industries and is able to offer a unique perspective through her coaching skills, helping business owners achieve growth and find success, underpinned with solid marketing and business development strategies.

Andrew Hatcher

Mentor in Residence, Entrepreneurship Centre

Managing Director, Applied Knowledge Network

Andrew has a long history of identifying, developing and managing innovation within corporate environments and notably created and implemented an innovation management system while working for Reuters, the European media group. His career at Reuters culminated in a role as CEO of an Asian-based Internet trading corporate spin-out in Singapore which he took through initial VC funding and on to a trade sale.

He has been involved in the creation and development of a series of companies including Investing for Good, Working Knowledge and The Mapp and is involved as a non-executive director at several growing technology companies.

With a personal corporate history that includes journalism, software development, project management, marketing and strategic sales. Andrew draws on a wealth of experience in all aspects of business management gained through working internationally, predominantly in the US and UK.

Andrew is an accomplished author including, Inventuring – why big companies must think small (McGraw Hill, 2003), Services (Kogan Page 2013), Marketing Metrics (CMP 2015), Innovation in Marketing (CMP 2016), Marketing Strategy (CMP 2016) and Contemporary Challenges (CMP 2017). These books reflect Andrew’s extensive experience in the areas of business start-up and in the specialist area of innovation management, marketing and corporate venturing.

He is currently Head of Practice and a Mentor in Residence at Cambridge Judge Business School.

Paul Hughes

Paul Hughes, Chief Operating Officer, BIOS

Successfully founded leading technology business. Have advised numerous clients around the world, from start-ups through to multinationals. Have completed numerous corporate finance transactions. Worked for or advised a range of different technology businesses.

Specialties: Corporate finance, mergers & acquisition, fundraising, strategy development & implementation, transaction structuring and negotiation, advising shareholders, business and finance planning.

Stylianos (Stelios) Kavadias

Margaret Thatcher Professor of Enterprise Studies in Innovation & Growth


Charles Nixon

Entrepreneur in Marketing Knowledge

Entrepreneur in Marketing Knowledge. Charles has experience in the telecommunications, publishing, finance and education sectors, and has had hands-on involvement in the IT revolution from the first days of PCs. Charles established one of the UK’s first computerised marketing intelligence systems, co-founded a Fintech startup in the 1980s and then founded Cambridge Marketing College in 1991, growing it to a dominant position in its sector before retiring in 2016 to run a publishing venture and establish his Foundation.

Charles is on the Advisory Panel of Harvard Business Review, and is an advisor for Astia. Fellow of Royal Society of Arts and Chartered Marketer.

Charles has developed skills over 40 years in market research, marketing and business development. An author, creator and occasional presenter of the Marketing Review podcast, Charles has a degree in Modern History and Economics from Manchester University and an MBA from Warwick Business School.

Visit Charles’s LinkedIn profile

Visit Charles’s Amazon profile

Xaan Schwinn

Full Stack Strategist

I am a Full Stack Strategist with the aim to change the way that people perceive and interact with brands. I work to proactively change how startups, non-profits and classical music ensembles can develop a more productive and positive experience for their consumer.

The convergence of choral music & experiential design has been at the heart of my work since 2011. There is something in music that is entirely enveloping. I strive to create new vehicles for audiences to interact with music. I want to be clear: classical music is not dead. It’s just time to adapt to a new kind of listening experience.


NJF Capital

NJF Capital

NJF Capital is the venture capital arm of NJF Holdings, a London-based private investment company founded by entrepreneur and investor Nicole Junkermann. NJF Capital has assembled a diverse and international portfolio of 40-plus industry-defining companies, 30% of which are now unicorns, with a focus on the healthcare, fintech, foodtech, deeptech, and SAAS sectors. Current portfolio highlights include OWKIN, Bolt, and Eat JUST. creates and implements intelligent content solutions. They empower customers to produce and distribute compelling and valuable content through a variety of data-driven and cognitive technologies. Customer success is based on their ability to identify opportunities for maximising the generation, reuse and evolution of data. They have years of experience serving fast-paced, dynamic industries where agility and rapid-response are critical to acquiring and maintaining market leadership.

As their name suggests they work to fully understand the context of their customers and their end-users. They focus on the challenges that they encounter and assist their customers and end-users to transform their organisations though the appropriate use of technology and data.

Contact us

Contact us

Would like to discuss your application further, or ask the Ignite team a question?

Book a call with our team

For other enquiries about the Ignite Founders’ Challenge please contact:

[email protected]

Programme schedule





Injection 1 & 2



Problem definition

Solution definition



Problem solution fit


Injections 3 & 4

Identifying the customer

Segmentation (STP) customer personas

Value proposition



The customer


Injections 5 & 6

Product/service design, customer journey

Marketing planning



Product design and marketing


Injections 7 & 8

Business model and pricing

Cost structure and cashflow



Business planning


Injections 9 & 10

Staffing and resourcing

Pitch planning





Frequently asked questions

Anyone with a very early-stage venture that they wish to develop further. The venture can be in any sector and focused on any idea or market.

Yes. The team needs to be at least two people and a max of three people can attend each of the sessions. If you have four or more in your team you will need to decide who will come to each session.

Successful applicants will be provided with the opportunity to attend a series of ‘injection’ and ‘reflection’ sessions which will be delivered and facilitated by our academics, experienced professionals, and industry experts.

The programme is accessible to anyone in the world and will take place in UK time zone. All you need is an internet connection.

Yes, successful applicants will need to have an idea that they wish to work on throughout the duration of the five-week programme.

No. The Ignite Founders’ Challenge is a programme run over five weeks, on Mondays and Fridays.

If you are shortlisted by our programmes team you will be notified via email about the next stage. We aim to inform applicants of the outcome of the application within two weeks of applying.

Cambridge Judge Business School currently has no funding for places. There are, however, many organisations that do provide funding for this sort of programme, so it is worth searching locally and nationally for funding sources.

Cost per founding team is £1,450 (minimum two people per team, maximum three people per team). Cambridge Judge Business School alumni are eligible for a 20% discount. University of Cambridge students, alumni and partner organisations are eligible for a 10% discount. As part of the programme, successful applicants will also receive a founder’s toolkit which will be delivered to you before you start.

Refunds are not possible once you have accepted an offer to take part in the Ignite Founders’ Challenge.

Yes, you will receive a digital certificate from Cambridge Judge Business School.

Yes, there will be the opportunity for you to pitch for a place at our prestigious Accelerate Cambridge programme and we can provide you with information about many of the other programmes run by the Centre.

You can email our programmes team via [email protected]. We aim to respond to all queries within three working days.

Yes, you will only need to complete one application form and provide details of founders participating in the programme. To apply for the Ignite Founders’ Challenge, minimum of two people per team and maximum three people per team is required.