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30 July 1999: ENTERPRISING STUDENTS GET ACTIVE SUPPORT
aQtive limited and the University of Birmingham have combined forces with organisations in the City's business support sector to provide practical assistance to a group of enterprising students. Structured Entrepreneur EDucation for IT (SEED-IT, as the pilot scheme is known) aims to provide training and financial support to a small group of students at the University in the development of an IT related venture. Success with this pilot project will ensure that a multi-group scheme is implemented next year.
The project is the brainchild of Dr. Russell Beale, CEO of aQtive, based on his experiences in trying to raise venture capital finance in the UK.
"There are many problems facing would-be entrepreneurs" he stated "and SEED-IT aims to highlight the common ones and provide a supporting structure within which good business ideas can develop and thrive."
SEED-IT is not simply an academic exercise or a set of training seminars. The students are given a potentially viable business idea, some seed funding for developing and marketing the idea, and then supported in taking that further. At the end of the project, if the idea can secure further funding then the students can spin it off into a separate company and continue to make it successful.
"We are taking an entrepreneurial approach to the whole idea" said Russell Beale, "in that if they are successful, they can continue in business and benefit directly in that success."
The scheme runs for a 10-week period over the summer vacation and will provide the students with the knowledge, experience and finance to create a business. The scheme is backed by the University's Schools of Business and Computer Science and by its technology transfer company, Birmingham Research and Development Ltd (BRDL). Simon Freeman, Business Development Manager at BRDL, said:
"The University of Birmingham is keen to stimulate enterprise within its students and I hope that SEED-IT enables young innovative individuals to think of alternative career routes for the future".
Both financial and training support has been secured from the following sponsors: Enterprise Link, Birmingham City Council, Clement Keys, HSBC Midland Bank, IMARGO Limited, Martineau Johnson and WM Enterprise. The sponsors will be providing the financial resources with which the students develop an IT-based product and create a business. In addition they will interact with the students via the structured training programme that will give valuable business advice to the participants. The project will be based in an office being made available by Birmingham Research Park.
Commenting on this innovative initiative Brian James, Chief Executive of Enterprise Link, said:
"I was extremely enthusiastic that Enterprise Link and the networks in Birmingham were involved in SEED-IT at as early a stage as possible. This project gives us an excellent opportunity to integrate the expertise of the University's technology transfer company into the City's mainstream business support and finance."
Support for the project has come from a variety of public and commercial organisations. Encouraging this joint participation, Gisela Stuart MP, said:
"I applaud this initiative by the University. A structural problem that our economy suffers from is the lack of connections between our world-class research capability and our business support infrastructure. SEED-IT directly addresses this problem and I look forward to hearing how the networks in Birmingham make this pilot a success."
It is anticipated that this project will not only create a viable business but will also give invaluable and practical expertise to the students involved. At the end of the 10-week period a business plan, aimed at securing additional funding, will be presented to venture capital companies. The recently awarded £4m University Challenge Fund to the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick will be one such vehicle approached.
SEED-IT is being operated by Birmingham Research and Development Ltd, a company wholly owned by the University of Birmingham. For further information please contact Simon Freeman, Business Development Manager on 0121 471 4977.
6 July 1999: START UP UK COMPANY aQtive LAUNCHES onCue
START UP UK COMPANY aQtive LAUNCHES onCue - A NEW, FREE, SOFTWARE APPROACH TO MAKING DESKTOP AND INTERNET USAGE SIMPLER AND FASTER
Our aim is to establish the aQtive brand as the definitive new way of working the Internet and desktop. onCue packages together functionality held anywhere in desktop applications or on the Internet, presenting the right applications at the right time. It also suggests ideas for things you may want to do - and all of this is based on helping the user to complete the task in hand and not around any one application. And it's free," said Dr Russell Beale, joint founder of Birmingham based aQtive.
onCue is made up of a number of different recognisers and 'Qbits', which work together to anticipate what you might want to do and what is available to do it. Fundamentally, it's single-click access to a range of Internet-based services, such as specific search engines, and desktop functionality, which is often held in existing applications. This combination enables users to complete their task quickly and directly without having to open the application itself, or, on the Internet, without having to open a browser and search for the desired service or information - even assuming the user knows where to find it.
The first aQtive product, onCue, is aimed at Internet users - delivering benefits to both existing experienced users and to newer or first time users. Existing users will be able to use onCue to save time spent darting back and forth between desktop and Internet based workpatterns. New users will find onCue an easy access to useful functions buried deep in applications and the Internet. All users will have instant single click options for ideas and shortcuts.
Most people use less than 10% of the functionality offered by the applications on their computer. With the Internet this is even worse. With over three million web sites and countless pages, you know the right information must be 'out there', but you have no idea how to find it. aQtive's onCue cuts through this confusion offering the appropriate Internet and desktop services when it is needed.
"onCue is free to users and a full version is available now to download at www.aqtive.com. There will also be a developers' toolkit available shortly to allow developers to integrate aQtive's technology into their Web sites and applications. The integration and interaction of the two will deliver added functionality, better performance and user benefits. aQtive will then concentrate on further products and releases aimed at both specific target audiences and specific tasks - enhancing onCue's basic offering," added Beale.
For further information, please contact:
Tracy Postill/Sarah-Anne Bray
30-10-98: A new IT company
A new IT company launched by three academics has received an initial £600,000 cash injection to fund the final development stage of its unique information management software.
aQtive limited has received financial backing from the Birmingham office of venture capitalists 3i to enable it to develop and produce special software that allows different programs to interface with existing Internet technology.
The company says that its product will transform existing software making it easy to access information and dramatically reduce search and retrieval time. It plans to have tens of millions of global users within three years.
aQtive was formed by Dr Russell Beale, a research lecturer at the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham, Professor Alan Dix of Staffordshire University and Dr Andrew Wood, a postgraduate from the University of Birmingham.
Commenting on the aQtive team's move from academia to the business fast lane Dr Beale said: "We saw the potential in the market for an interface between Internet and desktop. After five years in development and a year's search for finance, our belief in the project has been borne out by the financial backing of 3i."
"Our product will have a major effect in the new market of intelligently interfacing information with applications and have a great impact on how software products are developed" he added.
Mr Ian Fernie, [director] at 3i said: "We believe that within the foreseeable future, this technology will be used as routinely in homes and offices as the compact disk is today."
"At 3i, we have focused on technology investment in the UK and our experience and industry knowledge has convinced us that aQtive's new product will revolutionise the way we gather information. We believe that the company has an exciting future."
Solicitors Wragge & Co advised the shareholders of aQtive.
Issued on behalf of aQtive by Quantum PR plc.
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