Student finance and budgeting tool wins prestigious GESAwards 2019 semi-final

The startup awards will see edtech company Blackbullion represent the UK at the global finals in 2020

Blackbullion, a learning platform aimed at helping young people budget and plan their spending, has beaten 11 other edtech companies in the British semi-finals of the GESAwards 2019.

The company, which operates in universities in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, helps students to manage their money, as well as providing valuable education on how the finance industry and economy work, to prepare them for the responsibilities of adulthood.

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Danielle Coe, head of student finance and residential allocations at University of Hertfordshire, explains how tech tools can help students plan their finances, and see the value of HE. Read the full blog here.

Judges chose Blackbullion for its vision and for identifying a viable solution to an educational challenge.

The semi-final was hosted by UCL Educate, the edtech research accelerator, and is one of 16 international events taking place this autumn to choose the finalists. The runners-up in the competition were Nature Bytes and Ketka, which have both come through the UCL Educate programme.

Vivi Friedgut, the founder and CEO of Blackbullion, said she was “amazed” at the result. “I did not expect this – I am so happy,” she said.

“I grew up in a family that understood the importance of good financial decision-making and assumed everyone thought the same,” Friedgut added. “I was shocked to find they didn’t. After the financial crisis and the debt problems I realised it was time to see what I can do about this problem.”

After the financial crisis and the debt problems I realised it was time to see what I can do about this problem [of financial decision-making].
– Vivi Friedgut, Blackbullion

Friedgut, who is Australian and an economist by training, previously worked in the finance sector. She developed Blackbullion into an edtech product when the logistics of personally trying to deliver the education programme became impossible.

The company currently employs seven people, but Friedgut hopes to expand to up to 20 within a year, with a reach of 50% of all UK universities. However, she believes that people of every age need to be better educated in finance, especially as they enter adulthood and face the prospect of paying for personal loans, mortgages, insurance schemes and pensions.

Vivi Friedgut, founder and CEO, Blackbullion

Her long-term aim is for the finance sector to embrace the need to offer better education and information to people buying into their products.

Friedgut added: “Gaining this award raises our profile and lets people know what we’re doing, as well as recognising and acknowledging the work of my amazing team. I am extremely proud of them for getting us here.”

The 12 companies taking part in the semi-final pitched their products and ideas to four judges: David Savage, founder of the Tech Talks podcast; Leila Guerra, associate dean of programmes, Imperial College Business School; author Greg Keen and Anissa Moeini, who is a doctoral researcher with UCL Educate.

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Guerra said the judges had a difficult decision to make because of the standards of the presentations: “At the end of the day we were looking for a well-presented, well-rounded product, that addressed a particular need and was pinpointing a solution. It was pretty much a unanimous decision.

“We were extremely impressed with the quality of the pitches and the wide range of products being presented.”

The winners of the Global event, which will take place on 23 January 2020, will receive $100,000 Cloud Credits, sponsored by Google Cloud for Startups and AWS Edstart to support their startup’s growth. The first and second runners-up will recieve $20,000 Cloud Credits, sponsored by Google Cloud for Startups while remaining finalists will receive $3,000 Cloud Credits.

Keep an eye out in our November issue for an exclusive interview with Blackbullion CEO Vivi Friedgut…

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