Meet the winners of HackLBS 2024

A digital affiliate marketing aggregator, an event planning app for friends and an AI-powered pest management tool were this year’s winners of our fiercely competitive HackLBS competition held on 2-3 March 2024 at Nuffield Hall, London Business School.

About the hackathon

Aspiring entrepreneurs with big ambitions to solve real-world challenges gathered at London Business School earlier this month for the School’s much-anticipated annual two-day hackathon.

About 100 participants from universities including London School of Economics, Imperial College, Stanford, Oxford and Cambridge as well as our own LBS gathered at Nuffield Hall to showcase their innovations at the 2024 HackLBS, which was hosted by the LBS Entrepreneurship Club in partnership with the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital and BCG X, the venture building arm of BCG, which was launched in 2022.

This year’s themes were:

  • Sustainable futures: hacking for a greener planet
  • Tech frontiers: shaping tomorrow with AI, ML and Blockchain
  • Innovating Health: redefining the future of healthcare and
  • Hackers Paradise: unleash your creativity

Out of 20 participating teams, which all received one-on-one mentorship, nine were selected to pitch to the judges and compete for one of the three cash prizes worth £3,000 each to help turn their concept into a reality.

Thanks to the judging panel: Siddharth Singh, Venture GM and Lead Venture Architect at BCG X, Yuval Yashiv, Med-tech CEO and Advisor, Dr. Rob Andrews, Co-Founder at Heliolytics, Rory Popert, Co-Founder at Unison, and Sergey Vartanov Khachaturyan, an associate at web3 and blockchain-focused VC fund Eden Block.

Big thanks to all our mentors: José Martín Quesada, Srivaths Swaminathan, Daniel Needleman, Akshay Singh, Rupesh Chatwani, Dr. Priya Mangat, Dr Rhydian Harris, Sean Salloux.

The winners

Winner #1

CleanCrop – Pest Analytics as a Service 

The Team

Guy Katz, Aditya Mallik, Gil Gilboa, and Sampriti Dwivedy

Defining the problem

Global agriculture is plagued by crop losses and related to plant pests. Analysis by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations finds that each year 40% of plant production is lost to pests, at a cost of more than $220 billion. Climate change is increasing the risk of pests spreading in agricultural and forestry ecosystems. Current market solutions are reactive to threats from pests and diseases.

“Current competitors provide lagging diagnosis with analysis conducted more than a week after the crops have been infected. Their product solely indicates the overall condition of the field, and not the pests of disease that have affected it,” the team wrote in their pitch deck.  

“This delay and generic diagnosis allows pests to exponentially spread and results in inefficient treatment.”

The solution

Use AI and multispectral imaging to detect and diagnose crop pests and diseases before any visible symptoms appear. CleanCrop uses multispectral cameras mounted on drones or tractors to gather aerial images of farms. This data is then fed into the proprietary machine learning algorithms to identify early evidence of infestations for timely and precise use of pesticides.

 “This day 0 detection and diagnosis is extremely important, as it directly avoids crop loss. In cases of extreme disease, 30% of a crop can be lost in a single week and 65% of a crop can be affected in 2 weeks. Day 0 detection allows the immediate mitigation of the spread of pests or disease, helping farmers save crops and money for farmers.”

Winner #2

BrandBuddy – a unique affiliate marketing hub for bands and content creators

The Team

Alisha Chowdhury, Kian Chan, Jeewoo (James) Hwang, Mitika Surana, and Revant Batra

Defining the problem

Affiliate marketing has become a multi-billion-dollar industry and growing. Most brands are taking advantage of these programmes to promote their products as the effectiveness of traditional advertising has declined, new privacy rules make social media advertising less compelling and the role of the trusted influencer in marketing becomes more significant. 

Many publishers and ecommerce sites are increasingly taking advantage of these programmes to boost revenue. Content creators and brands are looking to affiliate programmes to grow loyalty, increase the size of their community and ultimately grow their earnings.

The market is expanding fast, but it is completely fragmented, which impacts the ability of affiliate marketers to track performance and sales and find programmes with the right synergy. Varied metrics and formats across networks complicate performance comparison and data aggregation.

The lack of seamless integration with analytics and CMS tools creates inefficient workflows and manual data handling. Research conducted by the hackathon team found affiliate marketers desperate for a solution to manage these programmes with less complexity and better transparency.  

The solution

BrandBuddy aims to be a one-stop shop for all things related to affiliate marketing. It aggregates information from your affiliate networks and provides instant access to all necessary data and insights in one convenient place. It offers intuitive dashboards that can help the affiliate marketer discover and focus on higher-earning traffic sources, enhance earnings through content discovery and simplify link management. It offers a personalised platform, serving up insights from your affiliate network accounts and conversions so that the affiliate marketer can better understand and take advantage of affiliate platforms that value what a band or content creator can offer.

Alisha Chowdhury (MBA 2024) was one of the winners at the HackLBS in 2023 too, with the soon-to-launch Mongo App, a financial literacy app that offers a gamified approach to financial education.  For that Alisha is featured in the Pioneer’s Post WISE100 List, awarded to the UK’s 100 leading women in social enterprise, impact investment and mission-driven businesses. Last year she applied for HackLBS with a team and the idea already in shape. This year, she says she came back for the “exhilarating opportunity to build something completely from scratch” and with inspiring entrepreneurs she didn’t know in 48 hours.  

“Participating in this Hackathon showed me how much I’ve grown as a founder and builder and my favourite part of the experience was mentoring and guiding my team through the journey of researching, building and pitching an idea,” she writes on LinkedIn. “I’m so proud of everyone on the team and what we were able to accomplish.”

Winner #3

Gather, an automated in-chat event planning tool for friends to plan social occasions

The Team

Sutejas Chari, Douwe Kruyt, Gaurav Pooniwala, Yuheng Chong, Vaishnavi Walunj, and Diya Rajan

Defining the problem

We are in an age of increasingly digital social lives. But while there are more channels than ever to communicate with friends, research shows that IRL connection is beneficial for mental health and important to reinforce bonds. You don’t have to be a scientist to appreciate that meeting up with friends while all taking part in an activity is good for our health. But Gen Zers and millennials are typically time-poor and too busy and let’s face it, lazy, to coordinate schedules as well as identify an event that everyone in the friend group will enjoy. Then there is the delicate aspect of payment. Inevitably the payer finds they are chasing one or two laggards, usually repeat offenders.   

The solution

Gather is the event planning app that integrates scheduling, recommending, and booking events. The app has a Plans page, where an algorithm will generate events based on your and possibly your friends’ preferences. Once you’ve chosen a few different options, the app directs you to the calendar where to choose your preferred time slots. With a few taps, you’ve personalised your plan. The app will now generate a unique ‘Gather’ link, which the user will be able to share with their friends on any communication platform. The team were able to show the judges that while there are event management tools that accommodate group scheduling, event recommendation, voting and auto-booking, they tend to do one or another of these tasks. Gather brings all the key aspects of planning a night or day out with other people under one roof. In terms of the business model, the team said Gather would look to affiliate programmes and event partnerships, partnering with event organisers and venues to promote their events on Gather for a commission. They also propose offering premium placement within the app’s event listings to venues, artists, or other event-related businesses for a fee.

Yuheng Chong, a UX designer currently undertaking an MA in Service Design at the Royal College of Art, wrote on LinkedIn: “Our research showed that despite existing tools, planners are still frustrated with the coordination – from choosing activities and time slots, to locations, booking tickets and splitting the bill. Our solution aims to reduce this friction and make it easier to plan events with friends.

“Gather is a social platform that allows you to discover your and your friends’ favourite art shows or plays and plan an offline get-together with minimal friction. In this way, we envision transforming online connections into real-life experiences.”

He added: “I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the organisers and partners at Entrepreneurship and Private Capital at London Business School, UCL and BCG X, thank you for the inspiring talks and the well organised event!”