AI archaeologist tops triple investment success at Dragons Den event
Archaeologist turned computer scientist Iris Kramer secured a record-breaking £770,000 valuation for her deep learning tool for archaeological surveys in a Dragons' Den-style event at the University of Southampton.
The Computer Science PhD student was offered a £70,000 investment in her startup, ArchAI, despite pitching from over 200 miles away in the Netherlands for the virtual series hosted by the Future Worlds startup accelerator.
Iris's technology taps into techniques she developed in the Vision, Learning and Control Research Group for her PhD, which is the first in the world to apply deep learning to the detection of archaeological sites from Earth Observation data.
The investors rewarded the ArchAI pitch with the biggest valuation in the event's history, funding Iris to focus on product development and sales and marketing.
"Receiving this offer of investment has brought me much closer to achieving my vision of disrupting the commercial archaeology market," Iris says. "Having spent years during my PhD honing my technology, I'm excited to work with the Dragons to save time and costs for developers and protect our archaeological heritage both in the UK and internationally'.
Iris studied Archaeology at Leiden University in the Netherlands before moving to Southampton to complete an MSc degree in Archaeological Computing. Her ground-breaking PhD research, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Ordnance Survey, has been advanced under the supervision of Dr Jonathon Hare and Professor Adam Prugel-Bennett.
The Future Worlds Dragons' Den series also saw investment offers for two other student startups that brought the combined total valuation across the four-day event to more than £1.1 million.
Longstanding Future Worlds investors Chris Broad and Andrew Doe pledged to invest £20,000 into Future Brew at a £200,000 valuation. The startup, which was founded by MEng Aerospace Engineering student Dimitris Stoidis, is a carbon negative approach to brewing beer that uses surplus bread as one of its main ingredients.
Southampton Law graduate Avila Chidume raised £15,000 from all the investors with a £150,000 valuation in her business Kutenda, an online marketplace that celebrates the representation of underrepresented groups.
Other startups pitched across the series included Angel, a one-person fully electric multicopter for first responders designed by MEng Aerospace Engineering students Umar Khan and Radu Tudorache, Stardust, a personal data protection platform founded by Computer Science and Mathematics students Til Jordan and Andrius Matenas, and Small Steps, a subscription service founded by Psychology student Sally Goillon that curates sustainable alternatives to everyday products.
Ben Clark, Future Worlds Director, says: Future Worlds Dragons' Den 2020 has seen immensely talented founders meet committed and supportive multi-millionaire investors to launch audacious startup adventures. I'm inspired by how the ambitious students have battled through this year's challenging process in lockdown to seize life changing opportunities and reach for international success.
Moving online in lockdown has brought together angel investors from across Europe and North America to invest in the exceptional startups emerging from the University of Southampton. With over £600,000 now offered to student entrepreneurs in Future Worlds Dragons' Den the University's infectious startup culture is making waves on the South coast.
All four episodes of Future Worlds Dragons' Den are available to view for free online at futureworlds.com/dragons.