Getting the Right Idea

How the University and donors have helped an entrepreneur turn his idea into an enterprise.

Orfeas Boteas
Orfeas Boteas. Sam Sills/Whitedog Photography.

The breadth, diversity and innovative nature of research being conducted by people across the University means that our collective outputs have practical applications throughout many walks of life – and in many cases that research has the capability to be turned into successful commercial enterprises.

This is largely thanks to the work of Edinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI) – the specialist arm of the University that assists academics with what can be the challenging process of giving their expertise commercial appeal. However, the service is not just for staff – students can also benefit from the backing of LAUNCH.ed, the University initiative that helps all student entrepreneurs – postgraduate and undergraduate alike – transform their great ideas into real-world initiatives.

Each year LAUNCH.ed holds a competition and showcase event, and throughout the year offers students one-to-one appointments with business advisers, as well as workshops covering topics such as business planning, start-up finance, market research, and sales and marketing. Bootcamps are also available where students learn about market segmentation, customer development, business models, market research and pitching.

Many of the students seeking support from LAUNCH.ed also receive mentoring, from alumni or local business people willing to share their expertise, skills and contacts. This is an invaluable part of what LAUNCH.ed makes available to young entrepreneurs.

As for the quality of the ideas and their collective relevance to the world of business, the figures speak for themselves. Investment in University-founded companies continually hits record highs. A total of £429 million was invested over the past five years, demonstrating the fiscal impact that the company formation activities at the University are generating.

One such success story is that of Krotos Ltd, a company established by University of Edinburgh graduate Orfeas Boteas.

Orfeas studied for a Sound Design MSc at Edinburgh College of Art in 2012. During his masters, he noticed a problem many sound designers were experiencing and set out to solve it. He managed to transform his dissertation project into a commercial success – and within an impressively short space of time.

“My studies played a very important role in creating my business,” says Orfeas. “And I received very valuable advice from LAUNCH.ed which was crucial to what I achieved.”

LAUNCH.ed gave me the opportunity to apply for a fulltime internship with them, to work on commercialising the summer, while providing business training as well.

Orfeas Boteas

Shortly after completing his masters, Orfeas began building a prototype for his ‘Dehumaniser’ processor, a system that allows designers to create sounds in real-time and allows actors to generate sounds themselves – in a matter of seconds, not hours.

“Usually, making imaginary creature sounds requires the recording and processing of various animal sounds or human voices, adding them in layers in order to create the wanted sound,” explains Orfeas. “This procedure needs hours for designing a single sound effect – and money to spend on expensive software and sound libraries.

“Our software allows the production of studio-quality monsterand creature sounds, in real-time using your own voice. You basically scream into the microphone and you make the wanted sound. There is also an iOS app version of Dehumaniser for fun!”

Orfeas clearly benefited from the support that LAUNCH.ed offered him.

“They gave me the opportunity to apply for a full-time internship with them, to work on commercialising my project over the summer, while providing business training as well, ”he explains. “With their support I incorporated Krotos Ltd and we released the commercial version of our product, Dehumaniser, just a few months later.”

My studies played a very important role in creating my business and I received very valuable advice from LAUNCH.ed which was crucial to what I achieved.

Orfeas Boteas

As a sound-effect software Dehumaniser can be used across film, television and video games. The software is now being used by leading game companies, Hollywood studios and top-notch post-production companies around the world. Dehumaniser has voiced characters in everything from Hollywood films Avengers: Age of Ultron and The Jungle Book, to popular video game Farcry 4. Krotos Ltd now has eight fulltime employees and plans to continue growing in Scotland.

For Orfeas the last few years have been exciting times: “In 2014 I was awarded a University Research Fellowship by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. It was a life-changing experience that provides salary and business training for a year. The University is doing a great job supporting start-ups.”

Success stories like Krotos Ltd are not just good news for the University community, they’re also good news for the wider economy. New companies have contributed more than £140 million to the Scottish economy and helped to create 2,300 jobs, according to the independent consultancy BiGGAR Economics.

Since Edinburgh’s first recorded spinout, Reynolds Medical, was established nearly 50 years ago, the University has created more than 450 spin-out and start-up companies. If the visionary work of Krotos Ltd is anything to go by, there will be many more in the years to come.

Learn more

Find out about other projects that have been funded through LAUNCH.ed on their website.

LAUNCH.ed success stories