Warwick is home to more than 260 student-run societies, each with different causes, ideas and membership bases. In order to make most ideas a reality, societies require funding. Many apply to large firms for sponsorship, with various societies sponsored by the likes of the Big Four and banks such as JP Morgan and RBS.
Groups such as Warwick Finance Societies, which arguably has the largest number of sponsors on campus, attract more sponsors with ease. However, smaller organisations that require money are unable to do so from large organisations, due to a lack of similar aims and interests.
This is where Sponza comes in. The platform aims to connect societies with potential sponsors for their societies. Sponza aims to provide different types of sponsors to accommodate different types of initiatives.
Co-founders James Patten, Ngyuyen Minh Hung (both final-year economics students), and Conor Ludden, a Warwick graduate, feel that there is a serious struggle for smaller societies when it comes to obtaining sponsorship.
“They don’t really know the process and you can only really get sponsorship if you have a contact,” says James.
Sponza has already spoken to over a hundred societies across campus, and the majority of those asked have agreed to try out the service. The team was unable to disclose the details of these trials.
Not only would Sponza help societies contact various sponsors, but smaller businesses could also benefit from the service. Right now, the team is mainly focusing on connecting societies to firms, but also hopes to work the other way.
“There are businesses who can’t access student marketing campaigns on campus, as they don’t have the funds to do so,” says James. The team feels that connecting businesses with societies on campus would not only provide student initiatives with funding, but would also allow for a society to advertise on a business’ behalf.
As well as the three co-founders, the team also welcomed. Alice Gane, a final-year philosophy and literature student, as their business development manager.
“We all met through the idea [of Sponza] and we’ve all become friends and built relationships through it,” says James.
In terms of Sponza’s partners, Hung and Alice told Boar Finance that they have mainly partnered with graduate recruiting companies and websites, including Milkround.
Alice says that a group such as WFS already has so many sponsors, but still looking, looking for financial sponsorship. but interests such learning modules to help people find jobs. Sponza could offer opportunities to further CVs, things beyond financial sponsorship.
As Warwick students, the team felt that Sponza should be trialled on campus, not just for convenience, but also because Warwick is home to the largest number of student initiatives in the UK. However, societies at LSE, as well as those from universities in Sweden and France, have also signed up to try the service.
Currently, Sponza is going for a lean approach – minimal viable product, functionality is simple, help societies get financial sponsorship, began development in summer but almost finalized.
James and Hung, who are responsible for the technical side of the product, hope to gradually enhance website but will test Sponza as it progresses. At the moment it is a simple
Hung says that they “all got to grip with tech and languages, inputting designs etc. We have to learn as we go along, but we have also brought someone on externally.”
Alice says that she’s learned about new ways to communicate and share work through apps such as Slack and Trello, and found it interesting that the team were using other startup’s products for their own work. Having been vice president of the Warwick Investment Club, under WFS, she adds that it has been “really different to a society exec role, in terms of how we communicate with each other and share work”.
The team also said that a campus startup was different to working on a startup full time. Hung says that “campus startup people have their degree which is why teams are really important, and it’s challenging but fun to balance everything out.”
Last year, the founders reached a final and lost, in a competition hosted by Warwick Entrepreneurs. Since then, they have mainly been working from their own expertise, and have reached out to advisers when necessary. Sponza’s trial period starts on October 17th.