Entrepreneurship competition takes flight

Race for £100,000 prize for start-ups underway as Bayes prepares to celebrate entrepreneurs

Budding entrepreneurs from across City, University of London – and students attending colleges in the Global QS 500 rankings – can take part in our £100,000 investment competition in partnership with the easy group of companies.

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, famous for founding one of the very first budget airlines, easyJet, launched  the 2024 ‘Pitch it easy’ competition, which he generously sponsors, by chatting with last year’s winner, Alexis Murat, and Professor Costas Andriopoulos, Professor of Management at Bayes.

Sir Stelios completed a Master's  in Shipping, Trade and Finance at Bayes before founding easyJet and the easy group of companies.

He said: “We're running a competition with Bayes Business School because we're trying to find the next member of the easy family – the next Alexis who is going to create the next big business; possibly the next easyJet. We want to create an easy brand with you.”

Having come from a wealthy shipping family, which supported him in establishing his own shipping company, Sir Stelios recognised that to carve out his own reputation he would need to explore other sectors and build a brand. That was the spur which led to the formation of easyJet.

“I'm always grateful to my father for funding my dreams – I’m not self-made so I didn't get money from venture capital to actually start any of these businesses. I wanted to build a brand that has lasting value and that builds value.”

During the Pitch it easy competition Sir Stelios selects a credible start-up that could slot into the easyGroup of companies. He takes a minority stake in return for both £100,000 investment and access to advice, support and counselling. Winning the competition also opens up access to the network of contacts and opportunities that come with ready-made brand recognition.

“I’ll want to be an active but minority shareholder in somebody else's business, somebody who is motivated to grow it and make it work and make it profitable,” Sir Stelios said.

Alexis, who won last year’s competition while completing an MSc in corporate finance at Bayes, said the success has transformed his virtual reality tours company and his career.

“Stelios has given me such a lot of mentoring, trying to challenge me to do more and more, to achieve more and more and to challenge the status quo. We’ve avoided making many mistakes because of his advice so it’s about much more than the initial investment or even the brand.”

Sir Stelios said he favoured the franchising model because it ensured that the people he invested in were driven to succeed.

“People like Alexis are very entrepreneurial in their own in their own right. There are a few large companies that are run by corporate executives who themselves are entrepreneurial but most members of the easy family are closer to Alexis’s age and experience and they have the same willingness to work hard over Alexis because they own most of the equity in their business so they're more motivated and they're more likely to to go above and beyond the call of duty.”
Alexis said that access to the easy brand had meant his company could franchise services to giant organisations in the UK and across Europe.

“Having a strong brand makes people feel that we are a big company, while we are only a startup. Having back-up from Stelios gives authority to the company.”

Responding to a question from a member of the audience about how education helped in building a business and brand, Alexis said business people took him more seriously when they realised he had attended top business schools such as Yale and Bayes. However, he acknowledged, the impact of the easy brand had been greater.

You can find full details about how to enter – and the rules for the competition – here.